Minister Hillen culminates visit to the Windward Islands

Minister of Defence Hans Hillen paid a visit to the Windward Islands St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius. The Minister was extensively updated about the Royal Marine, Royal Marechaussee and the Coast Guard in the Caribbean region. The Commander of the Navy in the Caribbean region, Brigadier General of the Marines Dick Swijgman, accompanied the Minister on his visit. On Saba and St. Eustatius Representative of the Central Government, Wilbert Stolte, joined the delegation.

On St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams expressed their appreciation about the commitment of the permanent placement of marines on the island. According to Hillen the stationing of marines on St. Maarten results from the Kingdom Charter, which departs from the equality of countries which have become part of the Kingdom. The Netherlands, Curacao and Aruba already have a permanent military presence and this is now also being arranged for St. Maarten. Hillen also emphasized that with this the reaction time for the provision of support to St. Eustatius and Saba will be considerably shorter. Next year a permanent staff of six marines will be placed on St. Maarten to start with the practical preparations. In the course of 2014 a complete unit of 26 marines should be completely operationally available.

Proud of the marines and Coast Guard

During a press meeting on board the Hr. MS. Tromp, the current station ship of the Royal Marine in the Caribbean region, Minister Hillen said he is proud of the work of the Tromp and the Coast Guard. "The Tromp has, together with the Coast Guard in the Caribbean, delivered excellent work with the combating of drug crimes and human smuggling. The Ministry of Defense protects our borders, the air space and the seas of the world. Although pirates arrested by the Tromp must stand before the judge in The Hague, this ship is now active in the Caribbean. With this they underscore that the armed forces protects our interests, that they protect our freedom, security and welfare. Also in this part of our Kingdom.

Rescue in the hills

Yesterday Island Governor Jonathan Johnson of Saba hosted Hillen. On Saba the Minister also visited the hurricane emergency help training, the so-called Hurricane Exercise. The Minister witnessed a rescue demonstration of a traffic victim in a ravine executed by mountain leaders of the Marine Corps. "It was fast and efficient", remarked the Minister following the demonstration". This difficult rescue was solved well by all of you" he told the marines afterwards. The Island Governor completed Hillen’s remarks by emphasizing that the military is very welcomed on the island. "We must make use of the means we have available. Last year a woman had an accident in a ravine here on the island. At the time the emergency services faced difficulty to rescue her".

Airplane crash and evacuation

The Hurricane Exercise was much bigger this year and included besides the ‘standard’ hurricane emergency help exercise on St. Maarten also a simulated airplane crash and evacuation of citizens on St. Eustatius and Saba. Participating in this exercise, were units of the Marine Corps, the support ship Hr.Ms. Pelikaan, the Coast Guard and the emergency services of St. Eustatius and Saba. Today Minister Hillen ended his visit to the Windward Islands on St. Eustatius where he held talks with Island Governor Gerald Berkel.