Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams on Wednesday said recent comments by Member of Parliament Frans Richardson concerning St. Maarten‘s Security Service (VDSM) were “absolutely incorrect and misleading” and she expected better from a Member of Parliament. Richardson earlier this week expressed concerns about what he termed “a breach” of the national security service and called on Wescot-Williams to resign until the investigation into irregularities at VDSM has run its course. He said the “breach” could be compared to what was happening in the US with the Snowden case, hinting that more than financial discrepancies could be in play. He also called on parliament to be informed. The Prime Minister minced no words in rhetorically asking: “Who mentioned anything about a breach?” and dismissed comparisons with Snowden. “One should, and I for sure, expect that MP’s understand that there are certain matters that you take out and keep out of the political realm,” she stressed. She added that there is a process to be followed (specifically for the VDSM) regarding the informing of Parliament, in which the supervisory commission plays an important role. “Of course Parliament can call a minister to provide information at any time, but you can imagine that the same type of carefulness will be used towards parliament and requests made that they understand and respect that,” she said. The PM said that MP Richardson could call for her resignation as often as he cares to, but “when we drop words and make accusations, to sound good and popular, we should realise that there is a world that is looking at St. Maarten, and we need to be cognizant of that.” In this context, she mentioned an incorrect reference in the Telegraaf newspaper, which reported that there has been some sort of “gesjoemel” (funny business) with monies of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) at St. Maarten’s VDSM. The PM last week had stated that while there were apparently irregularities at VDSM, the information core and structure of the agency had not been compromised. In related matters, the PM confirmed that the SOAB report on VDSM is in. Based on the conclusions of the report, she said, it is evident that “a considerable amount of funds could not be substantiated as funds used for the operation of the service.” The report also makes recommendations in terms of giving the head of VDSM the opportunity to substantiate and provide explanations regarding the findings of the report. The PM said the head of VDSM, James Richardson, has been contacted and interviewed by SOAB in this process. Wescot-Williams has also requested SOAB to perform a quick scan into the organizational procedures at VDSM and come up with recommendations for that as well. As for the supervisory commission of VDSM, the PM said government has proposed that the third person for this commission be nominated by the President of the Constitutional Court. This proposal is at Parliament for handling, since it concerns a change to the law that governs VDSM. “In speaking with the Chairperson of parliament, she indicated that this is one of the draft laws that she will try to get on the table of Parliament for handling as soon as possible,” the PM said. Once this commission is functioning, it can, in the context of its supervisory role, execute inquiries into VDSM to determine that it functioned within the scope of the law that governs the agency. The commission can also execute an inquiry based on the request of a majority in Parliament. Once such an inquiry is conducted and completed, the commission is obliged to present a report to the Prime Minister, who will then be afforded a certain amount of time (to be determined by the commission) to react to the findings. After receiving the PM’s reaction, the commission then adopts the report, which could include recommendations to the minister regarding any eventual actions as a result of the findings of the inquiry. The report, in its final form, is then returned to the Prime Minister. The PM will then have six weeks to submit this report to Parliament, with, if she feels it necessary, certain omissions depending on case sensitivities. The PM can, however, confidentially inform the leaders of the fractions represented in Parliament of the aforementioned omissions.
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