Published On: Wed, May 2nd, 2018

Grapperhaus, Knops committed to the betterment of St. Eustatius

Eustatius-Knops-Grapperhouse-orkaan-IrmaORANJESTAD - Minister of Security and Justice Ferdinand Grapperhaus and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops visited St. Eustatius on Sunday and Monday. Both Dutch Cabinet members said they were committed to the betterment of the island, which has been put under Dutch Government control since February.

They met with Government Commissioner Mike Franco and held discussions with the Social Advisory Board, the Police and Fire Department and Department Heads. The Ministers and their delegations were also present to lend a hand with the launching of the vehicle removal project.

They toured various sites of the reconstruction project and went on an island tour, during which a stop was made at the solar park for the symbolic opening of the solar panel drainage through which rainwater will be collected from the panels and stored in a cistern. By collecting rainwater that falls on the solar panels, each year up to 26 million litres of rainwater can be collected and reused.

“This project can be seen as the symbolic start of the strategic storage of rain water on St. Eustatius. In the coming period I will be working together with organisations on the island to realise more strategic locations for storage of rainwater,” said Franco.

During a press moment Franco extended his gratitude to the Minister and State Secretary for their visit. State Secretary Knops said this was his third visit to the island in six months.

He said he was excited by the opportunities and potential on the island, and by the Advisory Board’s commitment to their duty to make Statia stronger.

He said they held many discussions with civil servants about upcoming projects that must be completed before the next hurricane season.

“I see a lot of progress and I am positive about the progress made under Government Commissioner Franco’s command and leadership,” said Knops.

It was Minister Grapperhaus’ first visit to Statia. He commended everyone on their ability to bounce back after the hurricanes. He said they held “very fruitful discussions” with persons in the medical, healthcare and justice sectors on how to help families with problems and that some agreements on more coordination were closed.

He said they also spoke “at large” with both the Police and Fire Department about safety on the island, as well as upcoming projects, such as a new Fire Station.

He said he was “very impressed” with the people at the port and the Advisory Board and congratulated the “courageous people” on the island.

State Secretary Knops said the car wreck removal programme is the first of many projects initiated by the Government Commissioners. The first phase entails the removing of 300 vehicles, with more being removed later. “The project costs a lot of money but is very important to do,” he said. Once the vehicles have been removed it will be looked into whether the soil is contaminated because of runoff from the wrecked vehicles.

In connection with the February intervention and the removal of the Executive and Island Councils, State Secretary Knops was asked how the island representatives can show if they are capable of governing when they are not in office.

He said that whereas Statia is currently under a temporary law, he is confident that the team that is in place will strengthen human resources and the island’s finances so that a “firm structure” is in place under which an Island Council election can be held again. He added that it is too soon to say when elections can be held, as they are only three months into the takeover.

He added he has “complete faith” in improving good governance and the island’s infrastructure and social and healthcare systems to make the lives of Statians better.

Asked if he had any words for persons who are upset that their ability to choose their island representatives was taken away, Knops said, “Judge us on the results. We had a lot of one-on-one discussions with the Social Advisory Board and I have seen how committed they are to the process. The Board represents a wide array of the island’s community. Commissioner Franco has shown his commitment and willingness to tackle the problems on the island. The people of Statia need committed Governors, civil servants and the Dutch Government working together for the betterment of the island.”

State Secretary Knops will return to Statia in two weeks together with Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

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