BBC Caribbean
March 16, 2004

Curacao under state of emergency

A state of Emergency has been declared in the Netherlands Antilles where Parliament has announced an all-out war against rising crime on the island of Curacao.

Justice Minister Ben Komproe confirmed yesterday that some measures are already in place and others will follow.

According to Minister Komproe, the State of Emergency is the government's way of dealing with rising crime on the islands, especially a spate of murders and armed robberies - many drug related.

He said the islands of the Netherlands Antilles are vulnerable to a network of drug traffickers using the Dutch Antillean islands as a transshipment point to get their haul to the U.S. mainland.

Extra Coast Guard patrols, with the help of the Dutch Government could also tackle the problem of the illegal shipment of weapons and illegal immigrants, says the Minister.

The measures were introduced less than a week ago, and so far, only apply to Curacao.

They include more widespread stop and search tactics; authority for law enforcement officers to conduct more undercover work and - the most controversial - a ban on gatherings and assemblies in certain areas.

Another measure is the suspension of the number of persons who can be detained in one cell, and the length of time they can be detained.

Addressing a press conference here on St. Maarten yesterday, Mr. Komproe referred to the State of Emergency as a general measure which should be tailor-made to beef up security on all the islands.

He said government cannot tackle the problem of rising crime without attempting to get to the root cause of the problem, which has been identified as growing poverty, lack of educational opportunities and rising unemployment.

The measures will be in place until December, at an estimated to cost of one million guilders.