PHILIPSBURG – Prime Minister (PM) William Marlin gave an update on discussions he took part in during his attendance to the OCT Forum in Aruba, in Wednesday’s, March 8, Council of Ministers Press Briefing.
First, he publicly congratulated Carol Voges, who is part of the work cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague, and who attends the OCTA meetings “on our behalf often times in Brussels,” on being elected as Chair of the Executive Committee of OCTA for 2017. The President of the OCTA for 2017, will be Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson.
While in Aruba, the Prime Minister met with Minister Ronald Plasterk and his delegation. “Taking part in that meeting was also Minister Richard Gibson along with support staff. The Secretary General of the Ministry Mr. Plantijn was also in the meeting,” Prime Minister Marlin explained. The discussion lasted for about an hour, and ended with an agreement to not disclose details of the meeting until the discussions are finalized.
In addition, the PM met with Ministers from Curaçao and Aruba to discuss foreign relations, foreign affairs at the United Kingdom level, among other things. “We had a 3-hour long very healthy and positive discussion. It does not mean that we had agreed on every subject that we had talked, but it was very open and honest,” the PM said.
Some of the issues discussed were: the UN Security seat that the entire Kingdom was on the campaign trail to try and secure. There was a tie and after some four or five rounds of balloting between Italy, and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom made the compromise proposal, which was accepted. So for 2017, Italy would hold a seat, and in 2018 the seat would go to the Kingdom.
Also discussed was the situation with the land border demarcation at Oyster Pond. It has been agreed that negotiations between the Republic of France and the Kingdom would begin on May 2.
“We also discussed the visa policy. It is said that the visa policy is a Kingdom matter, but we wanted to know how does that relate to the execution of the policy. Is it so that if the Kingdom does decide that citizens from a particular country in the region require a visa for the entire Kingdom, or can we as St. Maarten, if you’re exempting country X from a visa requirement, don’t want it applicable to us,” Prime Minister Marlin queried.
“While they would rather have a unified policy, the fact that one country can deviate was part of the discussion. One of the things specifically about visas that we had also talked about is the ongoing battle that some of the brothel owners are having with the Public Prosecutor,” since the Public Prosecutor had accused some of the brothel owners of human trafficking and human smuggling.
According to the PM, “The Minister said there is nothing I can tell him to convince him, as long as there is indication or a resemblance that there is human trafficking, they will not issue any visas.”
There is still a need for government to determine what approach will be taken in fighting trafficking. There are many ways to circumvent the system and enter St. Maarten that do not require visa.
“Once those people have access to St. Maarten without any visa requirements again you have an open field day as far as prostitution is concerned, and so rather than having it regulated, and for five establishments now you basically spread it all over the place because the focus is more on we don’t want those establishments involved in human trafficking,” Prime Minister Marlin stated.
The PM made reference to how prostitution is regulated in the Netherlands. “It should be basically to copy-paste. If in the Netherlands it can be done and it does not infringe on human trafficking, then carry out the same policies in St. Maarten,” he suggested.
Prime Minister also mentioned the Chinese interest in St. Maarten. “Now there’s a new presence in the group that is promoting the China-Caribbean hub in St. Maarten, which is totally different. We’ve discussed that in the past, and the possibilities that it offers and creates for St. Maarten,” he said.
Also discussed was the US pre-clearance. The US pre-clearance involves four agreements that would have to be signed or agreed to between St. Maarten, and the pre-clearance people.
“The first agreement is an agreement between the US government and the Kingdom on behalf of St. Maarten. So before you can carry out any pre-clearance activities or further negotiate with the airport, or any other entity, there must be first that agreement between the Kingdom on behalf of St. Maarten and the American government,” he stated.
The Prime Minister also received the report from the organization on the Ransomware virus attacks that occurred in November 2016, and this week.
“Precautionary measures have been taken to shut down some of the operations and some of the departments that were kind of being affected. It has the full attention of the Council of Ministers,” the PM assured. However, he stated that government needed to tackle this issue fundamentally, instead of reacting every time something happens. “Prevention is better than cure,” PM Marlin concluded.