Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams
PHILIPSBURG–The judicial system on St. Maarten is “working” and the investigation of Orca bribery case is “progressing” based on information from the Prosecutor’s Office, says Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.
Members of the Kingdom Council of Ministers “who feel things on St. Maarten are going haywire should allow the system to do its work,” she said, adding that “the judicial authorities have indicated that the allegations are being investigated. Let it take its course.”
This was her response to the Kingdom Council of Ministers concerns about Justice Minister Roland Duncan still being in office while the Prosecutor’s Office and the National Detectives (Landsrecherche) are busy with the Orca investigation.
The information about the investigation from the Prosecutor’s Office was also shared with the Kingdom Council of Ministers by Minister Plenipotentiary Mathias Voges, she told the press on Wednesday.
The Kingdom Council of Ministers and the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament expect concrete action on the part of Wescot-Williams, the main authority for the functioning of St. Maarten’s Government and the local Council of Ministers. One of the actions could be placing Duncan on non-active status for the duration of the criminal investigation, and taking a firm stand against corruption and the Bada Bing affair.
The prime minister gave no indication that she would be asking Duncan to step aside as the investigation continues.
Wescot-Williams said the minute any of the Dutch politicians, who take every opportunity to point out their feeling that St. Maarten should have never become a country within the kingdom, “can prove that we are not handling the situation as is required in the any democratic society” she will revisit her position. “Until that time they can scream until Doom’s Day.”
She noted that in a democracy there exists a government, parliament and the judicial authority which stand and operate separate from each other. “I cannot wear the cap of prosecutor and the prosecutor can sit on the seat of government or parliament. Until those matters for whatever reason start to crisscross one another, the system is going to continue to do its work.”
As for suggestions in some sections of the Dutch press that government was pressured into contacting Transparency International to conduct a National Integrity System (NIS) assessment of the country, Wescot-Williams said, “No one will apply any undue pressure on any member of government to do things that are not the responsibility of government.”
Wescot-Williams also addressed concerns coming from The Hague that cut to the Justice Ministry’s budget for 2013 would hamper the ongoing and future corruption investigations. She said cuts were made across all ministries to ensure the budget, which still has to be approved by Parliament, is balanced.
The justice budget has “always been high” due to the Plans of Approach that had to be executed to build up the ministries in the first two years of country status. “You need a lot of money to do a lot of things in a short period of time.” – (THEDAILYHERALD)