PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Justice and Deputy Prime Minister Rafael Boasman addressed members of the press in Wednesday’s, July 5, Council of Minister’s Press Briefing.
He first extended condolences to the family and friends of the late Jackie Lake who was an employee of government, who passed away recently, and also expressed condolences to his colleague, the Minister of Justice and the police force of Aruba with the loss of one of their officers and “senseless killing a few days ago.”
Minister Boasman also announced that “guests will be arriving for the conference of the four Ministers of Justice of the Kingdom. That meeting takes place twice a year and St. Maarten is hosting this meeting on the request of Curaçao, who was supposed to be the original host, but due to their recent election and change in Minister, St. Maarten was asked to host it.”
The Minister also announced that July 17 is Justice Day, and this will be celebrated with a long weekend from Friday, July 14-17. Some activities will include a church ceremony and a parade.
Next, the Minister addressed the gun policy and the issuing of gun licenses. “Information would be that indeed late last year in November the new gun policy was introduced, and is a very restrictive policy in the sense that we are very careful with who we issue gun permits to. I support the policy on the books 100 percent,” he said.
“A lot of requests were submitted and folks were getting very worried because they were not getting any answers to their requests. Along with the institution of the new policy, a committee was installed, who would advise the Minister on the issuing of said permits. That committee got started and a procedure was put into place as to how they would deal with the many requests. People should be able to get an answer within a reasonable period of time,” Minister Boasman stated.
“I started to look into the matter and indeed realized that some of the requests were pending for a long time, not due to any ill will from the committee or Ministry itself, just the procedures made it take that long. However, we are talking about the possession of weapons and if you do not have a valid gun permit, gun license, then you would be violating the law for illegal weapons possession, which would mean that you could be fined or even prosecuted,” the Minister continued.
“Because the requests were not being dealt with timely enough, on the advice of the committee…it was decided to make proclamations by which all persons who were in possession of a gun permit, and that which have expired, and who have requested renewal for such permit, their permits would be extended until the end of the year. Normally, the permit is given for a year. In this case we’ll be looking at six months. This is done in order to give the administration enough time to process the requests that are pending. I would repeat, all persons who were in the possession of a gun permit that expired, and who have requested an extension, so even if you had a gun permit and you did not apply for an extension before today, this doesn’t apply to you. But those who have requested an extension they will be covered by this decision by which their gun permit would be extended for a period of six months until January 31,” Minister Boasman explained.
“I would like to remind the public, however, that having had a gun permit does not mean that it will automatically renew. It is not automatically extended if your gun permit has expired,” the Minister cautioned.
The policy was promulgated in the publication sheet 2016 number 23, and it can be found online at the Justice Ministry or a copy would be provided at the Ministry Secretariat on Illidge Road.
Then Minister Boasman addressed the recent instruction that was given by the Attorney General with regard to the Asset Recovery Team. “Some weeks ago it was announced that an Asset Recovery Team would be put in place to deal with that type of crime and the intention there would be to be able to confiscate gains that came out of illegal activity. Immediately following that announcement in the press…this release caused quite some consternation in the community, where we have been flooded with calls by people who were very concerned as to what would happen and would they become victims of this team,” he explained.
“It also resulted in Parliament calling me in as Minister to give an explanation as to what this team would be doing and based on which legislation the team would operate…A number of questions have been prepared and submitted to parliament as was requested to submit them in writing, and we will continue the discussions on that. During the discussions in Parliament, it became clear that more information is needed and guidelines would have to be set as to how that team would operate,” the Minister further explained.
“The Attorney General is the one who would issue such instructions to the Prosecutors as to how they should go about the team doing their work. When we started there were no instructions, there were no articles in the law, and again, based on the press release, it created the impression that the team would be able to go out there, and do what they feel like,” Minister Boasman continued.
“So I implored the Attorney General, just like is the case in Holland, to prepare instructions that would give a sense of security to the public, that once the team started to work, that they will be working based on guidelines, and not just doing as they would feel. That is why the Attorney General prepared the guidelines. I have seen the guidelines and I have been consulted with the preparation of the guidelines, and published the guidelines,” he stated.
“Being that we were still in consultation with Parliament on the matter, I did not think it was a right to continue with the implementation of the team to start working before we answered all the questions at Parliament. After all Parliament speaks on behalf of the people and if the people are concerned, we should do everything in our power to make sure that we satisfy the need for information by the people before we just continue and ignore the people,” Minister Boasman noted.
“Together with my colleague Minister Gibson, who is the other Minister responsible for the operation of the team, we have requested the Chief Prosecutor to await our finalization of discussion with Parliament before continuing implementation of the team,” he said.
The Minister clarified that “the instructions that were published are the sole responsibility of the Attorney General to do so. Giving guidelines and instructions as to how the Prosecutors should go about dealing with the matter of Asset Recovery. The Attorney General himself has no jurisdiction over the team, in the sense of appointing the team or anything like that. That is myself as Minister of Justice and Minister of Finance because the members of the team come from the departments within our respective Ministries.”
Lastly, Minister Boasman reminded the public that “we are in the hurricane season. We should be cautious, we should listen to media and weather reports of the Met Office. Secure your surroundings and make sure that we do not have loose debris around our home. So we hope that we are not affected by any storms, but in the event that that should be the case, that we are prepared.”