PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – On International Justice Day we take a moment to reflect on this year’s theme which is centered around “Corruption vs Development” in other words “Greed vs Need.”. This is a glocal topic with a global impact. Allow me to connect it to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #16 which highlights Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions with indicators to measure local, regional and international progress because there is a common denominator in this equation.
MLK said: “human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable – Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Today I acknowledge everyone in the ministry of justice and I thank you for the work you do every day because we cannot have Peace, Justice or Strong Institutions without you. You are the common denominator. I would also like to thank the family and friends who support us, all our stakeholders who assist us, from the VKS to Mental Health Foundation and Turning Point, from SJIB to the progress committees, from the judiciary branch to the legislative branch and across all ministries. Thank you all for contributing to making the system work better.
In order to appreciate what we have it is always good to look back and ask the question: How did we get here? The seed, and very nature of the people of St. Maarten, is characterized by being friendly, accommodating, facilitating and ambitious. These characteristics are part of the African ancestry, part of the slave culture and part of the post emancipation way of life that ensured the survival of our community.
When others come to visit or live and work here, they do not have the historical context of the seed that was planted. The seed is now a tree and has grown into this paradise in the Caribbean or in the Kingdom when convenient or vice versa. Others meet a developing island that has blossomed, burned by natural and man-made hurricanes and like a phoenix rises out of its ashes, St. Maarten rises each time because of the resilience of our people.
This is the spirit implanted in each one of us and it is with this spirit that we have to stand up against the many forms of corruption.
It is not about pointing fingers or using someone as a poster person to further a cause. It is about looking inside of ourselves, looking inside of our organizations, constantly evaluating, and highlighting integrity challenges.
My 5 recommendations are to:
- Establish a Kingdom Integrity Chamber- corruption is a global challenge and not isolated to St. Maarten. As the saying goes: “Don’t take the splinter out of my eye and leave the 2×4 in yours.” St. Maarten has more institutions that we are at the brink of overregulating and thwarting development. A balance must be
- Hire or train staff as Compliance Officers and/or establish a Compliance Bureau– ensure we have competent staff to execute their tasks independently. When we can address the issues from the beginning and along the entire processthen the risks are automatically lowered of anything being corrupted.
- The principles of Trias Politica must be exercised understanding our reality. The Legislative, Executive and Judiciary branches must work efficiently and effectively within their parameters, rights and responsibilities respectively. Instability has been highlighted often
enough as the cause retarding development- we must maintain a steady course to ensure economic development during this recovery process.
- Address the serious issues of corrupted information. Whether it is an organization, social media, the only newspaper or a late night show – those who dishonestly use their position to get an advantage (especially for money/sponsors) can also be considered corrupted. We have to fact check and sometimes check the fact checker. Corrupted information leads to unrealistic expectations and unnecessary frustration and must be stopped because it is a disservice to the community they are supposed to be enlightening.
- As a government, we must continue investing in YOU, to prepare you to do your work competently, effectively, independently and at times collectively. We are investing in the future and I ask you to invest in yourself. Invest your time and your energy into positive activities and our children will learn our ways. Plant the ed in them as well and it will grow. The work we are doing is never ending and I would like to highlight the direction based on the SDG #16 indicators to ensure we are all on the same page moving forward. You will be able to identify your area of specialty and connect with partners in order to continue executing these tasks.
16.1. Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
16.2. End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
16.3. Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all 16.4. By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime
16.5. Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
16.6. Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
16.7. Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
16.8. Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance
16.9. By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration
16.10. Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements
The aim of this day is to unite everyone who wants to support justice, promote victims’ rights, and bring awareness to the prevention of serious crimes and those that put the peace, security and well-being of the world at risk. MLK summarized it best when he said: Without justice there can
be no peace.
According to Investopedia many countries with emerging economies suffer from a high level of corruption that slows their overall development. The entire society is affected as a result of the inefficient allocation of resources, the presence of a shadow economy, and low-quality education and healthcare.
In looking at the aim of this day and the international theme of this year, we must see how it fits into the context of daily affairs locally.
According to the Governing Program 2018-2022 it states that, “We want to offer hope for real and lasting growth complete with sound leadership. We recognize and endorse the belief that we must lead by example with the application of Christian democratic principles and good governance, stability, integrity, openness, accountability and transparency in government. This will lead to the restoration of trust in government.”
Let us continue to build the trust in ourselves, the trust in others and the trust in our departments in the ministry of Justice.
Thank you and let us enjoy International Justice Day together.