The Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson recently returned from a four-day working visit to Aruba, from March 28 until March 31. The working visit was filled with meetings and site visits with the purpose of exchanging information with key agencies and stakeholders on Justice and Immigration matters to reinforce cooperation ties and friendship between the two countries. The visit has resulted in future collaboration between Aruba and St. Maarten on different aspects within the Justice sector.
On March 28, the first day of the visit, Minister Richardson was given an introduction and guided tour of KIA prison Aruba (Korrectie Instituut Aruba) by the Prison Director, Mr. Gino Winklaar. St. Maarten and Aruba’s prison systems share similar challenges, some of which include the fact that they are over 30 years old and both are exposed to sea blast causing structural damage over time. At both prisons, more than half of the respective prison populations are also foreign nationals who have committed serious crimes.
On March 29, Minister Richardson visited the Aruba Courthouse and met with representatives of the Aruba monuments foundation with regard to the historical restoration and upgrade of the Aruba Courthouse as a monument. The intent of the visit was to gather information on how this project was handled, how funds were sourced and how this information can be of benefit to St. Maarten’s Courthouse building.
The second day ended with a visit to Aruba’s Marine Base where Minister Richardson was eager to receive an in-depth presentation on the ‘Formacion Social Program’ (SVT). The program has been ongoing in Aruba for a number of years and was designed to give a last chance to dropouts and troubled young adults from the ages of 18 to 24. The SVT program can accommodate two groups of 25 trainees each per year. The first female group started the program just recently. The project consists of two phases of which the first phase is the military-style training of four months and the second phase is focused on general education and includes an eight-month internship. At the end of the program the cadets receive a certificate of recognition which they can use to enter the job market, and in some cases, the Aruba Military.
The St. Maarten Youth Brigade assists with the development of youth on St. Maarten through mental, physical and social sessions. However, for quite some time, Minister Richardson has been exploring possibilities to strengthen the goal of such institutions with the establishment of a Military Academy on St. Maarten. In 2021, the Ministry of Justice in collaboration with the Department of Interior and Kingdom Relations hosted the first National Youth Delinquency Symposium with the objective to harness and connect key stakeholders within the youth delinquency network, identify challenges and seek solutions such as the establishment of a Military Academy.
Minister Richardson stated, “Considering that St. Maarten is located in a hurricane belt, we usually seek military assistance during natural disasters which led to the establishment of the military detachment in 2012, currently consisting of 24 marines. As such, the establishment of a Military Academy allows us to locally train and strengthen our current military capacity.”
On March 30, Minister Richardson visited the Aruba Interpol office as they play a vital role within the country’s Ministry of Justice. Head of NCTVI/Interpol Aruba, Mr. Adolphus Richardson and one of his team members, gave an introduction to the organization and a presentation elaborating on an Aruba-based crime and border management system.
During the very extensive work visit, Minister Richardson also sought the time to meet with St. Maarteners living abroad in Aruba. She updated them on St. Maarten’s latest developments and used the opportunity for shared ideas and opinions on how the St. Maarten community abroad can continue to support and contribute to the efforts back home. Minister Richardson was also very keen on actively listening and receiving feedback and suggestions during the meet and greet. The evening culminated with individuals having the opportunity for a one-on-one dialog with Minister Richardson.
On March 31, the last day of the working visit, Minister Richardson met with Minister of Justice of Aruba, Honorable Rocco Tjon where they were able to discuss the importance of prevention and the willingness to collaborate on different aspects within the Justice sector. “In the spirit of collaboration, I continue to echo the words ‘forward together' as we continue to learn and share information from our sister countries within the Dutch Kingdom. This work visit has allowed St. Maarten to forge new work relationships as well as learn about the different justice agencies in Aruba. I’d like to thank Minister Tjon, the agencies and stakeholders that welcomed my team and me, as we continue in our vision to maintain a safe and strong St. Maarten,” concluded Minister Richardson.