ORANJESTAD – Buying a house, completing a difficult divorce or creating a will? For residents of Sint Eustatius and Saba this can be a difficult task, because there is no notary available on their island.
On Monday, the residents of Sint Eustatius expressed their concerns during a visit by Raymond Knops, the state secretary of Kingdom Relations, and Ferd Grapperhaus, the minister of Justice.
In case of a death or when a family member is declared incompetent, family members cannot take immediate action. “Anyone who needs a notary must now fly to Sint Maarten and that is incredibly expensive”, says Ivan Berkel.
Together with fourteen other residents of Sint Eustatius, Berkel is in a special committee that maps the concerns of citizens. Because state secretary Knops has taken over the governance on the island, it is up to this committee to advice government commissioner Mike Franco.
“We call it the most expensive flight in the world”- Ivan Berkel
“We call it the most expensive flight in the world, a roundtrip of twenty minutes between Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten will cost you about 220 dollars, and then you still have to pay the notary”.
Promise from minister Grapperhaus
Sint Eustatius has about 3,100 inhabitants. “In the past, there was a regular notary from Sint Maarten, perhaps The Hague can take care of that now, so that we do not have to incur the extra high costs”, says Berkel. Otherwise a creative solution: “The minister may authorize a person who lives here, so he can sign on behalf of a notary”.
At the farewell reception with the group of citizens on Sint Eustatius, the committee seizes the opportunity to submit a petition. “We urgently need a solution, so I hope you do not put this request in a drawer when you’re back in the Netherlands”, Berkel says deeply to the minister of Justice.
“I told the minister that I will not let this happen” – Ivan Berkel
Here and there some people laugh, but Ivan Berkel keeps looking seriously. Minister Grapperhaus says he has a sister who is a notary. He tells the group of citizens that he is well aware of the problem that the island has to deal with. “But I promise you, this has a high priority on my list.”
“I told the minister that I will not let this go,” says Berkel. “So we are counting on it.”