~ Suggests tougher punishment as deterrent ~
PHILIPSBURG – The murder of Belgium tourist Wendy Mountulet is being condemned by the One St. Maarten People Party (OSPP), who offered condolences to the family of the 22-year-old.
Party Leader Lenny Priest noted that in this critical time when Caribbean tourism is already under the microscope, the island cannot afford to be tarred with the same brush as countries like the Bahamas, where according to a recent report in the Nassau Guardian, “an executive with Carnival Cruise Line reportedly warned a Bahamas tourism official that Carnival is so worried about crime in Nassau, it’s considering issuing crime warnings to the passengers it brings there.”
Priest stressed that the OSPP advocates protection for all people and believes in equality and justice for all, but opined that more must be done to safeguard the island’s tourism product, beginning with joint task forces from both sides of the island working to solve crimes against tourists and imposing maximum penalties to offenders as a deterrent against such behavior.
“We also support more social programs and opportunities for those who feel they have been left behind,” he added, explaining that this is also important in regard to deterring criminal behavior.
The OSPP leader pointed out that some Caribbean islands are already under the microscope and cited a recent article in the Saint Lucia Times, in which the president of the Saint Lucia Venders Association publicly accused the Minister of Tourism of ignoring the island nation’s crime problem.
The association’s president noted that crime in Saint Lucia has gotten so bad that cruise lines might consider dropping that popular Caribbean port stop from their itineraries, as Norwegian Cruise Line did in the 2010-2012 season because of reported crimes against passengers.
According to Priest, St. Maarten has to assure it does not go the same route and expressed that one of the ways of doing this is by making the penalty for such crimes, which he views as being directed against St. Maarten, so steep that possible offenders would not want to risk it.
“As a St. Maartener, my first priority is the safety and wellbeing of my island and the people on it. It is a public secret that tourism is the bread and butter of St. Maarten and loss of tourism revenue would affect us all. That makes it the responsibility of all of us to do what we can to protect that much needed revenue. When these types of crimes occur, the offender is not only attacking that victim, but the entire island,” Priest stated.
He encouraged anyone with information about this, and other crimes to do their duty by putting St. Maarten first and contact the authorities.
“This crime was committed by one or two persons and somebody in their inner circle must know who they are. St. Maarten is asking you to come forward and tell what you know to the authorities, Dutch or French side,” Priest advised.
The OSPP leader also congratulated Gendarmes for their diligent work on this case, and the Dutch St. Maarten police for their timely cooperation with the Gendarmes to solve this “heinous crime.”