THE HAGUE – One and a half years after the Hague took over the governing of Statia, criticism is growing. Socially involved Statians have noticed a lack of progress and that the government isn’t communicating with islanders.
The finances, infrastructure, and the records of the special municipality were such a mess, that since last year state secretary Raymond Knops has been trying to fix the problems himself. The entire management and all the council members of Statia were sent home.
‘Progress not noticeable’
The roads are still horrible, the civil register is still a mess, and it takes months for a letter to be delivered. “We’re not noticing an improvement. They’re also not communicating with the inhabitants on what’s going on, so their patience is wearing thin”, warns former council member Koos Sneek (DP).
Normally a council of civilians, representing the inhabitants, would meet up ‘once a month’ with government commissioner Mike Franco. “But the last time we came together was in May”, says Ivan Berkel, one of the civilians on the council. “Franco is the one who decides how often we meet up.”
Waiting two to three months for a letter to arrive
“It’s the simple things that annoy inhabitants the most”, says the 75 year old Ivan Berkel. “The postal service here is miserable. Even when you’re waiting for a letter from Sint Maarten, which is just a few kilometers away, you have to wait for two to three months.”
“I’ve brought this to Franco’s attention in an e-mail”, says Berkel. “But I didn’t get any feedback.”
Roads still horrible, no new asphalt has been laid down
Another highly discussed point on the island are the horrible roads. “One and a half years later and the roads are still filled with potholes”, says Berkel. “Several people have issues with their cars due to this.”
“The roads are a hot topic”, confirms former council member Koos Sneek (DP). “A new road was to be delivered by the end of June. Not a single meter of asphalt has been laid down on that project.”
“The funny thing is”, says Sneek, “That during a debate with the State Secretary last year, CDA parliamentarian Joba van den Berg and SP parliamentarian Ronald van Raak voiced their hopes that the construction of a new road on Statia wouldn’t become a bureaucratic nightmare. Like a new A16 was being built. But, that’s what happened.”
Running out of patience
The biggest criticism has been about the lack of communication from the Dutch officials on the island. “You barely get any information on the radio or through the government website”, says Sneek.
“Knops wrote to Parliament and stated that it was going great, that there’s a lot of progress. That’s not right and that worries me.”
“If they do make their decisions public, you don’t hear why and what the consequences are. Meetings for the island’s inhabitants haven’t been held since last year. Everything is discussed behind closed doors”, says Sneek.
Sneek’s criticism is remarkable. Since the start of the intervention his party, the DP, has been the only supporter of the Dutch intervention. “But we’re starting to think that it’s all taking way too long.” That’s why the party sent out a scathing letter this week.
Response State Secretary
State secretary Knops will inform Parliament in September on the progress made on Statia and on whether new elections can be held.