Published On: Thu, Feb 14th, 2019

An interesting move

Hilbert HaarBy Hilbert Haar

Not for the first time, the Progress Committee – the club that monitors how St. Maarten is doing with the execution of Plans of Approach for the police force and the prison – has sounded the alarm over the situation at both the police force and the Pointe Blanche prison. This time however, the committee also trained its guns on the Ministry of Justice and by extension – without calling his name – Minister of Justice Cornelius de Weever.

These Plans of Approach have been in place since 10-10-10, the day St. Maarten became a constituent state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. If you asked me: where is the progress? I would have a simple answer. There is no progress. Then you would ask: why not? Ah.

It is a bit too easy to shove the failure to execute these plans into the shoes of Minister De Weever, though he certainly is part of the problem. Currently, not counting the 32 officers from the Dutch National Police that are on our island to help out until 2020, the force’s organic strength is 102. Right, for the mathematicians among us: that’s around 37.8 percent of what it should be. According to the Progress Committee it will take more than ten years to reach minimum strength. We’re talking easily about 2030 and beyond.


One of the elements the Progress Committee highlights in its latest report is the failure to establish the function books for the police and the prison staff. These function books regulate the legal position of people working for these organizations. Minister after minister has managed to delay the implementation of these documents.

Promise after promise after promise. That’s the way our ministers of justice seem to operate. According to the Progress Committee Minister De Weever said in February of 2018 that one of his employees was finalizing the explanatory memorandum that comes with the function book for his ministry in a hurry. In October he said that an external company was assessing the costs of implementing the function book.

That inspired the Progress Committee to write this line: “Every time they find a reason to start the procedures from the beginning.”

Why? That’s the question, but we do not have to look too far for the answer. Since 2010 successive governments have failed to include the costs for executing the plans of approach in the national budget. There was always money for carnival, for the Heineken Regatta and for a host of other fun stuff; but there was never money to execute the plans of approach.

An interesting move

The Progress Committee has now found an ally in the board financial supervision (Cft). The financial supervisor will consider including these costs in the budget from now on as “legally mandatory expenditures.”

It is an interesting move – one that has the potential to torpedo any budget that does not contain these financial provisions. And budgets that are not approved will close St. Maarten’s doors to cheap loans for capital investments.

Finance Minister Perry Geerlings 20180717It is therefore interesting to see how Finance Minister Perry Geerlings will solve this thorny issue. It is true that he has promised the Progress Committee to make the costs for executing the Plans of approach visible in the budget; it is also true that he will mention this in his explanatory memorandum. But then, he also told the committee this: “The money is not there.”

All this is bad news, not only for officers at the police force and the prison – where the function books will remain a pipedream for the foreseeable future – but also for our population. An understaffed police force and an understaffed and badly equipped prison do exactly what the Progress Committee put into words: it puts the population at risk.

Progress Committee in Parliament - 20181031

It is now up to the government, and ultimately to the parliament as the representative of the people, to make the right choices when it comes to handling the 2019 budget.


Related article:
Progress Committee: ‘Safety of the population is at risk”