Questions and answers about the intervention in Statia
Why is this intervention necessary?
This intervention comes in response to the report by the Committee of Wise Men, which found evidence of ‘gross neglect of duty’ by the island commissioners and the island council.
This neglect has had a harmful effect on the island’s people and businesses. Businesses and members of the public are suffering from inequality before the law, intimidation and powerlessness in the face of arbitrary rule. They indicate that their politicians and administrators buy public support with promises and jobs, and blame everything on the Netherlands. The resulting physical and socioeconomic deprivation has a direct impact on islanders’ daily lives.
Also, the delays in projects to improve the island’s roads, water supply, housing and waste processing have a direct impact on people’s lives.
In the interests of the islanders, this state of disorder can no longer be tolerated.
What does the intervention mean for the people of Statia?
The intervention is intended to restore the administration, finances and civil service of Statia to an acceptable level. In other words, to ensure that the island’s administration is able to properly promote the interests of the islanders.
Previously envisaged measures and investments that have not yet been carried out, partly as a consequence of the administrative situation on the island, will be accelerated as far as possible. The hurricanes made life even more precarious for the people of Statia than it was before. In combination with the reconstruction work, these measures will give a boost to the economy and raise their quality of life.
When will the intervention end?
Primary concern is to achieve lasting improvements to the conditions in Statia. A far-reaching intervention should not last any longer than necessary, but it is conceivable that a period of two years or longer will be required. The return to normal governance must be permanent and exclude the risk of a new intervention being needed.
Why did the bill have to be rushed through parliament?
As the Committee of Wise Men emphasises, urgent consideration of the bill is more than justified in order to prevent the situation in Statia going from bad to worse. Due to the gravity of the situation and the evident incapacity and unwillingness of the Statia authorities to improve matters, measures must be taken as quickly as possible.
Why don’t the existing instruments offer a solution?
Between 2011 and 2018, the members of government responsible for Kingdom relations have taken various measures to improve the administrative and financial situation in Statia. Examples include prior scrutiny of the budget. These measures have had little or no effect, because the Statia authorities have systematically ignored the prescribed procedures.
It has proved impossible to restore relations. The Statia authorities have broken with the Netherlands. Their attitude is exemplified by their refusal to cooperate with the Committee’s work.
How will the residents of Statia be informed about the intervention?
On Wednesday February 7 State Secretary Knops will address the citizens of Statia in a Town Hall meeting. Prior to his speech, he will inform the island commissioners and the island council. He will also introduce the government commissioner.
Radio and television are key channels of communication on Statia, as are Facebook and town hall meetings. All these channels will be used to inform the local population of the background to, and the purpose and consequences of, the intervention, and of the supporting measures to achieve lasting improvements to the situation in Statia.
The government commissioner will regularly inform and engage in dialogue with the citizens and business owners of Statia.
Who will be the government commissioner?
State secretary Knops has appointed Marcolino (Mike) Franco as government commissioner for Statia. He appointed Mervyn Stegers as deputy government commissioner. Mike Franco is a physical therapist on Curaçao and has over twenty years of experience in political and administrative functions on that island. From 2012 to 2016, he was the chairman of the Curaçao parliament. Mervyn Stegers was a teacher and a lawyer before he became alderman and deputy mayor of Den Helder. From 2001 to 2017 he was the mayor of Tubbergen.
What precisely will the government commissioner do?
The government commissioner will be temporarily responsible for all the island authorities’ tasks. These will include improving physical and socioeconomic conditions and stimulating the economic development of Statia.
In view of the high prices on the island for goods and transport services, the government commissioner will for example work with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy to investigate the pricing policy of service providers.
The government commissioner’s most important task is to achieve a lasting improvement in the island’s governance.
For example, he will restore order to the public body’s financial administration, population register and human resources records, and improve its IT system and record-keeping generally.
He will also put in place proper decision-making procedures to facilitate transparent and objective communication.
To improve the civil service, he will seek to ensure that the right person is in the right position, and develop a structured programme of training and learning.
Why is the island council being dissolved?
The Committee makes it clear that the poor governance of Statia is not just the fault of the island executive. The island council controls and lends legitimacy to what the island executive does. Rather than overseeing the executive, the island council has melded with it, and in practice one man is pulling the strings. This is why the island council must be dissolved.
Is a period without an island council possible under the Constitution?
Under the Constitution, the duration of the island council is four years unless otherwise provided for by Act of Parliament. The exceptions are intended to include cases of gross neglect of duty. Therefore, a period without an island council is constitutionally permissible. The period without an island council should of course be as brief as possible. New elections will be called as soon as circumstances permit.
Why is a social advisory council being established?
To acquire public support for his actions, it is essential that the government commissioner be very familiar with the views held by the residents of Statia. To help ensure this, the government commissioner will establish a social advisory council, which will be able to give him advice on issues of governance on request or at its own initiative.
How can this intervention be reconciled with the right to self-determination?
The government recognises the permanent and enduring right of the people of Statia to pursue political, cultural, social and economic self-determination. The right to self-determination does not imply that Statia – and in fact a small group in Statia – unilaterally determines the conditions for it.
The government agrees with the Committee of Wise Persons on the importance of holding a more substantive discussion, both among the people of Statia and between Statia and the European Netherlands, on the question of autonomy.
This discussion can only be conducted properly if all the participants, including the people of Statia, feel that they can express themselves freely. Both the government commissioner and the government will take action to foster this discussion.
The report is also critical of the role of the Netherlands in Europe. Do you accept this criticism? How do you plan to respond to it?
The government takes this criticism seriously. We agree with the conclusion that after 10 October 2010 the Netherlands should have taken action earlier to lend a helping hand. Therefore, the government will take action on many of the Committee’s proposals, such as reducing poverty and conducting a more substantive discussion on the question of autonomy.
The government’s response to the report discusses how it plans to improve decision-making on matters that affect the islands. To this end, for example, the government will set up a cabinet committee for the Netherlands in the Caribbean. Its purpose will be to discuss the themes that are important for Statia and the other islands in a coordinated way in order to achieve visible outcomes for the islanders.