The Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations has not lost its confidence in Island Governor of St. Eustatius Gerald Berkel, and will not grant the Executive Council’s request for his dismissal, Secretary-General Richard van Zwol informed the Council by letter of October 16.
The Executive Council has announced it would cease its cooperation with the governor as per November 2. The letter and the breach of confidence between the Executive Council and the governor will be on the agenda of Tuesday morning’s Island Council meeting.
The Executive Council is at loggerheads with the governor ever since the Dutch Government imposed financial and administrative supervision on June 10. The Executive Council disagrees with the measure and has declined to cooperate with a steering group headed by Dutch Government Representative Gilbert Isabella, which is to improve matters. Commissioners Reginald Zaandam and Astrid McKenzie- Tatem have, however, declined to sit in at meetings with steering group members.
Governor Berkel is of the opinion that “higher supervision” is, in fact, necessary. He did attend steering group meetings.
The instruction issued by the minister of Home Affairs, while seen by some as a condemnation of the public administration, should rather be viewed as yet another opportunity to improve the administrative and financial deficit, said Berkel in a public memo.
In its meeting of August 31, the Island Council adopted a motion of no-confidence against the governor, and called upon the Ministry of Home Affairs to fire him and appoint a new governor.
In the motion it was stated that Berkel had failed to communicate in a “timely and transparent” manner with the other members of the Executive Council. There would have been a lack of cooperation and the governor would have ignored the Commissioners’ wishes to hold meetings, it was stated.
He allegedly also made decisions in contravention with the law and implemented these in name of the Executive Council, and would have singlehandedly alter decisions made by the Island Council and fail to execute Executive Council decisions in a timely and correct manner. It was also held against the governor that he would not be politically neutral.
In his letter of last week Friday, Secretary-General Van Zwol said the documentation he had received from the Executive Council did not contain any evidence to sustain the allegations as mentioned in the motion of no-confidence.
According to Van Zwol, who is the highest-ranking civil servant at the ministry of Home Affairs, Governor Berkel has always been “very cooperative” and acted “responsibly” and within the legal framework, including the instruction as imposed by Minister Ronald Plasterk on June 10.
In case Governor Berkel would resign, which Van Zwol said he did not expect, the Dutch Government Representative is to appoint an acting governor, who should have “the abilities to take short-term measures in tackling the administrative problems within the Public Entity St. Eustatius,” he stated on behalf of Minister Plasterk.
The Daily Herald.