ORANJESTAD – Government commissioner for Statia, Marnix van Rij, finds the problems with the supply of potable water on the island ‘unacceptable’. He is considering using his authority to let technical staff onto the island, despite the lockdown, to help with the disruptions.
The issues with the distribution of potable water have been plaguing the Caribbean municipality for years. During the past few weeks there have been several major disruptions which meant that inhabitants were without water for hours on end. This has led to major anger under the inhabitants.
Use of authority
Because the island is cut off from the outside world due to the corona virus, people are not allowed to enter the island at the moment. That is also the case for technical staff. Van Rij, as the government commissioner, has the authority to make exceptions.
“This is unacceptable. The steps which have been taken thus far have not led to a solution. We need to know within one to two weeks what is going on. I’m allowing medical staff on the island due to COVID-19, I can also do that for technical staff.”
In talks with Stuco
Van Rij says that he is talking to Stuco, the electricity and water company on the island. Stuco is also in contact with the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management in the Netherlands.
“There are acute problems with the waterpipe which was installed three years ago. There are multiple leaks. That was also the case two weeks ago. Those were fixed, but now we have new leaks. We’re talking about leaks in a pipe which is a few years old. This cannot keep happening.”
MP Nevin Özütok (GroenLinks) is also worried. On April 28th Özütok submitted parliamentary questions about the water shortages on Statia to state secretary Raymond Knops of the Interior and Kingdom Relations after reading a report on the shortages by Caribbean Network.
Disagrees with criticism
There’s a lot of criticism on the island towards the communication about the water shortages. Van Rij disagrees with these criticisms. “If the technicians don’t know what is going, I cannot possibly know that either as a simple lawyer. But I don’t have anything to hide. What I do know, I say on the radio.”
A lot of inhabitants fear that more problems will arise when the schools open up again next week. According to Van Rij these problems should be minimal. “The schools will be opened gradually, not all students will go to school at once. Additionally a lot of schools have their own water supply. I am however taking an inventory of those supplies.” When a school doesn’t have enough water, they might not be allowed to open.
Why does Statia have a government commissioner?
The Netherlands intervened and took over the local government of the Caribbean municipality in 2018. The reason for this was a devastating report about the local government. Mike Franco was appointed government commissioner to ensure that order returned. Marnix van Rij (CDA) succeeded Franco at the beginning of 2020 as government commissioner.
The government commissioner stands in for the local government and the island council. Islanders will get a chance to elect a new island council on October 21st 2020. In this way the Hague hopes to return to the normal dynamics in stages.