Stern warning for Statia Government

THE HAGUE--Outgoing Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Friday sent a stern warning to the St. Eustatius Government: it has to abide by the law, and cannot just toss aside valid legislation and legal decisions.
 
The Minister made it very clear in a letter that he sent to Statia’s Executive Council on Friday, that he did not tolerate any actions of the local government, including the Island Council, against the established rules and regulations. “The St. Eustatius Island Council is also not above the law.”
 
The decision of the Island Council last week to disregard the general WolBES and financial FinBES laws, and the recent letters of Progressive Labour Party (PLP) Councilman Clyde van Putten have confirmed for the Minister that apparently there is a belief that the Public Entity St. Eustatius does not have to stick to any Dutch laws.
 
The adopted motion of the Island Council to which the Minister referred dictated that any provision in the WolBES and FinBES that conflicted with Statia’s right of full internal self-governance had to be ignored by the Executive Council and by civil servants in general.
 
Plasterk stated that he “did not want to and could not” accept this suggestion. “There is no room within the Kingdom for the notion that rules and regulations can be ignored in this manner,” he stated in the letter of which copies were sent to the Statia Island Council and the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.
 
Referring to the fact the Commissioners have been sending letters without the knowledge and approval of Acting Island Governor Julian Woodley, the Minister urged the Executive Council to “follow the legal rules and etiquette” and to “respect the Island Governor in his role and task.”         
 
Plasterk stated that Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs Derrick Simmons was welcome at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK for talks this week. “I am willing to receive your Commissioner at my Ministry. The governmental situation in St. Eustatius needs to be discussed.”
 
Not welcome at the BZK Ministry was the Commissioner’s advisor Xavier Blackman, because the latter’s appointment as Director Public Affairs and Support has been rejected by Kingdom Government Representative for the Caribbean Netherlands Gilbert Isabella.
 
To this end, the Minister condemned last week’s adopted motion of the Island Council instructing Commissioner Simmons and his advisor Blackman to visit The Hague for talks. “I conclude that this advisor is the person, whose appointment has not been approved by the Kingdom Government Representative,” he stated.
 
“Even though in principle you are free to determine the composition of your visiting delegations, this advisor, considering the decision of the Kingdom Government Representative, cannot be part of a delegation that is possibly received by me, or on my behalf. A motion of the Island Council doesn’t offer any legitimacy not to stick to legal decisions taken by the Kingdom Government Representative,” stated Plasterk.
 
The Minister slammed a letter of the Commissioners and Island Secretary of April 14 regarding Isabella’s rejection of Blackman’s appointment in which the Commissioners concluded they no longer had any confidence in the Kingdom Government Representative, and that they would ignore this person, as well as his letters.
 
“Such a view is out of place, and I request your Executive Council to fully adhere to the valid rules and regulations, including the authorities granted to the Kingdom Government Representative,” stated Plasterk.
 
The Minister ordered the island government to stick to Isabella’s decision of April 26 to declare Blackman’s appointment invalid, because it was in violation with the law. “I will fully hold you responsible for the consequences of not adhering to the rules and regulations, and to legal decisions taken by the Kingdom Government Representative.”
 
In the 4-page letter, Plasterk also addressed the right of self-determination, the efforts of the Statia coalition, comprising of the PLP and independent Councilman Reuben Merkman, to attain a full internal self-governing structure, as well as the White Paper of the Public Entity and the counter-document by the St. Eustatius Democratic Party (DP).
 
The Minister reminded the Statia Government that as long as the island was a part of the Kingdom and wanted to maintain ties with the Netherlands, it was not up to St. Eustatius alone to determine the way content was given to the relations.
 
Plasterk advised against a country status, one of the two options that were a possibility for St. Eustatius besides the public entity status. The status of an autonomous country within the Kingdom would entail no budgetary support, which means that the island would have to fully rely on itself financially. “The status of autonomous country doesn’t seem realistic, considering Statia’s small scale, and the current state of government.”
 
Statia’s right to self-determination was not denied, as this right for all six Dutch Caribbean islands was confirmed during the 1981 Round Table Conference, but the Minister did point out that the Netherlands, based on article 55 of the Kingdom Charter, did have a say when one of the islands wanted to change its constitutional status.
 
“Surely the Netherlands, and the other countries of the Kingdom, don’t automatically have to cooperate with Statia’s desires where it comes to giving content to the ties with the Netherlands within the Kingdom,” stated Plasterk, who remarked that the December 2014 referendum was invalid, because the 60-per-cent threshold was not met.  
         
The Minister contended that the pending change to the Dutch Constitution presented no obstruction for St. Eustatius to carry out its right to self-determination. “This right of the Statia people is an attainment that is not an issue, and that is fully supported by the Dutch Government.”
 
Plasterk clarified that the exercise to amend the Constitution served to grant Bonaire,
 
and St. Eustatius a constitutional basis, and was not specifically aimed at securing the public entity status for the three islands. “The law proposal makes it possible to grant this status by law, but it doesn’t obligate this,” he stated.
 
The Minister, explaining that the main objective of the law proposal was to grant Dutch nationality residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba voting rights for the next Senate elections in 2019. He pointed out that the Executive Council in February 2016, gave its consent to the proposed amendment to the Constitution.
 
Regarding the White Paper of the Statia Government, titled, On the Road to Autonomy; where there is a will, there is a way, Plasterk stated that he was willing to start technical consultations to discuss government’s specific wish.
 
The vision paper of the DP Statia Wellbeing of the People comes first! was deemed to be more in line with the Minister’s objective to implement gradual improvements within the current constitutional status to improve things for the people. The Minister acknowledged that there were great challenges in the area of social-economic development.
 
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