Former Island Councilman Clyde van Putten (centre) with former Commissioners Derrick Simmons (second left) and Charles Woodley (fourth right), former Island Councilmember Rechelline Leerdam (fifth right) and supporters.
ST. EUSTATIUS–The deposed coalition of Progressive Labour Party (PLP) with Reuben Merkman in the Executive Council of St. Eustatius presented their case before a Judge in the Court of First Instance on Tuesday, requesting that the measures taken by the Dutch government in February to set aside the democratically elected officials be declared null and void.
The case was heard at Gertrude Judson Bicentennial Public Library with supporters of the deposed coalition government wearing T-shirts reading “Statia Proud and Confident.”
Plaintiffs present at the proceedings were former Island Council Members Clyde van Putten and Rechelline Leerdam, and former Commissioners Derrick Simmons Jr. and Charles Woodley. Merkman was off island for medical reasons.
The deposed island government asked that the Government Commissioners be withdrawn from office while the court case on the merits is being heard.
The injunction seeks to halt the government commissioners and the Dutch government from taking any further actions in Statia and demands the reinstatement of the legitimate island government until an election is held, or until the outcome of the main case is decided.
The plaintiffs sought clarification as to whether or not one of the lawyers representing the case for the Dutch State, Hans van Wijk is registered to practice within the Dutch Caribbean.
It emerged that even though Van Wijk is not registered, the court granted him permission to assist his colleague Charles Rutte.
The plaintiffs made reference to a recent ruling in Curaçao in which a lawyer not registered to practice in that country was denied the opportunity to argue a case. Subsequently, the plaintiffs stated their objections to Van Wijk arguing the case, but the judge stated that she would allow him to speak.
The plaintiffs argue that national law can never supersede international law whereby the Dutch government, signatory to the United Nations Charter, is obliged to recognize and respect Statia’s right to self-government based on Article 73 of the Charter and other relevant resolutions and treaties.
They claim that the Temporary Law on Neglect is also in contravention to the relevant international laws. They also said the people’s democratic rights were taken away when it was decided that no election was to be held in Statia in March 2019.
Van Wijk argued that Article 73 of the UN Charter does not apply because the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles were declared self-governing with the emergence of the Kingdom Charter.
It was further argued that the temporary law to dissolve the democratically elected government is in accordance with Dutch law, as Statia is legally part of the Dutch Constitution. Van Wijk stated that such a measure could also be taken in municipalities in the Netherlands.
It was further argued that the temporary act does not take away the people of Statia’s right of self-government.
Van Wijk stated that the measures taken by the Dutch government were based on the report of the Wise Men. He also argued that there is currently no urgency to the case, in light of the fact that the court injunction was filed months after the Dutch measures were taken.
The Judge will give her decision in the injunction on December 11. That same day the initial court case will be heard after the Dutch State requested yet another extension.