While the Ombudsman Dr. Nilda Arduin has great understanding for the citizens who are anxious to file their complaints against government bodies and or civil servants, the people will not be served with yet another entity that would not be able to function properly due to not being equipped to deliver continuous and quality service as is in general the complaint about the Rent Committee due to lack of meeting space. The community will certainly not be served by a High College of State, which is less equipped and organized than the institutions it has to investigate, and decide on their (procedural) behavior such as the Rent Committee.
The Ordinance on the Ombudsman provides that the Ombudsman establishes the work procedures and the set up of the Bureau, while Parliament establishes the quantity and quality of the positions of the Bureau after consultation with the Ombudsman. In the absence of a turn-key operation, it should be obvious that the work of the Ombudsman has just begun by drafting of a formation plan, investigation and office policies, work procedures and the like to comply with the basic requirements of the law. The letter of the law and legal provisions do not establish the actual operations of the Ombudsman.
Can anyone imagine a Chief of Police operating without a police force? Or a Prosecutor conducting an investigation without procedural rules and regulations to be followed? What about a judge administering justice without a support staff, or a space to hear parties or witnesses?
The primary task of the Ombudsman established by law is to investigate complaints against the conduct of government bodies and civil servants, take decisions on the complaints filed, intervene or mediate, and present proposals to correct behavior or procedures. The Ombudsman is according to the law however not authorized to investigate a complaint if it pertains a matter of general policy of the government body, general interest, or regarding a behavior which is already being handled through an administrative, civil or criminal procedure, or covered by an administrative decision in the case.
Media reports stating that the Ombudsman Arduin refuses to step in the Buncamper-case, which incensed a lawyer, indicate that the well staffed and equipped prosecutor’s office is taking its time to properly study the case. Investigation and subsequent prosecution of the Minister according to the law requires the approval of the Attorney General, which approval requires the approval of the Common Court of Justice. This would exclude the Ombudsman of investigating the case. It should be noted that mentioned bodies are guided by defined procedures, rules and regulations to be followed, and executed by support staff. It behooves a serious and responsible Ombudsman, for whom the procedures, rules and regulations, are yet to be established, and does not have a support staff, to act wisely and not to jump at each and every call to randomly investigate. The rightful question of the community will then be: Investigate based on which procedural rules and regulations?
Though the Constitution provides that the new country Sint Maarten will have an Ombudsman, who has fortunately already been appointed, the ground work yet has to be done; investigation policies and procedures drafted, support staff employed, office space secured and equipped to serve the public.
While Sint Maarten took over the Codes on Civil, Administrative and Criminal Procedures of the Netherlands Antilles, the investigation and decision-making procedures, and more of the Ombudsman and the Bureau are yet to be drafted by the first appointed Ombudsman. This is what Dr. Arduin has been doing, and is presently engaged in, next to organizing office space, support staff and the entire operation of the Bureau to receive the public.
The Rent Committee was established in the sixties, more than forty years ago, and to date cannot provide continuous service to the public of Sint Maarten due to lack of an adequate location. Sint Maarten does not need yet another institution, that fails the expectations of the people. As such understanding and patience is required and requested from the citizens, who are best served by a properly operating Ombudsman Bureau. The Ombudsman Dr. Arduin is committed to deliver this, and is diligently at work to put matters in place. Dr. Arduin emphasized that she intends to provide her services in a ‘civilized way’, and continues to welcome the public’s input to determine the needs of the citizens. Dr. Arduin is aware that the requirements to file a complaint with the Ombudsman pursuant to the law are not yet known by all citizens, but in the meantime these will be constantly communicated to the public. One of such requirements is that the government entity or civil servant against whom a complaint is launched, should be informed accordingly prior to filing a complaint with the Ombudsman.
The public is advised to continue to follow the media for updates of the Ombudsman, and information about when the Bureau will be open to file complaints.
Dr. Nilda Arduin