The Hague seeks new Acting Island Governor for Statia

THE HAGUE–The Dutch Government has started the process to appoint a new Acting Island Governor for St. Eustatius, who will temporarily replace the current caretaker Julian Woodley. This new person may very well be someone from the Netherlands. This was announced in a meeting of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.

St. Eustatius featured prominently in the meeting of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations with Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk. The three parties that were present, the liberal democratic VVD party, the Labour Party PvdA and the green left party GroenLinks expressed concern about the situation.

Minister Plasterk said he shared the concerns. “Things are not going well, financially and on the level of the administration.” He confirmed that the Dutch Government was looking at appointing an Acting Island Governor (“waarnemend gezaghebber”), who “for one or two years” would work on the normalising of the situation, and the meeting of the prerequisites for good governance.

The appointment of Woodley as Acting Island Governor per April 1, was of a temporary nature. The Dutch Government started the process to find a new Island Governor in August this year with a public announcement of the opening of the vacancy. The position has been vacant since April 1, after Gerald Berkel’s resignation.

The new Acting Island Governor does not have to be someone from the island, said Plasterk, referring to the suggestion of Members of Parliament (MPs) André Bosman of the VVD and Roelof van Laar of the PvdA; it might even be better to get someone from outside due to the small size of the island and the lack of a local candidate for the position.

Bosman said the “chaos” in the Statia Government required urgent tackling. “In the opinion of the VVD, the administrative strength is of such bad quality, that it won’t be solved with only assistance. Things have to change drastically. We need a hard reset,” said Bosman, who noted that good governance is a requirement for the island’s development.

“St. Eustatius is held hostage by one person, with four persons behind him,” said Van Laar, referring to Progressive Labour Party PLP Leader and Councilman Clyde van Putten. “We have to force a break-through and quickly. We need a solid administrator who can pull the kart,” he said.

Considering the “lack of enthusiasm” in the region for this position, Van Laar said the possibilities of getting someone from the Netherlands should be looked into. Plasterk confirmed that talks were ongoing to appoint a new temporary Acting Island Governor. “I agree that things cannot continue like this. I assure you that this is totally on our agenda.”

Bosman and Van Laar both called for the creating of a special provision based on an article of the law that regulates the public entity status of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the WolBES. This article 232 states that measures can be taken in case the government of a public entity “grossly neglects its tasks.”

“Isn’t it about time that the Minister intervenes, not with an instruction, but by appointing a person in charge? And yes, that is a sensitive matter. In St. Eustatius, some groups already display anti-Dutch sentiments,” said Bosman.

Van Laar asked for a legal tool based on article 232. He said he “missed an instrument in the toolbox” to ensure the cooperation of the local government representatives. He said a solution also needed to be found for civil servants who didn’t execute orders. “Apparently it is too easy to paralyse government. The possibility exists for certain people to stretch things for years. That is disastrous. The entire island suffers.”

Minister Plasterk said he preferred to solve the situation without a legislation trajectory, but promised to keep it in mind. Bosman said he was content with the plan to appoint a new Acting Island Governor. “We need to be clear on this, and we need a swift solution. This is in the interest of the people,” he said.

Bosman also made mention of the new Harbour Ordinance, a law that in his view didn’t deserve a beauty award from the side of the Statia Government. He stated that the law was completely based on taxing NuStar Company. “The law will also kill all other possible investments, which is not good for the island’s development.”

Source: The Daily Herald