PHILIPSBURG — Justice Minister Anna Richardson provided smooth answers about the plight of employees at her department during question hour in parliament last week Thursday but a review of the ongoing saga about the function books shows that the process to arrive at a solution is taking forever.
A letter to the editor from a disgruntled justice-employee offers some historic perspective. On December 30, 2022, by now more than three months ago, the ministry published a press release stating that the governor had asked for a total sum calculation prior to signing off on legislation that regulates the legal position of justice-workers.
The writer points out that former Governor Holiday stressed during the opening of the 2022-2023 parliamentary the importance of completing the regulation of the legal position of the personnel in the justice chain.
The ministry’s press release stated that it approved the justice function book per December 2021 – that’s already more than sixteen months ago. It also mentions that the draft legal position regulation for the police of St. Maarten was “pending approval by the governor.”
The letter from the disappointed employee quotes from the ministry’s press release: “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.”
Then the writer hits upon what feels as the crux of the matter: “The function book can only be approved if the financial consequences are known.”
The letter goes on to note that there is no approved function book for several departments within the ministry of justice nor an approved legal position regulation for the police (KPSM), the Immigration and Border Patrol (IBP), the Customs Department and the Coast Guard.
While the ministry has been sending placement letters to several of its employees, Independent MP Christophe Emmanuel noted on Thursday that out of fifteen workers he spoke with, only two agree with the content of that letter. In other words: there is still a lot of work to be done.
The letter writer reproaches Minister Richardson, who previously worked in the banking sector, of creating compliance functions, while “the government apparatus already has specific laws, regulations, policies and procedures to ensure that civil servants adhere to them.”
The same applies to the creation of the function of facilities workers: “There is already a general facilities service department within the ministry of general affairs that handles all the building maintenance for the government.”
That employees who received a placement letter can appeal its contents is also reason for amazement: “How can the staff appeal a placement decision when there is no approved function book and no approved legal position regulation for the police?”
On a personal level the letter writer questions the credibility of Alvin Daal, a consultant who has been appointed as the chair of the placement committee. The letter describes Daal as a civil servant who works for the ministry of Health and Environment in Curacao, owns a company called AD Change Facilitators and who works from his home for the ministry of justice. “He never lived or resided on St. Maarten. According to rumors, Mr. Daal is of the opinion that St. Maarten’s civil servants are unqualified for the positions they presently hold.” The Minister of Justice later debunked this comment in a statement in the press. According to the letter writer, Daal has caused restructuring issues in Curaҫao. “Does he now have the same agenda for Sint Maarten?” the letter writer asks.
The writer furthermore criticizes the appointment of Florence Marlin as a senior policy advisor, head of the human resources department and acting secretary-general of the ministry and of Grace Marlin-Blijden at personnel affairs.
Lastly, the writer expresses concerns about the involvement of companies like Antek (charged with retrieving historical data about justice-employees) because this puts “sensitive personnel information in the hands of third parties, which can be detrimental to the ministry and the government.”
The writer expresses a rather negative opinion about Minister Richardson. “This minister of justice has the worst cabinet staff in history and she is the most controversial minister the ministry has ever had.”
And in the end, that negative opinion also applies to other decision makers: “The entire government of St. Maarten has created an atmosphere of disgruntled civil servants.”
Related links:Governor requires total sum calculation prior to signing legal position regulation
Letter to the Editor: Injustice at the Ministry of Justice of Sint MaartenMinister of Justice answers questions during Question Hour in Parliament