ST. EUSTATIUS–Tuesday’s meeting of the Island Council of St. Eustatius met the same fate as the two other meetings called by the opposition Democratic Party (DP) to discuss the state of the island’s finances. For the second time in a row parties failed to agree on the agenda, after which the meeting was declared closed.
Tuesday morning’s meeting was called on the request of the DP in connection with the letter of July 19, sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations concerning the Island Government’s finances.
Acting Island Governor Julian Woodley chaired the meeting. Also present were Island Council Members Clyde van Putten and Rechelline Leerdam of Progressive Labour Party (PLP) and DP members Adelka Spanner and Nicolaas Sneek. Governor Woodley announced that Reuben Merkman of United People’s Coalition (UPC) was still off island.
Van Putten asked to put the agenda to a vote, to which he is entitled according to the law. Woodley complied with Councilman Van Putten’s request. In the vote, Spanner and Sneek voted in favour of the agenda and Van Putten and Leerdam against, which was the same outcome as during Thursday’s meeting of the Island Council.
Woodley said that without confirmation on the agenda, no further discussion of the Island Council could be held, after he declared the meeting closed.
The Island Council meeting is now slated again for Thursday morning, as the law requires a new meeting within 48 hours until the agenda is passed, the Secretary for the Council explained.
The DP requested a special meeting of the Council, officially in summer recess, to discuss the position and functioning of the Island Government, and in particular the functioning of Commissioner of Finance Astrid McKenzie-Tatem.
This request is based on Article 18.2 of the Law on the Public Entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba WOLBES and Article 8.2 of the Rules of Order of the Island Council, under which an Island Council meeting has to be called when at least one fifth of its membership is requesting such.
“Our party is of the opinion that the actions of the Commissioner of Finance and the implications of the letter mentioned are so serious that it warrants an urgent debate in the Island Council, a debate that cannot wait until after recess. It is astonishing to know that this opinion is not shared by the PLP party and that they are wilfully delaying and boycotting the democratic process,” Sneek said.
The first Island Council meeting on this subject was called for Tuesday, July 26, which was “boycotted” by the PLP. The consequent rescheduling of the meeting was then set for Thursday, July 28. That time the PLP fraction did show up, but made use of their right not to approve the agenda and did so again on Tuesday.
The DP is not pleased with this turn of events, to say the least. “Since this coalition government took office it is clear that because they have the majority in this Island Council they have the power and things should only happen their way, and if and when they want, whether it is right or wrong.
“They are supporting a non-productive government that has our government organization and civil service in total disarray. They are supporting a failing government that has made a total mess of government’s financial administration. They are supporting a laid-back government that is unable to improve the island’s infrastructure and economy. They are supporting a government that is unable to collect one single cent through the harbour ordinance and come to a beneficial arrangement with NuStar N.V.
“They are supporting a government that is unable even to accomplish one subject mentioned in the PLP party programme. One may wonder why they are doing this and why they are accepting this performance. In the words of Councilman van Putten: ‘To keep the DP out at all cost.’ No matter how this government fails time and again and how much it is costing the island and is hurting the people in the process. They don’t care,” Sneek said.
According to the DP, the PLP/UPC coalition keeps supporting Commissioner McKenzie, “who brings us from one disaster into the next, who doesn’t perform, who is screwing up our budget and who has no urgency at all to get the island back on track.”
The DP claims that the coalition is trying to manipulate the democratic process and curtail the opposition by systematically preventing the Island Council from meeting. “The coalition has created a situation whereby the Island Council becomes dysfunctional, which may call for higher supervision,” Sneek said. “With two seats in the Island Council our democratic system gives the DP the right, and not only that, also the duty, to speak out and work in the interest of the people of Statia. The recent actions prevent the DP fraction from carrying out its task,” Sneek said.
According to the DP, UPC Councilman Merkman has said it was “unusual” to call for an Island Council during recess. Merkman, who is currently on vacation abroad, was quoted as saying that DP’s request for a meeting was not only unusual, but also lacks in “solidarity, openness and professionalism.”
According to the DP, however, Merkman is barking up the wrong tree, as the PLP primarily is responsible for the calling of this meeting. Without the knowledge of the Island Council, the PLP Commissioner travelled to The Hague to have a meeting on the budget, which directly involves the responsibility of the Island Council.
“On top of that, this meeting in The Hague has resulted in far-reaching consequences for the financial management of our island. In our opinion it is therefore unprofessional and irresponsible to delay a meeting on this important topic and on the performance of the Commissioner until after the recess,” the DP stated.
“Mr. van Putten and his PLP apparently find that an important case like this, the imposing of a stop on all new financial obligations by the minister with all its implications, can simply wait another month…Or is he wishing that the DP as opposition party just would lie dead and do and say nothing?” Sneek wondered.
Source: Daily Herald
DP disgruntled with new Island Council deadlock