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Law proposal to extend St. Eustatius intervention

The Hague considers an extension of the intervention in the St. Eustatius government necessary. A law proposal has been prepared. It aims to prolong the current facilities and to arrange a transition regime with four phases that should – in a couple of years – result in a regular government situation and a termination of the intervention.

Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops has submitted the so-called “Law Restoration facilities St. Eustatius” to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. The Dutch government intervened in the St. Eustatius government in February 2018 as a result of what was called “gross negligence.” The Island Council and the Executive Council were sent home, and a commissioner was appointed on behalf of The Hague.

Considering the current situation in St. Eustatius and the pace at which improvements are being realised, the Dutch government deems it necessary to prolong the intervention. The current law proposal will end on September 1, 2024.

“Only then the implemented improvements can be secured in a sustainable manner and further improvements can be realised. It must be prevented at all times that the situation from before the intervention repeats itself after the regular governmental structure has been restored.”

At the same time, it is also important for the Statia people to see a restoration of the local democracy as soon as possible through elections. It is expected that in the third quarter of 2020 there will be sufficient institutional stability to hold Island Council elections. The process to clean up the civil registry is almost done and the voting register should then be ready.

However – even with a newly elected Island Council – the Government Commissioner will remain responsible for some tasks of the Island Council for a while, as well as the tasks of the Executive Council and the Island Governor. It is necessary for the Government Commissioner to stay on longer than anticipated.

Based on the current situation the Dutch government does not expect – despite all that has been achieved – the situation will have improved in the short time, such that a new Executive Council would have sufficient basis to properly carry out its tasks and/or function.

“That means that, around the time of the latest possible legally prescribed election date, it is expected that the gross negligence will not have ended where it comes to government tasks, including financial management,” it is stated in the Explanatory Note that accompanies the law proposal.

The Audit Chamber of the city of Rotterdam is supporting the set-up and running of an Audit Chamber in St. Eustatius. This Audit Chamber is important in order for the Island Council to carry out its controlling task. The Audit Chamber should be secured in a law in the first half of 2020. Also in the second half of this year, educational programmes will be offered to potential politicians.

The intervention measures can be phased out when the necessary results have been achieved. This means sound government finances and a solid civil service. About half of the projects to improve financial management have started, one third have been partly started and 20 per cent still need to be started.

The current law proposal seeks to reinstate the regular governmental situation in four phases. In the first phase the “Nomination Day” date will be proclaimed, after which the elections for a new Island Council will take place 44 days after. It is important that the voting register is ready for the elections, the Audit Chamber has been established and the reorganisation of the civil apparatus has been completed.

In the second phase, the Island Council acquires the authority to appoint and dismiss commissioners. All island ordinances must be approved before this phase, the permit and Kadaster administrations must be ready and the procedures and work instructions of the Executive Council must be in order.

The second phase will enter into effect when the Dutch government is sure that the newly appointed commissioners can execute their task in a satisfactory manner and will take decisions that comply with the legal requirements. In this phase the Government Commissioner will be a member and chairman of the Executive Council.

The third phase is initiated when all tasks – as part of the operation to tackle the gross negligence – have been accomplished. The implementation of all supporting measures in the area of financial management, the governmental structure and the civil apparatus has then been completed.

“In this phase there is complete restoration. The Island Council and the Executive Council in this phase have the responsibility for all their regular tasks – such as the budget right – and execute their authorities.”

Prior to the appointment of an Island Governor, the Executive Council needs to show that it can perform according to the rules and regulations. The Government Commissioner will be released of his duties when the Island Governor has been appointed via a Royal Decree.

The intervention in the Statia government is ended in the fourth phase. Considering the temporary character of the intervention, the law will cease on September 1, 2024. This is after the first regularly scheduled elections, slated for March 2023.

However the law can be extended per Royal Decree until September 1, 2025, if by February 1, 2024, the third phase has not yet been started and the Government Commissioner still acts as the Executive Council and the Island Governor.

The law proposal is on the agenda of the next procedural meeting of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations on April 13.

The Daily Herald.

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