photo: John Samson

ORANJESTAD – St. Eustatius and the Netherlands have not found common grounds. According to the local coalition government, Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK) Ronald Plasterk has not been transparent about the visit of top civil servants from his Ministry to the island last week.

There are now more reasons to distrust The Hague, because of the three Dutch civil servants remaining on the island. These civil servants are under the direction of Secretary General Richard Zwol.

The civil servants want to meet with local officials, but refuse to disclose who they are and what exactly they would like to discuss. This is correlated with an email exchange between the Dutch civil servants and local officials.

‘Sly ways’
The coalition fraction SLP and Merkman said they are unpleasantly surprised, because the Ministry withheld details on the arrival of these civil servants, while they have been asking for “honest and open” discussions. For the local coalition this incident is just another example of the “sly ways” it considers the Netherlands to have when dealing with the island.

In a recent letter to the Secretary General, the same coalition parties wrote: “It is regrettable that despite the frank and open discussions we thought we had with you and your delegation, it is now clear that you were not open, transparent nor have faith in the island. It is clear that you did not intend to disclose the purpose and intentions of your visit, which is to quietly take over the local government, while passing it off as offering support in “capacity building”.

Last week St. Eustatius sent a comprehensive letter to Minister Plasterk, wherein amongst several allegations, he was accused of not being transparent. In the meantime the local government is awaiting a response to its proposal for a dialogue between the island, the Netherlands and various stakeholders pertaining to the situation on the island.

Also the government of St. Eustatius and BZK do not agree on the appointment of an Acting Lieutenant Governor. With much controversy BZK has selected a top civil servant from the Netherlands Jenny Thunnissen. St. Eustatius does not agree at all. The local coalition government has nominated Alida Francis for the post. She is the Senior Communication Advisor for Saba and St. Eustatius at Rijksdient Caribisch Nederland (RCN).

St. Eustatius does not want to appoint a temporary Acting Lieutenant Governor but instead appoint a Lieutenant Governor for the next 6 years. The island is without a Lieutenant Governor since the resignation of Gerald Berkel in April 2016. Current Acting Governor Julian Woodley is according to the executive council not capable.

Wrong direction
However with the strict financial supervision enforced on St. Eustatius and also the continuous and unsubstantiated allegations of maladministration St. Eustatius is inevitably headed in the wrong direction.

According to the Island Councilmember and leader of the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) Clyde van Putten the allegations are not substantiated and are based on rumors. “The allegations of mismanagement and poor financial management have no stance. The current financial supervision by the CFT and the Ministry ensures a balanced budget and prevents any spending outside the budget prior to approval of the Minister.”