Injustice at the Ministry of Justice of Sint Maarten

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We need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice, not in love with publicity but in love with humanity – Martin Luther King Jr.

On 30th December 2022, the Ministry of Justice published the press release: Governor requires total sum calculation prior to signing legal position regulation. This release has two critical statements, and I quote,

“With the approved Ministry of Justice Function Book of December 2021, the draft Legal Position Regulation for the Police of Sint Maarten currently pending approval and signature from His Excellency Governor Ajamu Baly, and the start of the placement process of the personnel of the Ministry”.

“Once the draft Legal Position Regulation is approved by Governor Baly, and finally by Minister Richardson, the decrees for police personnel stating the new salary scale and step of each concerning civil servant will be drafted and formalized. This final step will then enable the Function Book of December 2021, to be ratified and established”.

Note: In the former Governor of Sint Maarten, drs. Eugene B. Holiday, address delivered on the occasion of the opening of the parliamentary year 2022-2023, mentioned that an important priority of the Government is the ongoing work to complete legislation regulating the legal position of the personnel in the justice chain, in general, and of the police, in particular.

The function book can only be approved if the financial consequences are known. There are inconsistencies, for instance, when it comes to scaling. A civil servant cannot be paid higher in a department of the Justice Ministry and lower in another department for the same function in the rest of the Government. The same should also apply to the position of a section head. A section head within the Ministry of Justice should not earn more than a section head within the rest of the Government. It is inequity. Some functions in the function book need a function description and adjustment of specific job titles. Justice Ministry needs to fix all these and other inconsistencies in addition to the financial consequences. Only then can the Minister of Justice resubmit the final revised draft to His Excellency Governor Mr. Ajamu G. Baly. LL.M. Only when he receives those corrected documents and signs them off will the Ministry of Justice have an approved function book and then be able to implement it.

As a former bank worker, the Minister of Justice has deemed it fit to include Compliance positions within the function book. The Government apparatus already has specific laws, regulations, policies and procedures that ensure civil servants adhere to them. Has she created these positions to give more of her former bank colleagues and friends jobs? After all, with the emergence of digital banking platforms, jobs are slowly becoming obsolete in the banking sector.

They have also created the Facilities Worker function in several departments within the Ministry of Justice. At the same time, there is already a general Facilities Services department within the Ministry of General Affairs that handles all the building maintenance etc., for the Government.

Sint Maarten has gained country status within the Kingdom of The Netherlands for almost thirteen years. There is no approved Function Book for several departments within the Ministry of Justice nor an approved Legal Position Regulation for the Police of Sint Maarten (KPSM), the Immigration and Border Patrol (IBP), the Customs Department and the Coast Guard of Sint Maarten. Still, by order of the Minister of Justice, the placement committee has sent placement offer letters to some Justice workers of several departments. In these letters, the justice workers are informed, among other things, to notify the HR department of the Ministry of Justice if they need to correct the information in their placement offer letters. They should do this within 30 days. The letter further states that this correction notification should not be seen as an appeal according to the “Landsverordening Sociaal Statuut Opbouw Land Sint Maarten”

During this placement process, each justice worker can appeal the placement decision. How can the staff appeal to the placement decision when there is no approved Function Book of the Ministry of Justice nor an approved Legal Position Regulation for the Police of Sint Maarten (KPSM), the Immigration and Border Patrol (IBP), the Customs Department and the Coast Guard of Sint Maarten?

The placement committee has two members who are crucial in this placement process. They are Mr. Alvin Daal and Ms. Florence Marlin. 

Mr. Alvin Daal, who has a contract with the Ministry of Justice as a consultant, is also the chairman of the placement committee and advisor on HR restructuring to the Minister of Justice. The National Decree (LB) Minister Richardson granted to Mr. Daal gives him the legal basis to function as a consultant. When was this national decree issued, and what is the content? Does it give him the right to be a placement committee member and sign official personnel documents? Why didn’t the Minister of Justice sign those placement offer letters?

In her last parliamentary public meeting, Minister Richardson stated that the signatures on the placement offer letters looks digitalized to the Justice workers. She continued to try to explain that when she came into the organization, the immigration system was not digitalized. Every Friday, she would sit signing hundreds of permits by hand, which gets tiring, and she would then structure herself digitally that the signature is digitalized. This only confirms that the Minister has a digital signature. The Minister could have easily signed the placement offer letters herself. This would not be tiring, seeing that she has a digital signature.

It should be noted that all signatures on each placement offer letter are identical copies of the other, which means they are digital. This makes it very dangerous because the letters are susceptible to fraud.

Minister Richardson also stated on the floor of parliament that Mr. Daal would assist the Ministry, and only his per diem is covered when he comes to Sint Maarten. Is Mr. Daal then working for free? Currently, Mr. Daal is a civil servant from Curaҫao with the Ministry of Health Environment and Nature and owner of the sole proprietorship AD Change Facilitators B.V. registered in Curaҫao while working from his home for the Ministry of Justice. He never lived or resided on Sint Maarten. Mr. Daal exhibits superiority and always shows a lack of respect towards locals and belittles them. It was once rumoured that Mr. Daal said that the majority of Sint Maarten’s civil servants are unqualified for their present positions. The Minister of Justice later debunked this comment in a statement in the press. Mr. Alvin Daal has caused restructuring issues in Curaҫao. Does he now have the same agenda for Sint Maarten? 

In an article earlier this year, Minister Richardson introduced Ms. Florence Marlin as HR Senior Policy Advisor. The Minister placed Ms. Marlin as Head of Human Resources and (acting) Secretary-General of the Ministry of Justice. It is unconstitutional for a person to hold three positions simultaneously. Does Ms. Marlin have a national decree to execute any of the three functions? With that said, anyone with the position of (acting) Secretary-General needs to follow the proper recruitment procedure, including screening, a police report and the Council of Ministers (CoM) approval to gain insight into crucial documents. 

Another person of interest is Mrs. Grace Marlin-Blijden. She also has a contractual agreement with the Ministry and oversees all the personnel affairs. Once again, there is a person the Minister of Justice has put in a position without following the proper recruitment procedures that the Government of Sint Maarten requires. These actions are blatant mismanagement of the Ministry and clearly violate any code of conduct. It goes without saying that this Minister of Justice lacks integrity.

Are these placement offer letters, signed by Mr. Alvin Daal and Ms. Florence Marlin, even valid?

Where is the Prime Minister, Ms. Silveria E. Jacobs, and her Cabinet (The Council of Ministers) in all of this? Isn’t this a task of the Government of Sint Maarten? After all, all of the function books are the responsibility of the Government of Sint Maarten (Council of Ministers and the Governor of Sint Maarten).

In addition to the police officers and support staff of KPSM, certain persons within the National Detectives (Landsrecherche) and Border Patrol and Mobile Unit from Immigration, other justice workers of the different departments within the Justice Ministry are also entitled to retroactive payments. Financially these Justice workers have also been negatively affected by this long trajectory due to years of overdue rectifications.

The same press release of 30th December 2022 mentions that the Ministry of Justice has consulted the company Antek IT Solutions to retrieve historical data of all employees. Minister Richardson further states in the parliamentary public meeting of mid-March 2023 that the company will use this information to calculate the payments for justice workers. The calculation process includes gathering sensitive information so that Government can indicate what each person is rightfully due. It relies on the staff going into the history, which is supported by Antek IT Solutions, who provides the system for the Government of Sint Maarten’s payroll, working with Wages and Salaries (Loon & Salarissen) and even getting bank statements to confirm what had been issued prior to any further payments.

The Ministry of Justice also has a working agreement with Computec IT Services and IT Consulting, which now has access to sensitive information at the Admittance and Residence department. Isn’t this the same company involved in the fraud case against the embattled former head of the general ICT department? Is it wise for a third party to have access to Government confidential data? Once again, sensitive information is in the hands of third parties, which can be detrimental to the Ministry and Government of Sint Maarten.

Outsourcing government services to private contractors is causing the Government more money than would be the case if those responsible sectors could receive the needed resources and qualified staff to do the work. This dip in the country’s budget contributes to the need for more available funds for other vital matters. The unnecessary spending over the past years has placed this country in a difficult financial position where budget cuts have to occur. These cuts have been and will continue to affect civil servants’ productivity, but not the ministers and their cabinet staff, for the ministers and their staff come and go while civil servants remain. How can outsourcing not be a hefty cost for the budget of the Government of Sint Maarten, as stated in Minster Richardson’s last parliamentary public meeting on 5th April 2023?

While the Council of Ministers got new service telephones recently, some departments within the Ministry of Justice urgently need service telephones to carry out their daily duties. This is also the case with service vehicles in several departments within the Ministry of Justice.

In the history of the Government of Sint Maarten, this Minister of Justice has the worst cabinet staff to date. A few of her cabinet staff left the cabinet, leaving over with only a few people. Presently, her cabinet is occupied by young, unqualified staff clueless about what the job entails. This Minister has gone as far as unofficially allowing cabinet staff members to perform work in sectors of the Ministry that require the proper recruitment procedures. 

The Minister of VROMi, Mr. Egbert J. Doran, is also being accused of similar types of nepotism and cronyism. Isn’t he the former Minister of Justice, who the present Minister of Justice blamed for the calculation delay in her last parliamentary public meeting on Thursday, 5th April 2023? Was the deadline of 31st March 2023 set by Mr. Cor Merx, the NAPB’s Union lawyer, the reason Minister Richardson issued the placement offer letters before the approval of the Function Book and Legal Position Regulation?

How can the Minister of Justice claim that the function book is approved when it is not? Is it possible that this Minister will rush this complex process because there is less than a year left for her to be in office? Why have so many civil servants received placement offer letters that need correction? There are too many discrepancies in the function book for it to be an approved Function Book, as is claimed by the Minister of Justice.

Minister Richardson felt confident about sending the package, which included the function book, the legal position regulation, and remuneration, to the Governor’s Cabinet because two million guilders were reserved on the budget. It is clear that the package that was sent to the Governor’s Cabinet was returned unapproved. This is the final place where advices and proposals are evaluated in accordance with the prevailing rules and agreements. The Minister of Justice reiterated in the parliamentary public meeting on 5th April 2023 that a National Decree Containing General Regulations (Landsbesluit, houdende algemene maatregelen – LBham) establishes a legal position regulation. A National Decree (LB) establishes the salary scales and enacts an approved function book.

In conclusion, the issued placement offer letters are not valid.

This Minister, Anna E. Richardson, is the most controversial Minister the Ministry of Justice has ever had. Everyone can reflect on her behaviour in her outburst with the police and immigration officers outside the Government Administration Building when she first took office in 2020. Her attitude in parliament towards the Members of Parliament is also very demeaning. She has had encounters with the Ministry of Justice staff members where her behaviour was very unprofessional, especially for someone holding a high-ranking position. Of all the Ministers of Justice, she has suspended and fired more staff members for personal feelings. The Minister of Justice uses many departments within the Ministry as tools for her personal agenda.

The entire Government of Sint Maarten has created an atmosphere of disgruntled civil servants who have dedicated many years to having very limited resources while being underpaid.