It’s the tone

It’s the tone

Major Jan Ploegsma of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee in discussing deployment of more personnel in the Caribbean (see related story) could not have said it any better when he talked about collaboration with local entities. “Showing respect, learning from local colleagues, daring to give trust, no judging, continuously focussing on working together, daring to serve; that is so important.”
While there may have been a bit of friction in the past between some of St. Maarten’s law enforcement officers and Dutch frontier/military police stationed here, over the years the cooperation has improved with notable results. In this case the additional support regards strengthening border control.
The latter includes combating human trafficking, people smuggling and illegal migration. That is certainly no luxury, as both St. Maarten and Curaçao were recently downgraded to Level 3 in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, among the worst 22 of 188 ranked countries.
So, to say we don’t need the help would not only be arrogant but incorrect, because facts speak differently. Although the justice system of St. Maarten has come a long way since achieving country status per 10-10-10, there is clearly still room for improvement.
The current Marechaussee contingent of about 20 on the island is to be reinforced by 11 more mainly involved in surveillance of air and sea borders. If that contributes to a better defence against cross-border crime with all its consequences, few will oppose such.
However, outside assistance must always be provided in good understanding with existing efforts on the ground and judging from Ploegsma’s words this is precisely what has happened. As the saying goes, it’s the tone that sets the music.

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