DP reflects on the what to do next: “Crime has broken this island”

POSTED: 08/14/15 9:46 AM


Ellis-SWW-LeeFrom left: Hasani Ellis, Sarah Wescot-Williams and Emil Lee at yesterday’ press conference. Photo Today / Hilbert Haar

St. Maarten – “We are in this together and something has to change,” Democratic Party MP Sarah Wescot-Williams said at her party’s press conference yesterday afternoon about the shooting of police Officer Gamali Benjamin. “You cannot correct the past, but we support the call to take stock of related matters and to do something.”

Wescot-Williams, party president Hasani Ellis and policy advisor Emil Lee all expressed their sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of the police officer who will be laid to rest tomorrow.

“We are not naïve in thinking that a magic veil will fall over the country,” Wescot-Williams said, indicating that measures to curb crime will not eradicate all crime miraculously. She commended the police force for the arrest of the second robbery-suspect and the arrest of others who allegedly sheltered him.

“We have to ad that it was ticking up,” Wescot-Williams noted. “Much more is unraveling at the moment. We are discussing things that are taboo and the attitude of let it be.”

The DP-leader referred to last week’s report in this newspaper about a court case that revealed how one of the suspects had fired from close range at a female police officer who had come to arrest him.

“Crime has broken this island,” party-President Ellis said. He described the situation as shameful and said that it had triggered an emotional reaction in him. “I was upset and disgusted. Ellis noted that the island has experienced economic growth but that social growth had fallen behind. “We have to reform our social policies.”

“There are time-sensitive critical issues to deal with,” policy advisor Emil Lee added, “but we also have to address the root causes.” Lee mentioned immigration, education and the performance of the economy.

The meeting the central committee held on Monday about the crime situation should have been open to the public, Wescot-Williams said, adding that she figures the follow up meeting on Friday will be public. It is unclear who took the decision to hold Monday’s meeting behind closed doors. The parliament normally decides about this, but in this case, the invitation for the meeting came from the President of Parliament, Dr. Lloyd Richardson for a closed-door meeting. “I do not know whether there was a request from the Council of Ministers behind this,” Wescot-Williams said yesterday.

Amending legislation is going to cost time and the government should consider outsourcing this process, Wescot-Williams said, adding that such a decision “is going to cost us money.”

Asked whether it has occurred to either the parliament or the government to implement Marshall Law to push through emergency measures, Wescot-Williams said that it is the intention of the minister of justice to decree certain measures. “I think that this is his approach until the necessary legislation is in place. Emergency measures should be taken but the legislation that underpins them also has to be put in place.”

Emil Lee brought yet another aspect to the surface. “There are businesses on the island that survive on selling motor bikes and scooters. A lot of them drive around without number plates. You may wonder whether this is a control and enforcement issue.”

The agreement with the Dutch government – the protocol Justice Minister Dennis Richardson signed with Kingdom Relations Minister Ronald Plasterk – contains “a lot of talk about the Integrity Chamber, but there is also a part about the justice chain,” Wescot-Williams said, adding that these agreements “need to materialize.”

The DP-leader expressed doubts about Gerard Bouman, the chief of the national police in the Netherlands who visited St. Maarten in July.” He came here and divulged the plans he has for St. Maarten. But do these plans meet the objectives of St. Maarten? And are these plan part of the agreement our Minister of Justice signed with Minister Plasterk? I did not get that impression from his statement.”

Wescot-Williams referred to the internal email Bouman sent around in the Netherlands after his visit to St. Maarten and about which this newspaper reported extensively. Wescot-Williams confirmed that she has the impression that Bouman’s plan are without any input from St. Maarten.

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