Caribbean Justice Ministers take joint position on Coast Guard

POSTED: 07/28/11 12:27 PM

WILLEMSTAD – The Justice Ministers of Curacao, Aruba and St. Maarten have drafted and signed a joint letter calling for a new vision on the Coast Guard. They’ve requested their Dutch counterpart, Justice and Security Minister Ivo Opstelten, be ready to discuss the matter at a planned four part Justice consultation in December.

The letter was drafted during a meeting between host Elmer Wilsoe, Arthur Dowers (Aruba) and Roland Duncan (St. Maarten). The way forward with the Coast Guard was a central point of discussion and the minister’s conclude that future cooperation must meet the specific needs of the countries.

“The starting point must be protecting against crime,” the three state in their letter.

The functioning of the Coast Guard is regulated by a Kingdom Law but Wilsoe believes that attitude of saying yes and amen to every decision made by the Dutch government about the Coast Guard must end. Duncan has also argued that St. Maarten is not getting the service the island is paying for. The island’s complaints include a lack of assistance in combating human smuggling and no assistance from the Coast Guard helicopter.

“I’m not paying for support I do not have or do not get. The same applies to the Dash aircraft. If we need them, they have to come from Curacao and that’s a two hour trip. We also want our own software to process information and our own radar to track movement in our waters. The Dutch have never agreed to these things, but I think it’s time to resume talks about them,” Duncan said.

Duncan also wants to reopen talks about the legal position of the Coast Guard because “that is not regulated well.” The minister gave the example that once a person concludes their term of service with the Coast Guard at the age of 25 it is difficult to integrate them into another uniformed service.

The Coast Guard is more than fifteen years old and all parties contribute to funding its operation. Under the current system the Netherlands contributes 69 percent, Curacao contributes 19 percent, Aruba contributes 12 percent and St. Martin contributes four percent.

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