photo: Esther Henry

ORANJESTAD – A group of Statians, who have opposed the Dutch intervention in their local government, organized a silent protest from the airport to the special town hall meeting with State Secretary Raymond Knops on Wednesday.

“We want a fair and honest dialogue! We have dreams for our island just like the Dutch have for their country. Let our children carry on those same dreams!”, Jacintha Brice, a member of the Brighter Part Foundation for an autonomous Statia, called out during the protest.

Local resident and Monuments Director Walter Hellebrand: “I spoke with the (Dutch-Government-appointed Committee of) Wise Men and I have a strong feeling that they already had a conclusion of the report before coming to St. Eustatius.” Because of the report of the committee The Hague decided to intervene and take over the local government.

Walter Hellebrand about his experience with the Committee of Wise Men

Silent protest shout-outs. Photo: Esther Henry

Silent protest shout-outs. Photo: Esther Henry

Emotions from town hall
During and after the town hall meeting persons experienced saddened emotions while expressing themselves with their stated questions to State Secretary Knops. Democracy, new elections, the poor selection of the interviewees for the report, broken promises, wasted finances and poor services by the Dutch Government, were topics that were inquired from the audience.

Brenda Van Putten, a pensioner: “This is a terrible situation since we are free people. I am worried because the Dutch can come in within a short time, who is supposed to be a part of us, can make such a drastic decision. I’m hoping that the local government can remain in office or organize an election.”

Cherida Creebsburg, “I am still disappointed since it came this far instead of consultation upfront with everybody. One report that was written by the Wise Men shouldn’t have because this result, I find it much overrated. Consultation with the whole committee will help avoid emotions that don’t need to be there.”

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By Esther Henry

Creebsburg continued, “A bigger positive impact would have been the outcome if there was a consultation beforehand and everyone would have been responsible for the solution. Let’s us work together to find a solution!” The Statians at the town hall meeting expect a lot from the new government, since the ‘old one didn’t do a good job in the eyes of the Dutch.’

“I love to believe that I live in a peaceful community and it hurts to hear that there are many police officers on the island. This was not done by the local government but by the Dutch government”, expressed Leonie Willams.

Knops debates with Statians at the town hall meeting. Photo: Esther Henry

New government
Article 132 states that this intervention can take place once there is gross neglect of duty by the administration. “I feel very welcomed here today with also seeing a beautiful island inhabited by committed people. This is worth investing in”, expressed Knops. “Full democracy will be established as soon as possible. Frequent visits by the state secretary will be organized to witness the recoveries and the projects. Challenges that were long experienced by Statians, will now be executed such as infrastructure. There will also be an advisory board containing only locals to give advise to the elected new government. However, the community of Statia will be informed of every decision and are welcomed to give their input wherever possible.”

Tubbergen Mervyn Stegers (left), Raymond Knops (middle) and Mike Franco (right). Photo: Esther Henry

Two persons were sworn as Island Governor and Deputy for St. Eustatius which is Mike Franco (from Curaçao) and Tubbergen Mervyn Stegers (Dutch). During the introduction of the newly elected government, the audience showed disagreement by loudly booing them.

These two persons, who are not local, were chosen due to ‘being neutral and not being a part of the community’. “It is with pain that I have to do this. I’m not happy. This temporary until there are elections. However, we have to ensure that everyone has equal rights”, concluded Knops.

“The report also states remarks of the neglected ways from the Dutch government to Statia. However, officials in the Netherlands ask that this must be fixed as fast as possible”, explained Mike Franco.