The Dutch Government is boycotting working visits to St. Eustatius since final instruction was given to the island’s government writes The Daily Herald.
Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66 is questioning the boycott.
Statia Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs Reginald Zaandam is fiercely objecting the stance by The Hague. He said this last attempt of The Hague would test Statia’s resolve, but that it surely would not deter the quest of the island government for more autonomy. “It is clear that we struck a nerve and therefore we expect more retaliation,” he stated in a reaction.
St. Eustatius received an instruction from Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on June 10. The public entity was ordered to follow the advice of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT regarding the 2015 budget and government’s financial management.
According to CFT and the Dutch Government, St. Eustatius had incurred “sizable financial deficits” since 2014. In view of these debts plus the bleak financial situation in 2015, St. Eustatius was urged to take “far-reaching measures.” The local government was accused of operating in a “dysfunctional”, manner which endangered the quality of the public administration.
The public entity was placed under financial supervision through the National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) and as such, it was forbidden to contract new financial obligations. The measure included an immediate stop to hiring new personnel.
The boycott became clear when late last week the visit was announced of Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs Sharon Dijksma to Bonaire and Saba from last Sunday, August 30, to this Wednesday, September 2.
A spokesperson of the Ministry of Economic Affairs confirmed that the State Secretary would not visit St. Eustatius. “It has been agreed that no visit will be paid to St. Eustatius for the duration of this situation.” The Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK was not available for comment.
Member of the Dutch Parliament Hachchi responded immediately to the development. She demanded clarity from Minister Plasterk about the apparent agreement that was made and the purpose that it served. “This is a far-reaching decision and I don’t see how this would help to solve the problems,” she said in an invited comment.
Hachchi submitted written questions to Plasterk last Friday in which she asked whether it was correct that the Dutch Government had decided to boycott St. Eustatius, while higher financial supervision was in effect.
“What is the objective of this agreement and why are you of the opinion that it is a rightful instrument? Is there a precedent in the Caribbean or European part of the Netherlands of such an agreement not to pay working visits to a municipality because it is under increased supervision?”
Hachchi was also concerned about the effect that this boycott would have. “What do you envision will be the effect of such an agreement on the cooperation between the Dutch Government on the one side and the Government and people of St. Eustatius on the other side?”
Zaandam applauded Hachchi’s supportive action. However, he questioned why no other Dutch MP had responded. “What is disappointing is the fact that of the 150 Members of the Second Chamber, the people’s voice, so far only Ms. Hachchi of D66 found time to question Minister Plasterk on this boycott. But one can understand that Statia’s position on the instruction and the stand taken on more autonomy is not their vision of the islands.”
Zaandam was also critical on what he called the “deafening silence” of the other two Caribbean Netherlands islands, Bonaire and Saba. “It speaks volumes. But we will not be fooled by the rhetoric on solidarity, unity and having of one’s back in the BES any longer. We understand our way forward and we will not be deterred,” he stated.