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Voluntary Corps St. Maarten reviewing members, high level of absenteeism

TUESDAY, 02 JULY 2013

PHILIPSBURG–The Management Team of the Voluntary Corps St. Maarten is currently reviewing its membership under an initiative labelled “Operation Membership.”

During remarks at VKS’ 16th anniversary celebrations on Saturday, Acting VKS Commander Paul Martens said there is quite a number of VKS-ers, who are not as active as they should be, or who have “gone completely missing in action.”

VKS will be sending out letters to absent members, requesting them to go in and have a meeting with a review committee. These meetings are meant to discuss their reason for absenteeism and to find out if they are still interested in VKS, Martens said during remarks at its 16th anniversary celebrations on Saturday. “Once this operation is finalized, we should have a smaller, but better motivated group,” he said.

VKS started out on June 28, 1997, with 33 volunteers, who had been installed as VKS-members. Over the years, this number has increased to about 100 members, however, the active membership hovers around 50 – 60, Martens said, adding that this is a reason to look very critically at the current membership.

To increase the motivation and strengthen the level of the remaining members, VKS’ educational unit Bureau Opleidingen is working on a series of special training courses.

An integrity programme is being prepared as part of this. “We will also embark on getting all members appointed as Buitengewoon Agent van Politie (BAVPOL), for which they will have to follow a specific course as well. This course will be organised by Bureau Opleidingen in close cooperation with the Justice Academy,” he said. In the future, VKS might organise a recruitment drive, but for now reinforcing, motivating and further educating its current membership is priority.

The Management Team is also working on a strategic plan to create a strong policy foundation and direction for VKS for the years to come. This will include Operation Membership, but also review our current working relationship with the police and the prison, as well as considering a future working relationship with Customs and the Coast Guard, Martens said. This programme will be discussed with the future board of the VKS foundation and then submitted to Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams for her perusal and hopefully approval.

He said in August the quartermasters of the Royal Dutch Marines will arrive on the island to facilitate the establishment of their barracks in Pointe Blanche. Besides their regular military tasks and their future role in the social formation programme, they are specifically tasked to support VKS. Preliminary discussions with the appointed commander have taken place already. “VKS is looking forward to working with the marines and using their knowledge and capacities to further strengthen our organisation.”

In November, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima will visit St. Maarten as part of their familiarisation tour in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. “As a paramilitary organisation, VKS is looking forward to being part of the honour guard again at the airport when the Royal flight arrives and participating in any other ceremonial events that might be planned for the visit.”

Martens said an anniversary is an occasion to be happy and celebrate, but he added that it was with mixed emotions and feelings, that he was celebrating, as member Corporal Welton Baker had passed away and had been laid to rest on Friday. He said from this year VKS will be observing one minute of silence at the beginning of every VKS anniversary in memory of those members who have passed on.

VKS falls directly under the responsibility of the Prime Minister, as Minister of General Affairs, and is tasked to assist the authorities in three areas: Maintaining public order and safety; ensuring the internal and external security of the country and assisting in disasters and calamities.

He said almost since its inception, VKS has been assisting the police force on a daily basis. The prison has been counting on its assistance for many years as well. Assistance has also been given to the Coast Guard. During hurricanes, VKS members man hurricane shelters together with Royal Dutch Marines and Red Cross Volunteers.

Recently its legal basis has been extended through a change in the national ordinance, which enables VKS to formally assist the prison, the Customs and the Coast Guard.

Government, in close cooperation with VKS management, has been working diligently since the constitutional changes on 10/10/10 to make sure all crucial elements are in place to ensure a sound legal grounding for VKS. “What still needs to be done is establishing the VKS Foundation. This process is in its final stages. The board of the foundation will function as a supervisory body and will have oversight on the financial and material means of the corps,” said Martens.

The board can also advise the leadership of VKS on operational matters. Due to the paramilitary nature of VKS, a certain distance has been created between the operational aspects of VKS and the board. The membership of the board reflects the interests of the government, the military, the prosecutor-general as well as VKS itself. The members of the board have been appointed, the statutes have been approved and the governor recently signed the national decree paving the way for the formal establishing of the VKS Foundation. This is scheduled to be finalized in August.

Martens is Acting VKS commander and is assisted by a management team, comprising of three senior VKS commissioned officers.

The anniversary was marked by a uniformed parade, which began at Clem Labega

Square. There were also speeches by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Acting Commander of VKS Captain Paul Martens in front of the Government Administration Building.

Bron: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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