By Ronald van Raak, Member of Parliament for the SP.
“But I said to the minister, pointing my finger at his nose. I told him if you come and when you come be prepared for the consequences. Because if you take the soldiers with us, we will kill and burn them in the streets of St. Eustatius. ” This is what Clyde van Putten, the most important politician on St. Eustatius, said who won the elections again last week.
This statement is from 2017, after the island was hit by hurricane Irma. The Hague then offered emergency aid and military support to repair the worst damage. Aid that was used by Van Putten to turn his islanders against ‘the Dutch’. He even threatened to kill these relief workers and then burn them and drag their bodies through the streets of St. Eustatius.
Van Putten is the winner of the elections, his party got three of the five seats on the island council. In total, more than 1,500 people voted on the island, the turnout was particularly high at almost 77 percent. Clyde was also in power when the administration of St. Eustatius was inactivated in February 2018. The reason was the ‘serious neglect of tasks’ by this administration, which had caused the island to collapse terribly. This involved fraud and corruption and discrimination and intimidation.
The administration of this Caribbean island, which is part of the Netherlands, refused to recognize Dutch supervision and Dutch laws. At the time, I found it a difficult decision to temporarily abolish local democracy on this island. Yet I agreed, as the politicians of all other parties in the House have done.
Since then the Central Government in The Hague has invested a total of more than 65 million euros in St. Eustatius, which is about 20,000 euros per inhabitant. In infrastructure, facilities and better governance. A lot has gone wrong, it is not easy to build a small island in the Caribbean from The Hague. Certainly not in times of Corona.
Nevertheless, the island is now much better than in 2018. Last week, the residents were able to elect a new island council, as a first step on the road to restoring local government. In addition, the Statians have chosen the same party and the same persons who neglected the island before 2018 due to mismanagement. The same politicians who also preach an aversion to the Dutch and want to break with our country. A deliberate choice: Van Putten was the party pusher for the list, but was chosen by the voters with preferential votes.
The aversion to St. Eustatius is very deep, as I noticed in 2012 during a visit with the House of Representatives Committee. When we arrived at our hotel in the evening, almost everything turned out to be locked and all employees had left. The beds had not been changed and the bathroom had not been cleaned. This is quite an insult in the Caribbean cultures, where hospitality is so important.
How different is that on Saba, the neighboring island that is also part of the Netherlands. That island is beautiful, a true paradise. The residents are not only proud of their island, but also of the bond with our country. And happy with the investments that are being made. Many mistakes are made by the ministries and I often invite the residents of Saba to share those problems with us. I noticed in the House of Representatives that all political parties are happy to raise these problems with the government.
We should not complain about the choice of the Statians, it is their right to determine their own future. They did. It has been their choice to vote for politicians who clearly dislike the Netherlands. We will have to take this vote seriously. However, you cannot distance yourself from the Netherlands by means of an election, it is only possible in a referendum.
I propose to organize a referendum in response to these elections on St. Eustatius, so that the residents can speak out about whether they want to be part of the Netherlands or not. Whether they want support from the Netherlands or not. And whether they want a Dutch passport or not. There is no point in continuing with politicians who do not want to cooperate. That only leads to even more anger, as the past has unfortunately proven.
Ronald van Raak