Per January 1, 2027, the number of Island Council members for St. Eustatius will be increased from five to 11 and in Saba from five to nine. The number of commissioners for the two islands will go from two to three per that same date.
Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and Digitalisation Alexandra van Huffelen confirmed this in a letter to the Dutch First Chamber of Parliament in response to written questions by the Party for the Animals PvdD in the First Chamber. The PvdD had sought clarity based on a presentation by then Statia Island Council Member Koos Sneek made in December last year.
The PvdD agreed with Sneek’s uestion why there were objections to increase the number of Island Council members for St. Eustatius from five to 11, while the Frisian Island Vlieland with 1,195 inhabitants had nine Municipal Council members and St. Eustatius with a population of 3,500 would be limited to nine Island Council members. The PvdD asked the state secretary to reflect on this.
Van Huffelen explained that compared to the Netherlands, where the number of Municipal Council members is based on the number of inhabitants, with a minimum of nine, a relatively low number of Island council members was established for Bonaire (9), St. Eustatius (5) and Saba (5) at the time of the constitutional reform in 2010.
The reasoning was that an expansion of the number of Island Council members would result in a big increase of the number of Island Council members, and would lead to problems seeing the limited size of the population on the islands.
“In the meantime, continued insight has shown that the low number of Island Council members leads to a high workload of the sitting members who per person have to manage a broad portfolio. It was indicated in talks with the public entities that there is a strong wish to increase the number of Island Council members conform the municipal sliding scale,” stated Van Huffelen.
The revision law to adapt the general and financial law that regulates the public entities WolBES and FinBES will seek to increase the number of Island Council members and to bring this ultimately in line with the number of council members of municipalities of comparable size.
“That means that Bonaire will get 19 Island Council members, St. Eustatius 11 and Saba nine, based on the population of 2022,” said the state secretary. From a practical and logistical perspective, it was not deemed desirable to go to 19 Island Council members at once, but to do so in two phases, going to 15 per January 1, 2027 and to 19 per January 1, 2031.
For St. Eustatius and Saba, this increase will be implemented at once, per January 1, 2027, prior to the next island Council elections. The one-time increase is feasible here because of the small size of the islands and the practical consequences are limited.
The public entities have also indicated that they want an increase of the number of commissioners. The two commissioners per island in St. Eustatius and Saba and the three commissioners in Bonaire have a big work load and more tasks compared to a municipality in the Netherlands of a comparable size.
In the revised WolBES and FinBES, it is proposed to have the number of commissioners set at 25% of the number of Island Council members, with a minimum of three commissioners. The number of commissioners will go up to three for both Saba and St. Eustatius and to four for Bonaire per January 1, 2027. Bonaire will get a fifth commissioner per January 1, 2031.
The Daily Herald.