Sint Eustatius – De Eilandsraad van Sint Eustaius voelt zich gechanteerd door het ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties. Dat eist dat de raad à la minute instemt met vier verordeningen. Gebeurt dat niet vandaag, dan houdt Den Haag tegen dat volgende week gedeputeerden worden benoemd.
In een motie spreekt de raad zijn afkeuring uit over de handelwijze van het ministerie. Lees hieronder de motie en een opiniebijdrage van Eilandsraadslid Koos Sneek.
The Island Council of the Public Entity Sint Eustatius,
Considering that they have been elected by means of legally valid elections to represent the interests of the people of St Eustatius,
Considering that, in accepting membership of the Island Council, they have, inter alia, promised or sworn to be faithful to the Constitution and to comply with the laws,
Whereas the intervention from the Netherlands in 2018, rightly or wrongly, was based, among other things, on the assumption that this promise would be acted upon on St Eustatius,
Considering that since then the full restoration of local democracy and thus the influence of the people of St Eustatius with regard to their own interests and their own future has taken far too long,
Noting that much has been done on the part of the Island Council elected in 2020 to make this restoration possible and that since then the agreements, on which agreement existed and still exists, have been fulfilled on the part of the Island Council,
Noting further that the unilaterally adopted Recovery Act contains many steps for which the Island Council cannot bear any responsibility, because it has no powers to do so, as in the case of the return of the budget right, because the administrative organisation is not yet in order,
Whereas almost 5 years have passed since the intervention in 2018,
Whereas since then the Island Council has taken steps to also look at its own functioning as a representative of the people and will continue to do so, as is also included in the Island Council Decision of 25 August this year under decision point 5, point c which states ” to monitor the further course of the administrative process well and, where possible and desirable, to keep a finger on the pulse through personal conversations. Furthermore, to agree to have the NIMD offer a support process based on the Final Report, which is based on the wishes of the Island Council and the Government Commissioners and which can also form a bridge to the upcoming island council elections”,
Considering that many steps have been taken on the part of the Netherlands Government and its representatives on St Eustatius to bring about the necessary changes in the organization and working methods, but whereas the urgency seems to have been lacking, which has repeatedly postponed further steps towards a recovery,
Noting that in fact all the steps to be taken, as mentioned in the Recovery Act , are based on a basis of distrust on the part of the Dutch Government towards the elected members of the Island Council and therefore do not do justice to the actual situation at the moment,
Considering that it is not the good intentions and resulting behaviour of the Island Council to actually achieve the much desired restoration of democracy that are guiding principles in the Restoration Act, but only the legal rules and their strict interpretation seem to determine this course,
Considering that even obvious mistakes on the part of the Dutch Government and its representatives on St Eustatius are subordinated to these legal regulations and thus the threat of the Island Council being denied the right to proceed with the appointment of deputies on 4 October 2022,
Noting that the Island Council of St. Eustatius is now requested, in violation of their own legally established rules of the game, as laid down in the Rules of Procedure, to come to the aid of the Dutch Government to cover up their own failures and thereby effectively go against the aforementioned promise as a member of the Eilandsraad,
Noting that it was precisely this kind of behaviour that we were accused of on the part of the Dutch Government, but now because of your own failures, we are required to do so, which can be understood as double standards,
Whereas with regard to the ordinances, as they have yet to be adopted in order to be able to appoint the deputies, the question for the Island Council is not whether they wish to adopt them, but rather that what is established is also good for the population of St Eustatius and is done through the rules laid down for this purpose by law,
Whereas the prevailing feeling within the Island Council is that a postponement of the appointment of deputies on Tuesday 4 October can no longer be explained to the residents of St Eustatius and that preparations to make this a day of celebration are now already in full swing,
Considering that the people of St Eustatius will no longer understand that a (!) non-adopted regulation, whereby the responsibility for not being available in time lies entirely with the Dutch Government and their representatives on St Eustatius, can have such far-reaching consequences,
Considering that the individual members of the Island Council will assume their own responsibility in the vote on the regulations now before us as an expression that this state of affairs is totally unacceptable in the normal interactions between democratic bodies,
Furthermore, whereas it is the intention and conviction of all members of the Island Council that the appointment of the deputies on 4 October should take place by formal means,
That the Dutch Government does justice to the positive (administrative) changes on St Eustatius and is actually making haste with the full restoration of democracy on St Eustatius;
That the Dutch Government takes full responsibility for what falls under the own responsibility and that of their representatives on St Eustatius and, as the Dutch Government, to declare that in the event of any failures or imperfections, the consequences thereof can in no way affect the agreed deadlines and phases in the restoration of local democracy on St Eustatius.
Debate on ordinances
By Koos Sneek
This meeting of today confirms to me once again that the mediation was not successful. I do not blame this on the mediation team but rather on the unwillingness from the part of BZK and the government commissioner om together with the island council to end the unhealthy and undemocratic situation our island is in in a speedily manner.
Last week again it became abundantly clear to me that we still have squarely opposite views on how to move to a normal democratic government.
Because of the way this Island Council is forced to approve the final 4 ordinances, and in particular the traffic ordinance, I had decided not to attend the central committee meeting yesterday about these ordinances. After my input in this agenda point today, I will also not further take part in the debate or vote on the ordinances. With this I want to make a statement of protest about the way this Island Council is being blackmailed by the ministry of BZK and in extension the government commissioner, who is employed by BZK and follows their orders.
Especially the present government commissioner has clearly demonstrated not to work with the island council in order to speedily go through the process of a return to democracy, but rather to work as a puppet on a string from BZK. And I feel greatly disappointed about that.
Last week Thursday I walked out of a video conference with, what the government commissioners calls the cluster of legal experts of the ministry, but by me cannot be categorized other than some overpaid preschool teachers playing in a puppet show, based upon the manner they addressed and belittled the members of the island council. A cluster of legal experts who lectured the island council members from their comfortable offices in The Hague about their opinion of the requirements for the return of the democracy for Statia and its people.
And how important these not so important ordinances are for the right of the people of Statia to have the island run by representatives that they have elected and not by the by the Dutch government appointed civil servants who are now taking all the decisions.
Well, it is almost five years ago now that the then sitting government in its entirety was sent home. And the sad part for me is, that I had approved of this. In retrospect I feel ashamed and embarrassed about the incompetence of The Hague to get the things back on track in an acceptable and timely fashion. And they should feel deeply ashamed themselves as well. With all financial means and experts at their disposal they were not able to fix the government of Statia, in size not bigger than a small company in The Netherlands.
But no, what they do, they put the blame on the in 2020 elected island council and try to put the blame on us for the delays. We are not cooperating they used to clame. Nine reports have been written over us and submitted to parliament. Many depicted the council as some group of pirates and subordinators.
And then they have their mouth full of proper governance and transparency. None of these nine reports and many other correspondences has been shared with the island council. Just let this sink in, they write about you, what is in the reports highly affects you, yet there is not even the decency to share let alone discuss this with you. I even had to beg multiple times to get a copy of the royal decree for the appointment of commissioners. It is about us, but we have no rights to have it. Proper governance they call it. My foot.
I still hear the then state secretary boast about how he would show how to fix things, how he will get the car wrecks of the island and who can build roads. He told us that if we cannot deal with the roaming animal problem, he will do it himself. And see five years later the finances are still not up order, most car wrecks are still there, it took no less than 3 years to pour the first square meter of concrete road and let’s not even talk about the roaming animal drama.
The restoration law is a monstrosity, thought out most likely by the same so-called cluster of legal experts in the ministry. A law like that they would not dare to implement in a municipality in the European part of The Netherlands. I warned Knops at the time already about this even before it became law. Our experts in the mediation team recently in their findings fully support my opinion about this law. They severely criticized it and pointed out it to be the main reason why we are in this situation and why cooperation between island council and government commissioner is so strenuous. We are still awaiting a reaction by the state secretary on their report. But I am realistic, and my hopes are not high. I anticipate that the cluster of legal experts will find all kinds of excuses to defend their chimera (hersenspinsel in Dutch).
Chimera, in Greek mythology, a fire-breathing female monster resembling a lion in the forepart, a goat in the middle, and a dragon behind.
And now we finally have reached to the point where the island council can appoint their own two commissioners. Of course, we can argue whether this makes sense just five months before elections. And for sure I am one of those who doubts the sense of it. There is not enough time to make any impact but, more importantly, the final say remains by the government commissioner. But this what this monstrosity of the restoration law dictates.
It is for me about the principle of the right of any people to have their own representatives, and that also counts for Statia. Prolonging the situation here for petty reasons is totally against that principle. And it are petty reasons, and if you read even this monstrosity of the restoration law, then you will understand that it is bull.
This is what the explanatory notes of the law says (memorie van toelichting) Before the start of this second phase, it is conditional that all island ordinances have been adopted and entered into force. Those ordinances were adopted many years ago. It nowhere states that they need to be changed before commissioners can be appointed. And that is what the hold up is all about.
And then the law itself says:
If the circumstances have changed in such a way that it can be expected that the Executive Council can duly handle its tasks under the WolBES, with the exception of the tasks relating to the civil servants organization of the public entity itself, on the proposal of Our Minister, in accordance with the sentiment of the Council of Ministers, chapters 2 and 3 of this Act shall be amended at a time to be determined by Royal Decree.
Based on this, it is hard for me to believe that this cluster of legal experts is not able to satisfy the state secretary and the sentiments of the council of ministers to move on to the next phase and let the commissioners be appointed.
It is pure unwillingness of both BZK and the government commissioner to get us out of this undemocratic situation. Someone told me yesterday to believe that there is a secret agenda in The Hague. I try very hard to ignore this notion. But what else is it? It is extremely undemocratic, and it smells like good old colonialism.
Any excuse will be used to prolong the situation we are in for now almost five years already. Henk Brons, the former director general of BZK said it straight in my face, and he repeated this in front of Ms. Leerdam. Clyde van Putten being an island council member is holding up the process. Whether I like Clyde van Putten or not, whether I agree with his standpoints or not, I find this reason absolutely unacceptable.
For me the principle counts that the people have the right to their own democratic elected government. And they elected Clyde van Putten in October 2020 to represent them. That is the principle of our democratic system I stand for. And no director general, no state secretary, no government commissioner should have the right or the authority to do differently. But for this reason, they delay the democratic process. And I don’t care if state secretary van Huffelen denies Brons’ statements. He said it to me and I heard it loud and clear.
I hear that with my standpoint I basically support the PLP. They have the majority of seats in the council so the to be appointed commissioners will come from their camp. And yes, the latter is true, but that is for me no valid argument to let go my principle that the people have the right to their own democratically elected government. I for sure was not to blame that the Democratic Party was not able to win the elections in 2020.
Coming back to those four ordinances that still need to be adopted by the council. Three of them are about more or less ready to be handled today. The fourth one, the traffic ordinance, a no less than 114-page document, reached the council on Friday. Yesterday was the central committee meeting about this, called on the same Friday, while our rules of order says that the documents should reach us with the agenda of the meeting seven days in advance. The seven days’ notice also counts for the island council meeting but is also clearly not adhered to either. And it is not the island council’ fault that the ordinance reached late. Responsibility for this lies fully by BZK and its appointed government commissioner. But the people will be punished for this lateness.
And why are we not following the rules? We are doing this because the cluster of legal experts, threatens us, that if we do this the kingdom decree needed for the appointment of commissioners will be delayed and the island council will be unable to appoint its commissioners on October 4th as planned. I call this blackmail and rest assured Koos Sneek does not let himself being blackmailed by anybody.
But besides that, approving these ordinances without the time to properly vetting them, without sufficient time to ask questions and get all the answers, in my simple view is a perfect example of improper governance or “onbehoorlijk bestuur”. And BZK, the same ministry that sent the last government home for among other “onbehoorlijk bestuur” actually is pushing us to do the same. And why is this? Well, it fits in their schedule, and it covers up their failure.
The reason that the ordinance reached the island council so late is because BZK and in extension the by them appointed government commissioner failed. They did not do in a timely fashion what they were responsible for.
So, because of their failure the island council cannot appoint its commissioners if we follow the proper procedures. It makes me sick.
But then again something similar happened with the installation of the Audit Chamber. To move towards the return of democracy the island council was forced to adopt a decision to create this audit chamber as it was a condition set by BZK to get our democracy back while it is not even supported in the law. Saba does not have one, half of the municipalities in the NL does not have one. Yet for Statia it is a condition to get our democracy back. Just let it sink in.
And then there is something else that bothers me a lot. According to the WolBES an island council member votes without burden (in Dutch stemmen zonder last). This means that they should be free in how they vote (for or against) without being influenced or instructed by others.
But check now what is happening here with these four ordinances on the agenda. For not to delay the process of the kingdom decree and the appointment of commissioners, these ordinances need to pass today! So, we actually cannot vote against. We have to vote for. I call that an obstruction of the right of the council member to vote without burden. And the cluster of legal experts of BZK is OK with this?
Yes, they are OK with this because it fits in their schedule and will cover up their failure for not timely doing their job.
I have reached to the point that I have lost all confidence in this process. I see no willingness from the part of BZK, nor the government commissioner to get an end to this nonsense. I don’t expect the state secretary to take up her own responsibility and put a stop to this puppet show as well.
My ultimatum remains that by election day March 15 next year our democracy needs to be restored. By the hook or by the crook. But as I said earlier, I do not put my hopes up to high. These people are just not willing.