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Committee lauds countries, but says lack of funds ‘an obstacle’

page4b122PHILIPSBURG--The Judicial Kingdom Laws Evaluation Committee for the four Kingdom Consensus Laws on law enforcement has lauded the countries in the Kingdom for the tremendous work they have done in implementing the laws, but noted that a number of issues are still to be addressed.

In its final report, the committee stated the structural lack of financial resources was “an obstacle” in various areas, particularly for the court and police. The committee said it was worth looking into, to determine to what extent these financial problems were the result of “overly optimistic estimates” of the funds required made in 2010.

“The court is also negatively impacted by the deficient payment discipline of the various countries. As a number of countries fail to pay their dues on time or at all, the court at times needs to take emergency measures to pay its staff,” it was stated in a press release on Thursday. “The Committee said the financial responsibility for the structural cost of important government bodies lies with the countries themselves.”

The final report was submitted to the Ministers of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands on October 8. The four kingdom consensus laws on the Joint Court of Justice, the Prosecution Service, the Police and the Law Enforcement Council were drafted in 2010, when the former Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist and the new countries Curaçao and St Maarten, as well as the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (Caribbean Netherlands) were founded.

According to the committee, areas that still need to be addressed include the financial security of a number of judicial institutions such as the Joint Court of Justice and the police, mutual cooperation and areas in forming legislation.

The Committee has made 20 recommendations that can be pursued. The recommendations include increasing available financial resources; making better use of the opportunities already provided by the Kingdom laws; stepping up collaboration, and accepting and respecting the differences of each country.

The Committee said cooperation amongst the countries is a key issue. In some areas it is properly implemented; in others, less so. An example of a positive development, the committee said, is formed by the apparently successful system of consultations between the chief commissioners of police of the various countries. However, realising cooperation amongst the countries by establishing a Joint Police Facility failed.

As a consequence, it has become more important than ever before for the national police forces and the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST to cooperate, the Committee said. Such cooperation requires attention in St. Maarten in particular. The Committee recommends that the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team RST be provided with a sound organisational and operational structure, and with more wide-ranging responsibilities.

On the matter of language and culture, the Committee wants special attention given to the position of the Dutch language within the law enforcement practice.

At the moment, legislation on the islands is in the Dutch language. However, Dutch is not the most commonly spoken language amongst the population. Therefore, the Committee recommends an investigation to determine in what areas of law enforcement the use of the Dutch language is not strictly necessary. “This would allow the citizens of the islands concerned to gain more insight into their own legal systems,” the committee said.

During the evaluation, the Committee discussed the issue of adopting rules for the settlement of disputes. The Committee advocates such adoption. As this issue was debated at the Kingdom level, the Committee decided not to make any recommendations for this area.

The question also was raised as to whether each country in the Kingdom should have it own attorney-general (this is not currently the case). The Committee said there were arguments for and against this. It has proposed various alternatives already possible under the present Prosecution Service Kingdom Law, “so as to remove the objections expressed against having a joint attorney-general.”

The Committee said the Kingdom laws are “not cast in concrete” and should be considered within a perspective of continuous political development. Therefore, it should be possible to review the Kingdom laws in due time. “This allows for issues like the establishment of multiple attorneys-general and the granting of a right of abrogation to be discussed at such a time.”

The Committee expressed its “appreciation” for “the amount of work” performed in the various countries, saying its investigations showed that most Kingdom laws (except for the Police Kingdom Law) had been implemented “almost in full.”

“The Committee wishes to emphasise the dedication of, and energy expended by, all ministries, judicial institutions and other organisations in bringing law enforcement in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to a higher level. The Committee believes the resulting optimism should come to serve as a basis for further development.”

According to the committee, the four Kingdom laws may be rescinded only in mutual consultations amongst the countries.

“This raises the question of whether the countries should not, as yet, be granted the right to unilaterally abrogate the Kingdom laws. The Committee in this connection has set out the most important arguments for and against the granting of such a right. It believes both positions to have valid arguments. The Committee recommends that the granting of such a right be considered in due course.”

The evaluation for the report was done in cooperation with University of Curaçao and Utrecht University. The investigation covers the working of the Kingdom laws in practice over the past few years, as well as how they were received by the parties involved, including the staff employed at law enforcement bodies and representatives of the Councils of Churches, Chambers of Commerce, etc.

The Committee said now that the final report had been submitted to the governments and parliaments of the countries involved, it was up to these countries to formulate an opinion on the matter and “shape their conclusions into policy.”

Members of the Committee are Chairpersons Raymond Begina and Harm Brouwer; Stan Dessens (Netherlands); Luciano Milliard (Aruba); Jacob Wit (St. Maarten) and Fred Wiel (Curaçao).

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