Netherlands to station marines on St Maarten
31 August 2012, 16.51 hrs
Defence Minister Hans Hillen announced today that marines will be stationed on St Maarten from next year. “By stationing 26 marines on St Maarten on a permanent basis, the Netherlands is doing justice to the new political structure and the Defence organisation is providing security in that part of the Kingdom too.”
The political reforms that took force on 10 October 2010 meant that St Maarten became a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is based on equality of the countries which are part of the Kingdom. That means they are all entitled to a permanent military presence. According to Mr Hillen, the military presence will also allow for emergency assistance to be provided rapidly, for instance in the event of a hurricane. The Minister emphasised that the distance between the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands is such that a great deal of time is lost if military personnel have to be brought in from Curaçao or Aruba to St Maarten. The move will also reduce the response time for assistance to Saba and St Eustatius.
The marine detachment will be carrying out regular Defence tasks on the island. They comprise protecting sovereignty and defending the Kingdom, upholding the international rule of law and providing military assistance, such as hurricane relief, to the local authorities of the Windward Islands. The marines can also be deployed on the boundary between land and sea, for instance for maritime border control tasks in support of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard. The detachment also provides support to the St Maarten Volunteer Corps and — in consultation with the country of St Maarten — a Social Development Programme for young people.
In early 2013, a permanent staff of 6 marines will be stationed on St Maarten to make preparations. By June at the latest they will be followed by the first, rotating detachment of 20 marines from the Netherlands. At the end of next year, the unit of 26 marines is to be fully operational.