Philipsburg; The Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin offers her input to move on. She observes that after days of total shock, anger and fear came mourning, which culminated with a tremendous show of solidarity by the community on the day of the funeral of Police Officer Gamali Kwasi Benjamin; those born here, from here, just happen to be here, and more were there. She likens the impact of the tragic event on August 5th 2015 as devastating to the morale of the people and the economy of the island as the impact of hurricane Luis on September 5th, 1995.
The response to the devastation of the hurricane was swift, with total involvement of the entire community. A Government of Reconstruction and Recovery took up its responsibility, and lead the people in clearing the island of the mess, and built the people’s morale. And so today, after the shock and national mourning, Government needs to lead to restore the damage caused by the fatal shooting of a Police Officer in the line of duty, protecting people, business and our economy in the heart of town. Government needs to boost the morale and restore hope for the people, who call Sint Maarten their home.
The same awareness of what hit us, and a sense that we are in the mess together in the days after hurricane Luis, should guide us to collectively contribute towards swift restoration of the devastation caused by the event of August 5th 2015. The awareness that the shooting of a Law enforcement Officer at close range in broad daylight in the middle of the capital, a stone’s throw away from the Court House and the Parliament House, is a form of anarchy at its highest level, should awaken us all. There is no time to pick and choose, or point fingers, but time to act swiftly and collectively. Government is expected to lead by example, just like Officer Benjamin did. Taking care of the people’s business unbiased, impartial, with understanding, transparency and utmost respect is a budget neutral first step. Acknowledging that behind each decision and action or non-action of Government are the interests of real people, does not require additional monetary investment.
Open and Clear Government
As Ombudsman listening to and investigating the complaints of the people against Government’s behavior, established that the primary needs of the citizens are that Government is open and clear, transparent, cooperative and involved, serving the general interest of the people. Lack of transparency and decision making by Government stagnates development, freezes the wellbeing of the people, increases frustration and anarchy. Applying propriety, standards of proper conduct, is a simple first step in rebuilding and restoring trust in Government and by extension our community. Reading and implementing the many cost effective recommendations offered in the reports of our own High Councils of State and Advisory bodies, as well as the many reports paid for and produced by the various Integrity Committees is another step in the right direction.
If government leads as stated above, and this includes Ministers, civil servants and Parliament, the Board of Trustees elected by the people to supervise Government, the people will follow and understand if measures need to be taken to restore law and order within the community.
Though the statistics published in the Year Report 2014 of the Ombudsman shows that the complaints against the Ministry of Justice, topped by complaints against the Police Department, were the highest last year, the fact is that the Police Department is most active and compliant when it comes to investigations and recommendations from the Ombudsman to better serve the public.
Officer Benjamin understood propriety; he served the public with respect and kindness. May his legacy lead Government and the civil servants as we move on.