During his visit to St. Eustatius and Saba last week, Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations was directly confronted with the large differences in approach between the governments of these two public entities.
In Saba, the State Secretary found a committed government and a community that has worked hard to clean up the island and restore the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“I have complimented Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and Commissioners Bruce Zagers and Rolando Wilson on the way the Executive Council gives content to its tasks and responsibilities,” he stated in a letter to the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.
In St. Eustatius, the State Secretary was confronted with government representatives who did not show up for a meeting with him.
“Commissioner Charles Woodley has already indicated publicly that he would avoid contact with me. I did meet with Commissioner Derrick Simmons, whom I told that the Netherlands is ready to assist with the repairs of the hurricane damage, but that existing laws and regulations must be respected.”
The entire Island Council was invited for an introductory meeting with the State Secretary, who visited the island for the first time. Councilman Koos Sneek had a valid reason why he was unable to attend, as he was in the Netherlands.
However, Councilman Clyde van Putten was absent without notice, stated Knops.
According to the State Secretary, Van Putten’s absence prevented him from telling Van Putten how “unacceptable” the Councilman’s earlier remarks were about the behaviour towards the Dutch military men and women who came to St. Eustatius to assist. “Naturally, I have shared my thoughts during the visit.”
Knops noted that it had been clear during his visit to all three Windward Islands that members of the governments and the people were very appreciative of the assistance provided by Dutch Defence personnel in the crucial emergency phase after the hurricanes by providing relief goods and by helping with the clean-up and repairs.
Knops did meet with the other three members of Statia’s Island Council. The relations between The Hague and Oranjestad featured prominently in these talks. “I emphasised that only good governance can result in more room for autonomous policy. Self-willed handling will only make this manoeuvring room smaller.”
Unlike Saba, St. Eustatius will only receive two million euro in financial assistance from the Netherlands to strengthen the execution of government tasks in these hard times under strict conditions.
Saba, on the other hand, will get more leeway to spend these monies according to local needs. This proves that the Netherlands actively supports good governance under the motto “more for more, less for less,” stated Knops.
He said the focal point of his visit to St. Eustatius was the “great concerns” about the quality of the local government. “Acting Island Governor Julian Woodley is well aware of the severity of the situation, but in practice he has to deal with an Executive Council, supported by a majority of the Island Council, which violates existing agreements.”
Knops noted that there was still a lot of hurricane damage that needed to be restored. He said the people with whom he had spoken had indicated that they were happy with the reconstruction funds the Dutch Government has made available. He mentioned the Reconstruction Committee which has already shared its ambitions for the coming period.
In his letter, Knops also addressed the severe damage the hurricanes had caused to the nature on St. Eustatius and Saba, above- and underwater. The St. Eustatius National Parks Foundation Stenapa painted an alarming picture. Knops assured that funds for the reconstruction could also be used for nature projects.
The Daily Herald.
Extra: The website Caribbean Network reports the following:
Clyde van Putten deemed the new State Secretary of Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops (CDA) ‘arrogant’ and a ‘modern Napoleon’. Knops made these remarks during a pro-autonomy symposium last weekend in Bonaire. Van Putten refused to meet with the State Secretary during his first visit to St. Eustatius last week.