~ Controls will continue as compliance is needed on St. Maarten --- Minister of Justice.~
PHILIPSBURG:--- Minister of Justice Anna Richardson did not mix with words on Wednesday when she addressed the concerns of the chairlady of the Justice Committee of parliament
Grisha Heyliger Marten regarding the immigration controls conducted by the multi-disciplinary team.
The Minister of Justice said because of political interference the businesses on St. Maarten are not complying with the country’s laws. “These businesses when controlled and found to be in default would pick up the telephone and call a politician who would then instruct the controllers such as immigration officers not to perform their sworn duties. It is because of this practice there is modern-day slavery on St. Maarten.” Richardson said.
Richardson said she is genuinely happy that the chairlady of the justice committee of parliament expressed herself in her press release as she has given an insight on to what contributed to the non-compliance by the business community. “Those living on St. Maarten or even abroad can now see what contributed to the high unemployment rate on St. Maarten, poor tax compliance, and the list of reasons why St. Maarten is struggling to strive.
The Minister of Justice said just this week she had a discussion with a former controller who informed her that political interference made it difficult for him to execute his duties. She said when establishments are controlled, they make promises to comply but shortly after the controllers would receive phone calls from politicians who would instruct them not to visit certain businesses. “These businesses feel so comfortable with being able to pick up a telephone and call a politician and then nothing happens when it comes to compliance.
The Minister said that the controllers are now filming the control in order to protect themselves while law enforcement has joined the controllers.
As for the concerns Marten Heyliger expressed regarding the concerns of the tourists. Richardson said that the tourists are more concerned about their health and safety because if employers are not filing for their employees to ensure they are legally employed then what guarantee they have that these businesses have passed their health inspections.
The Minister said that the Dutch Government made 16.3 million euros for the Border Control Project which was already on its way. This money was made available for border controls and management. She asked if anyone thinks that the Dutch would give that amount of money for uniforms and the employment of more staff and equipment. Does anyone think the Dutch would make this amount of money available to St. Maarten and not expect us to do our duties?
Richardson called on the business community to visit the relevant government departments to regulate their affairs while they should also ensure their staff is legally employed.