Unanimous support for law to restore Statia democracy

THE HAGUE/STATIA--The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved the law proposal to phase out Dutch supervision and gradually restore democracy in St. Eustatius.
 
The fact that all parties in the second chamber voted in favour of the law proposal “Recovery Provisions St. Eustatius Law” came as no surprise because during the plenary debate with State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops last week Wednesday, Parliament had already indicated its support.
 
The law proposal – which will now go to the First Chamber (the Senate) for handling – arranges a gradual phasing out of the administrative intervention which The Hague imposed in February 2018 due to what has been referred to as “gross negligence”, while at the same time prolonging the current provision.
 
Through this law, the regular government organisation is restored in four phases along the lines of the existing general WolBES law and the financial law FinBES. Twelve criteria have to be met to improve the level of the government administration, to adapt/implement regulations and to train the civil apparatus.
 
After the implementation of the law proposal – once it has been approved by the Senate – the first step towards a full recovery of regular government organisation will be to officially set a date for Nomination Day, 44 days after which the island council elections will take place. The proposed date so far for these elections is October 21.
 
Prior to the elections, the voting register needs to be ready. State secretary Knops has already informed the Parliament that the voting register is ready. Another criterion is that the St. Eustatius Audit Chamber is established, which is also the case.
 
In the second phase, the island council will acquire the authority to appoint and dismiss commissioners. For this phase to go into effect, all island ordinances need to be established and implemented, the procedures and work instructions of the executive council must be in order, as well as the administration in the area of issuing permits, subsidy concessions, the cadastre function and supervision/enforcement.
 
In this second phase, the government commissioner serves as the chairperson and member of the executive council. The Dutch government will give its blessing to the start of the second phase when – based on the progress that has been made and the functioning of the island council – it can be expected that the commissioners will be able to execute their tasks as solid members of government and make decisions that are in line with the law.
 
The third phase will be initiated when the gross negligence regarding all tasks has ended. The implementation of all supportive measures in the areas of financial management, the government structure and the civil apparatus at that stage has been completed.
 
In the third phase, there will be a completely recovered situation, and both the island council and the executive council will have their responsibilities back in all areas, including the budget right, and execution of their tasks.
 
At that stage, the island governor can be appointed. But before that, the executive council needs to show that it functions well and according to the rules and regulations. “Until that is the case, moving into this phase would be irresponsible,” stated Knops in the explanatory note of the law proposal. Upon the appointment of the island governor, the government commissioner will relinquish his position.
 
The government intervention will be terminated with the fourth phase. Knops stated during last week’s debate that the speed of the four phases was determined by results, and not pre-set in time slots. The Recovery Provisions St. Eustatius Law will replace the “Temporary Law Task Negligence St. Eustatius” and will cease per September 1, 2024.
 
During last week’s debate, members of the second chamber expressed criticism about the lack of speed with which improvements were being accomplished for the Statia people. Parliament pointed out that despite the fact that The Hague has been investing a lot of money and manpower, basic provisions are still not up to par.
 
The limited availability of drinking water was lambasted, the lack of social housing, road-repair projects that were taking way too long, and a poorly functioning waste- management system were mentioned as areas where the Dutch government could have done better.
 
The Daily Herald

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