The countries in the Dutch Kingdom have to “hold hands” and continue to cooperate in the best interest of their citizens and in the interest of security.This was – writes The Daily Herald – the main message from Dutch Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who wrapped up her visit to the islands of Curacao, St. Eustatius, Saba and St. Maarten on Thursday.
The minister and her delegation will depart for the Netherlands today, Friday. While on St. Maarten, Hennis-Plasschaert met with the armed forced in the defence ministry, Governor Eugene Holiday, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs and Justice Minister Dennis Richardson. The Dutch Defence Minister said she had “very interesting discussions” on cooperation and about “how we could enforce our cooperation for the future” with St. Maarten officials.
She was not at liberty to discuss details of defence matters, but noted that it was important that opportunities are sought to enforce cooperation between the Caribbean countries in the Kingdom and make it even better. “I cannot openly comment on possible measures in the future, but it was very good conversation,” she told The Daily Herald shortly after meeting with St. Maarten’s Justice Minister on Thursday afternoon.
Other issues discussed with St. Maarten officials included law enforcement, the coast guard, the presence of the Dutch marines on St. Maarten and how St. Maarten is executing agreements with the Dutch. Hennis-Plasschaert said parties discussed whether there was room for improvement and whether “we need to step up our cooperation. If you’re working together with a number of countries in one Kingdom, it is important that you see each other eye to eye once in a while in order to ensure that you speak the same language and reach out for the same objectives and goals,” she stressed, adding that her meeting with Richardson had been “very pleasant.” “It is a normal and a very wise thing to do to always seek for opportunity to further improve the current structures, and this is actually what we are now [looking into – Ed.], but as you know, for almost all improvement you will need additional finances as well.”
The Dutch minister said “the biggest thing” she is taking away from her discussions in St. Maarten is the commitment of government “to continue cooperation.” She said authorities here understand “that there is only way forward and that is to do it together. I think the most important is that we have to continue our cooperation.”
Hennis-Plasschaert, who started her visit in Curaçao on Monday, said her visit to that country had been “very interesting.” She discussed “a number of issues,” with officials there as well, including touching on matters such as the Coast Guard. In Willemstad, the minister spoke to the Governor, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and the President of Parliament.
She visited Saba and Statia for the first time on Wednesday, noting that the small islands had been “truly impressive,” particularly Saba, which she called “a jewel in the crown.” On Statia and Saba she met with the Lieutenant Governors of both islands, as well as with the personnel of the Marechaussee.
The Dutch Defence Min-ister is Commander of the military units that are ready to conduct duties to protect the territories, bring stability, maintain the law within the Dutch Caribbean and provide the ability to assist in multiple civil and national requirements. As direc-tor of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard, the minister is also responsible for maritime law enforcement and search and rescue at sea.