Commander of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee Lieutenant-General Hans Leijtens visited Saba on Tuesday, January 21 to meet with local authorities, the police force and, naturally, the six members of the Marechaussee who work here. Three of the six support the police force and three carry out border control tasks.
Leijtens was appointed Commander of the Royal Marechaussee in September 2019. Many people in the Windward Islands may remember him as the Program-Director-General for the Reconstruction of the Windward Islands, appointed by the Dutch Government after Hurricane Irma late 2017 to coordinate the reconstruction process in St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba. He has also worked as the quarter master for the St. Maarten Integrity Chamber.
“I try to visit all my colleagues at least once a year to see how they are doing,” said Leijtens about his current visit to the islands. Members of the Royal Marechaussee are stationed on all six Dutch Caribbean islands, of which 32 in the Caribbean Netherlands. He visited St. Maarten on Monday, and will be in St. Eustatius on Wednesday before going to Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire later this week.
The Royal Marechaussee is in charge of border control on Saba, the rest of the Caribbean Netherlands and the Netherlands. Cooperation with the partners, the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force and the Caribbean Netherlands Customs, is important and much valued, explained Leijtens.
Being a small island with limited police capacity, the cooperation with the local police force, consisting of six officers and a police chief, is close on Saba. “Having a small organization is challenging, also in the sense of rostering. You have to work together. You make it work together. We have been successfully doing that since 2010,” said Leijtens. Of the three members of the Royal Marechaussee carrying out the border control tasks on Saba, only one is a local person. The two others carrying out border control tasks are from the Netherlands and rotate between St. Maarten and Saba.
The Saba member of the Royal Marechaussee John Simmons was officially recognized during the Commander’s visit on Tuesday. During a short ceremony at Juliana’s Hotel, Simmons received a certificate from the Commander for his 30 years of service. Simmons started working for the Netherlands Antilles Immigration Department on January 1, 1999.
“We are very grateful for your years of excellent service in several functions and all in the service of Saba,” said Leijtens. Simmons thanked everyone, including the Commander for being there. “As a local person, I have always been proud to serve my island, and I will continue to do so. Sometimes it is not an easy job, but I do it to the best of my ability,” said Simmons.
Gem of the Kingdom
This was Leijtens’ fifth visit to Saba. “It is absolutely true what others say: this is the gem of the Kingdom. It is an island of utter, mesmerizing beauty. Saba has the most beautiful nature, I find. And, I have a lot of admiration for the local government which is advancing the island step-by-step, with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson at the front.” Leijtens also complimented Saba for its quick recuperation and hard work after hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. “The reconstruction went fast. In this too, Saba stands out in the region.”