No Confidence motion against Lieutenant Governor Berkel of Statia – (Updated 9-2)

Caribisch Netwerk reports that, yesterday, in the Island Council meeting on Statia, the coalition parties PLP and UPC adopted a motion of no confidence against Governor Gerald Berkel. In this motion Minister Ronald Plasterk of the Interior and Kingdom Relations was asked to dismiss Berkel immediately.

Lieutenant Governor Berkel of Statia
Lieutenant Governor Berkel of Statia

According to coalition leader Clyde van Putten of the PLP, Berkel has failed structurally in his function of Lieutenant Governor and as chairman of the Island Council and the Executive Council of Statia. Opposition party DP, accounting for two out of five seats, did not sign the motion.

Berkel announced that he would pursue with his job as Lieutenant Governor. “I do not agree with the justification. I think it is a political action with which they are trying to send a message to The Hague. But I will put the motion to the Minister and then I await the response of the minister. ”

In the motion, based on Articles 73 and 74 of the WolBES, Berkel is alleged not to communicate regularly and transparently with the other members of the Executive Council. There would be a lack of cooperation and the Lieutenant Governor would also ignore the wish of other council members to meet officially.

In their motion, the three Island Council members state, that the Lieutenant Governor would take and implement decisions on behalf of the Executive Council that are in violation of the law. Also, Berkel would change proposals and would not carry out timely and accurately decisions adopted by the Executive Council. Finally, the coalition parties PLP and UPC blame Berkel not to be politically neutral.

Update September 2, 2015:

Today, The Daily Herald published a more detailed article on the situation. Said failure of Mr. Berkel had manifested itself in a lack of “timely and transparent communication with other members of the Executive Council in ensuring the proper and timely decision-making process for urgent matters, ignoring the wishes of the other members of the Executive Council where it concerns the convening of meetings, unlawfully taking and executing decisions on behalf of the Executive Council in violation of the letter and spirit of the WolBES.” It was further stated that the Governor had “unlawfully” changed draft legislation as approved by the Island Council, “allowing breaches of confidentiality from the Cabinet of the Island Governor, not executing decisions of the Executive Council in a correct and timely manner, and not remaining politically neutral as required in his function.”

The motion also pointed at the investigation into Governor Berkel’s functioning that was commissioned by the then-Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations in 2013. The investigations did not find any wrongdoing, but nevertheless “said investigation into his functioning and his subsequent continued malfunctioning has seriously undermined the moral authority of the current Island Governor.” As a result, he could no longer be considered of good conduct, as is required by WolBES, the motion read. According to the motion, “Any of the individual offences committed by the Island Governor and/or any other instance of misconduct would be grounds for the dismissal of any mayor of a municipality in the Netherlands.”

Van Putten told the Island Council he had filed the motion because Berkel had breached good governance. He said there had been a number of issues in these past months that had made the coalition lose confi- dence in him. Reuben Merkman (UPC) said the decision to file a motion against the Governor had not been made lightly. Recheline Leerdam (PLP) indicated that her party was critical about the Governor’s actions after the Dutch government had given its instruction of June 10, in which it imposed fi- nancial and administrative supervision. Councilwoman Frini Spanner (DP) said Van Putten “makes an issue whenever an occasion arises in which he does not get his way.” She said he also had filed a motion against former Lt. Governor Eugene Abdul, but Abdul had remained until his term expired. “He also had had issues with other Lt. Governors that stick to the law, such as Irvin Temmer,” Spanner said about the PLP leader.

Commissioner Reginald Zaandam said he was sad to know he had been labelled as being on a leash and incapable of making his own decisions. “I am 67 years of age and this is a sad moment in the Council,” he commented.

Commissioner Astrid McKenzie-Tatem said she had “always worked by the book where legal matters are an issue. Up to last week, we were going back and forth and I could not support a vote of no-confidence. “There is, however, too much opposition against the government and I feel sad about the situation, but things remain stagnant. People keep asking why Statia is staying behind and not getting anything. Government is here for a four-year term and we cannot remain in one spot. People are crying out. They want change. We will have to move those boulders out of here.”

In responding to the accusations, Governor Berkel made it clear that he would not bear a grudge against Van Putten. “It’s not personal. When I took the oath it was not to serve the Council, but the community. This is not the first time my position has been challenged. The Island Governor has to give account for his actions and sometimes has to make decisions that are not popular,” Berkel said

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