photo: John Samson

ORANJESTAD – “We were pushed aside by the Netherlands”, says Lynette Anson-Leerdam passionately. She works as a baker on Statia. It has been a year since the State Secretary for Kingdom Affairs Raymond Knops took over the government of the special municipality of Statia.

The intervention happened after a devastating report which alleged that the local government was inadequate and that there was financial mismanagement.

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By Tim van Dijk [English subtitles available]

“So much still has to be repaired and policies have to be changed. The former Statian government was well on its way to doing this”, says Anson-Leerdam. “If there was mismanagement and corruption, why weren’t we prosecuted?” She feels abandoned just like many Statians, who do not wish to appear in front of the camera out of fear for losing their jobs.

One of them is former council member Clyde van Putten. He lost two court cases against the State of the Netherlands. He backs out of giving an interview at the last moment. “You can quote me on the following: ‘If Statians are happy with how things are going now, then Clyde van Putten is happy too…”

Clyde van Putten

A year ago Van Putten compared the government commissioner appointed by Knops, Marcolino Franco, to a ‘Reichscommissaris’. He also caused a scandal when he said that Dutch servicemembers would be lynched in the streets of Statia. The former council member also called Knops a ‘modern Napoleon’.

Postponed elections
Elections will be held next month on the other special municipalities of Bonaire and Saba, who together with Statia form the BES islands. There won’t be elections on Statia: state secretary Knops (Kingdom Affairs) decided in November to postpone the elections.

Lynnette Anson-Leerdam is vehemently against the intervention and wants local elections as soon as possible. Picture: Tim van Dijk.

Whether they’re for or against the intervention, no one likes the fact that the elections have been postponed. There is also criticism on the manner in which Knops made the announcement: a lot of Statians are still waiting on an English version of the decree and the reasoning for the postponement.

Government commissioner Mike Franco says that he’s satisfied after the first year. “Look, we encountered a major backlog of repairs which needed to be completed first. We upgraded the government apparatus and checked the plans that were already there to go forward in a sustainable manner.” Franco understands that the inhabitants can’t see any physical improvements as of yet.

Mike Franco in front of the Statian parliament building. Picture: Tim van Dijk

The lack of progress is also one of the reasons why Knops postponed the elections. On Thursday the State Secretary did say that he thought that progress was being made on the island. “And no, we aren’t there yet. A lot of projects will be underway this year and in the upcoming years. But the path towards change and improvement has started.” A review will take place in September to see whether or not elections can take place in the upcoming year.