Commander of the Netherlands Royal Marines in St. Maarten Patrick Wokke was suspended after what a source referred to as a “bullying campaign” against Wokke led to a complaint by subordinates.
POINTE BLANCHE–Commander of the Netherlands Royal Marines in St. Maarten Major Patrick Wokke has been suspended from his post with immediate effect after what a source referred to as “a bullying campaign to have the major removed from his position.” The suspension happened some three weeks ago.
It is the second time within a year that the Dutch Defence Forces have been accused of unfairly removing a popular leader from an organisation based in St. Maarten, after Eddie Kirindongo was told last year that there was no longer a place for him in the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard in St. Maarten, despite his having made an agreement with former Minister of Justice Roland Duncan that he would stay in the position until 2017.
The source, who requested anonymity, but who worked in partnership with the Marines on the island, stated: “It appears that a small group of people working directly underneath the major had decided they wanted him to go. They were overheard as far as six months back telling other people that the major would not be staying on the island, and that he would be leaving his post soon. It is significant that a number of these people had been criticised by the major for work-related matters in the period leading up to his suspension.”
This is surprising, as Wokke is known on the island for successfully introducing the Netherlands Royal Marines to St. Maarten, and the three rotational detachments stationed on the island to date have successfully given assistance in various situations, such as Hurricane Gonzalo, severe flooding, a crashed aeroplane and numerous trainings for different partner organisations, under Wokke’s leadership. Wokke is known to have been very popular amongst members of the rotational detachment.
The Daily Herald understands that a number of people from partner organisations of the Netherlands Royal Marines in St. Maarten have written letters of reference to support the major in his efforts to clear his name.
The complaints made against Major Wokke were of a personal nature and are said to have criticised his management style as being too overpowering. It was said the complainants had lost faith in Wokke’s management style. At no point were any allegations made against the major involving integrity or dishonesty. The complaints were made in a letter that was circulated within the Royal Netherlands Marines, in a further attempt to undermine the major’s position.
A committee of high-ranking Marines was sent to St. Maarten to investigate the origins of the letter, and spoke to the complainant and his supporters, believed to be a small group consisting of two or three other staff members, and to Major Wokke. The complaint was dealt with as an internal enquiry, so no partner organisations were spoken to. As a result, no testimony could be given of the good work Wokke has undertaken in St. Maarten.
The person responsible for the letter, which he asked his wife, a detective with the Detective Cooperation Team RST, to write, according to another source, also has been sent back to the Netherlands.
Major Wokke is currently in the Netherlands, where he is said to have further talks about his position. He is expected back in St. Maarten next week and it is not yet known when he will leave the island. The major has only been suspended from his post in St. Maarten. He remains with the Netherlands Royal Marines and will be given a new function in an equal rank.
In an invited comment, Major Wokke said: “I am still employed by the Netherlands Royal Marines, but I was suspended from my post as commander of the Netherlands Royal Marines in St. Maarten some three weeks ago as the result of a complaint that was made against me.”
When asked what the complaint was about, he said: “The complaint is in the personal realm and is not related to any integrity or dishonesty issue, nor does it constitute misconduct.
“I contest the complaint that has been made and I am currently in the Netherlands to speak to various people both within and outside of the Marines to disprove the allegations made. In view of information I am presenting to refute the allegation it is likely that further investigation will have to take place into the complaint, and because of this I do not want to give any further information at this moment.”
Spokesperson for the Netherlands Royal Marines in Curaçao Lieutenant Alex Kranenburg was asked to comment on the situation. He said: “The commander in St. Maarten is no longer in his position as a result of personal circumstances. We cannot comment on the reasons, as this concerns information that is confidential to the Personnel Department. We never disclose this type of information, to safeguard the privacy of our staff.”
Kranenburg did confirm that a temporary replacement had taken over the position of commander of the Netherlands Marines in St. Maarten, and that a permanent, new commander had been appointed who is due to start this coming Monday.