I was unpleasantly surprised by the first reaction coming from a Member of Parliament in The Hague (Ronald van Raak), after St. Eustatius Island Council elections on October 21, 2020. I was hoping for a more positive reaction as the people exercised their right to vote, in spite the fact Statia will not receive their full democracy, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to make the following clear to Mr. Van Raak:
In 2018, Raymond Knops with the backing of both the 1st and 2nd chamber support, chose to remove an elected government based on assumption and rumors. They took away our democratic right and placed two government commissioners to take the responsibilities of both the island council and the commissioners. The people did not agree! More than 2 years has passed and to date, no evidence was ever presented to the people of Statia and the World to substantiate the claims. To add to the point of Van Raak, “that they failed to gain the trust of the people”, that is rightfully so, because what the people of Statia have experience since the take- over is lack of transparency, which is an important element of good governance. Since the takeover, no one knows what transpired in government as there is no island council, no governor, no CFT, and no kingdom representative as all the checks and balances were removed. The real question will be what economic, financial, and legislative realities the incoming island council will be faced with as they sit on October 29th 2020.
I would like to remind Van Raak how we reached to this point. In 2005, St. Eustatius chose to remain in the Netherlands Antilles. Statia was the only Island who voted for that option. For this, we were told that the Netherlands Antilles could not be maintained for St. Eustatius only. The Public Entity (BES) structure was forced on the people of Statia with the promise that it would be evaluated after 5 years, and at that point our relationship with The Hague can be evaluated as well. After 5 years, the report published that the Status (in short), saw strides in Education and Healthcare only. There were much more to be desired in other areas and have seen an increased in poverty which will continue to have detrimental consequences if not addressed. As promised a referendum was held in 2014, to get the feedback of the direction that Statia saw best. The people of Statia once again spoke clearly that an Autonomous relationship with The Hague is preferred out of the four options that was presented (Autonomy (747), Public Entity/Status Quo (374), Integration (14) and Independence (5)). In spite of the referendum not meeting the quota, the numbers clearly shows that AUTONOMY, not Independence is the will of the people. Again, The Hague ignored the voice of the People without consideration and chose full integration as our new relationship.
As the leader of the Progressive Labor Party I would like to say to the People of Statia, Statians abroad, People with the Best Interest of Statia and to the Media, “We have never championed Independence, we have always championed what our people have been requesting since 2005, an Autonomous relationship with the Hague. For us to be self-governing, for us to decide what is best for Statia and for us to determine the direction of Statia. Not as it is currently being done by persons who do not know our
culture, norms and values, but together (Statia representatives along with the Dutch). The Dutch may mean well, but what works for Holland will not always work for Statia.
People of Statia, I would like to congratulate you once again for exercising your right to speak through voting. It is clear that you made a decision based on what you have experienced before and after the takeover. Before the takeover: The positive strides the PLP/Merkman coalition made in just 2 years of Governing. After the takeover: No substantiation to the allegations used to remove democracy, the lack of transparency, and the lack of understanding for our culture, norms and values.
To the Government Commissioners van Rij and Francis, we commend your approach of inclusivity by having dialogue with the Leaders of Political parties and various other platforms. We look forward to continue the positive working relationship in the interest of Statia as we work to restore full democracy.
I would like to say to Van Raak, we have begun a new era. PLP has shown, despite what took place in 2018, we are ready to work towards the restoration of Democracy which was wrongfully taken away. I would like to invite Mr. Van Raak to show good faith to the people of Statia and start with Dialogue, speak to their Representatives, speak to the People of Statia! Going based on assumptions did not work in 2018 and we expect in 2020 that will not be the norm of the day. Not having dialogue is not a good way to start and this continues the narrative of The Hague deciding what they think we want, but is not giving us the opportunity to decide what We Need. We are ready to sit with you and all other officials in The Hague to express the needs and wishes of the People of Statia, with mutual respect and positive dialogue as we present our plans, ideas and goals for a sustainable Statia. Let’s Start this New Era TOGETHER!