Philipsburg – In an effort to facilitate and empower all districts on the island, the Minister of Justice, Ms. Anna E. Richardson, has opened discussions with the various Community Council representatives to address safety and security issues that are being experienced within the communities. The Minister stated that the aim is to both identify the issues that are being experienced in the neighborhoods and assess the relationship between the communities and their Community Police Officers (CPOs). Minister Richardson has committed the service of the Justice Ministry in supporting the communities in combatting issues that are being experienced. “As Minister of Justice, it is my duty to act on the safety and security grievances expressed by our communities. Having these meetings will provide a better understanding of how the ministry can support our communities in feeling more safe and secure”, stated the Minister.
According to the Minister, there have been many complaints by the councils of issues that their communities have been facing that are either not being addressed or not being reported to the right authorities. “It is vital that we create a stronger working relationship together so that we can reach the best results for our neighborhoods”, stated the Minister.
The meeting between Minister Richardson and the Community Councils of the Cay Bay to Simpson Bay area was the first of the district council sit-downs to take place. The Minister has made it a priority to meet with all Community Council representatives over the course of the coming weeks to further discuss issues faced within each district. The meeting which took place on Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 proved to be of high importance to the communities, who’s issues were articulated by each representative. “Moving forward we cannot continue to do things alone. By working together we will be able to accomplish so much more in creating the safe environment that we all want”, stated the Minister.
The council’s representatives highlighted some key issues that were expressed as ‘ongoing matters’. For example, it was pointed out by the council representative that many illegal vessels enter the shorelines with undocumented persons that disembark and go into their communities to either find shelter or to escape through the districts. The Minister gave her reassurance that a plan of action is being developed between the various agencies that fall under the Justice Ministry to effectively combat this problem.
The councils also expressed their frustration of residents being affected by noise pollution. The councils said that noise pollution is a largely reported nuisance in their communities. “Between the different businesses around and persons playing loud music from their homes and vehicles, it’s frustrating for our residents”, stated a representative. Minister Richardson made it known to the council’s representatives that this issue is being taken up as a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT). “I can further assure you that the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA) and the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation and Telecommunications (TEATT) are working on a protocol to conduct joint controls within the communities to tackle among a list of other prudent issues, this nuisance”, stated the Minister.
The Minister urged the Community Council’s representatives to be patient. “All I am asking for is your patience as efforts are underway to help and support the communities with these issues that are being experienced – some of which will take time”, stated the Minister. The Minister inquired on the relationship of the communities and their Community Police Officers (CPOs), asking the councils representatives if there is a high awareness throughout their districts of who their CPOs are and if contact information of the various authorities is widely known. “It is important that the Community Councils and Community Police Officers have a close working relationship. Awareness within the communities is also crucial in knowing who their CPOs are and who to contact when faced with an issue”, stated the Minister.
Several issues were tabled which fall under the responsibility of the Justice Ministry and a number of other issues that extends under the responsibility of the other Ministries. The Minister told the councils that “my priority is to exercise my authority in addressing the issues that fall within my responsibility. Although the other mentioned issues do not fall under the Ministry of Justice, I will see to it that they are communicated to my respective colleagues of the other Ministries so that they too can also be addressed”.
The council’s representatives were informed by the Minister of the existence and duty of the Committee for District Councils (CDC) in Parliament which was recognized and established as a means for Community Councils to have their grievances communicated in Parliament. The Committee for District Councils’ purpose is to act as a liaison between the Community Councils and the Ministers. The Minister indicated that during her tenure as a Parliamentarian she pushed for the establishment of this entity to empower and support Community Councils with the ability to take community issues to Parliament. “It is important that the Community Councils use the CDC to hold the Ministers accountable for issues that fall under their respective portfolios,” stated the Minister. Minister Richardson sent a letter on Friday, April 16th, 2021 to Member of Parliament Solange L. Duncan, who is also the Chairperson of the Committee for District Councils of the Parliament, requesting for the Committee to commence meetings with Community Councils.
A list of additional issues was submitted to Minister Richardson by the councils and the CPO, which will be further investigated. The Minister aims to use the results of these meetings to create a plan of action that focuses on effectively tackling the issues that are detailed by the communities.