Caribisch Netwerk reports that the Executive Council in Statia sticks to their point of view that the instruction given by The Netherlands to put the island under financial and administrative monitoring, is imposed unjustly. This became apparent at a hearing, which was held in the presence of senior officials of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom relations and of the College financial supervision, Cft.
In front of the Advisory Council appointed by the Dutch Government, Commissioners Reginald Zaandam and Astrid McKenzie-Tatem reiterated their earlier position in which they called the instruction issued on 10 June by Minister Ronald Plasterk, as ‘ illegal ‘ and ‘ untimely ‘.
Besides with the Executive Council, the Advisory Council also discussed with the Kingdom Representative, Gilbert Isabella, who is chairing a Steering Group to lead the reform process on the island, and Cft Secretary, Manus Tan.
According to the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Executive Council is not a party in this matter, because the instruction for the increased surveillance is given to the Kingdom Representative. Therefore the interests of the Executive Council are not directly affected.
This highly irritated Commissioner Astrid McKenzie She stated, that the instruction is indeed directed towards the Council. Since the instruction became into effect, all decisions first must be submitted to the Kingdom Representative. This directly affects the interests of the Council. They also dispute the legitimacy of the instruction, which, in their eyes, is based on ‘ arbitrary and subjective ‘ grounds.
The Executive Council is alleged that it has run up high the budget deficit in a irresponsible way and that the financial administration is not in order. Furthermore, it was observed, that the government was involved in quite a few incidents where the standards of integrity and good governance were at stake.
According to Minister Plasterk, an action plan with improvement points should be completed by 1 January 2018. However, the Steering Committee, which is tasked to develop the plan, has been working without the presence of Statia’s commissioners. Zaandam and McKenzie indicated, that, in their view, “the instruction is illegal and our presence would mean that we would recognize the legitimacy thereof”.
The commissioners state that the Steering Committee was not very helpful and constructive. If they turn to the Ministry for help and advice, they are consistently referred to the Kingdom Representative. A Committee comprising of local experts would help the Council with the drafting of the budget and the financial reporting.
Lieutenant Governor Gerald Berkel, who also was present at the hearing, supported the instruction. In a memo to the residents of Statia, he described this as ‘ necessary in order to enhance the “transparency, integrity, efficiency and effective governance” to the required level’. In contrast, the commissioners and a majority in the Island Council are of the opinion, that the current coalition of Progressive Labour Party (LP) and United people’s Coalition (PC) cannot be held responsible for errors made by other political combinations.
In the meantime, through letters in the media PLP leader, Clyde van Putten, and UPC President, Derrick Simmons, have demanded the resignation of the Lieutenant Governor. Given that he is the chairman of the Executive Council, both parties hold him partly responsible for the problems identified by the ministry.