Published On: Tue, Jun 29th, 2021

Empty promises

By Hilbert Haar

Did the Court in First Instance rule in favor of Justice Minister Anna Richardson? Or did it rule in favor of the unions?

Politicians have a talent for calling something that is actually black, white. They have to believe their own fairy tales if only to keep their sanity.

The provisional court ruling in the case of the justice ministry versus the unions that represent police officers and staff at the prison and the immigration and border patrol services is a classic example: both the minister and the unions seem to be happy with the outcome.

Minister Richardson looks at this part of the ruling where the court “forbids NAPB and ABVO to organize meetings, work interruptions, parades and public manifestation.” She happily ignores this crucial part of it: “If those activities complicate the conduct of business.”

In the minister’s mind, this means (most likely) that the unions are now banned from organizing meetings, work interruptions, parades and public manifestations. If that is what she is really thinking, she is dead wrong.

In fact, the ruling confirms the right to take these actions, providing that they do not hamper the work at the police, the immigration department and in the prison. If the court has done anything, it is admonishing the minister to go back to the negotiations table.

But the ruling does not change the way the unions have organized their recent protests in any way. No police stations were closed, and the work at the police force, the immigration department and in the prison was not affected.

It is however clear that the negotiations about the grievances of the justice workers are cumbersome. One may well ask how it is possible that the justice ministry has not managed to establish the function books, even though they were ready for implementation on October 10, 2010, when St. Maarten obtained its status as an autonomous country in the Dutch kingdom. For those without a calculator or decent math-skills: that is almost eleven years ago.

This saga represents the failure of not only the current minister but of all the ministers who came and went before her. It is a long and tiring story full of empty promises. The function books were always “almost ready,” but so far they never reached the stage where every police officer, every prison guard and every immigration officer received his or her proper legal position within their organization.

Apparently, the function books are now at the Council of Advice. This esteemed high council of state will make without any doubt some recommendations. That means: changes to the function books that are “almost ready.” Changes take time and because this is so, the frustrations among the protesting police officers, prison wardens and immigration officers will boil over sooner or later, unless Minister Richardson takes decisive action. Wait for it.