Published On: Mon, Apr 9th, 2018

Statia projects take off soon

Dutch ParliamentTHE HAGUE - Preparations are in full swing for several larger infrastructural projects in St. Eustatius, State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.

The State Secretary didn’t mention specific projects during a debate on Thursday with the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations, but he did assure the Committee members that a number of projects would start very soon. Knops, who will be visiting St. Eustatius in three weeks, said the preparation had taken some time because everything needed to go according to the rules and regulations.

St. Eustatius has a backlog in the maintenance of its infrastructure. Repair and maintenance are needed to the road network, the airport, harbour and telecommunications. Authorities have already started with the removal of the many car wrecks that are littering the island.

Knops said Dutch Government Commissioners Mike France and Mervyn Stegers were in contact with the people in St. Eustatius to coordinate and receive feedback on how to go about things. The feedback has been positive so far and the cooperation is going well.

The Social Advisory Council, established after the intervention of Dutch Government in the St. Eustatius Government in February this year, is playing an important role. The concept of directly involving society through such an advisory council is yielding positive results, he said.

Members of Parliament (MPs) Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and Antje Diertens of the Democratic Party D66 voiced their concern about the situation in St. Eustatius. They inquired about efforts to restore the people’s trust after all that has happened on the island.

“The St. Eustatius Government was taken over, but nothing concrete is happening, the people say,” said Van Raak, who wanted to know what would happen once the Netherlands pulled out of the local government when the exercise of restoring the administration was completed.

MP Diertens asked how things were evolving in St. Eustatius. “What are the actions of the Dutch Government in response to the questions and concerns of the people there?” She pointed out that it was important to involve everyone in the process, also those who were critical of the Dutch intervention. She emphasized that the Netherlands needed to invest in the relationship with Statia.

The State Secretary agreed that it was important to restore the confidence on the island. “We now have to deliver and restore the trust. We have to show that it is possible to do things differently,” he said, also referring to the need to invest in Statia’s general economic development. He didn’t want to anticipate on what will happen when the Dutch intervention in St. Eustatius is ceased.

Van Raak said he was happy to note that things would be improving in St. Eustatius and that an effort was being made to restore the trust after a “profound intervention.” However, he remained worried about the possible postponement of the Island Council elections and the lack of a referendum in which people can have a say about their future.

“We need to ask the people whether they indeed want to be part of the Netherlands. We have to know if we have the people’s commitment, or whether they want something else,” said Van Raak. He said that things were going well in Saba where people voted for direct relations with the Netherlands in a past referendum. Whereas in St. Eustatius, the people did not vote for the current constitutional status.

The State Secretary said the main objective was to help the island get back on its feet again, but he agreed that it was important to hold elections as soon as this is possible so a new Island Council could be elected.

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