The Daily Herald writes that St. Eustatius will not agree to the terms for a general evaluation in 2015 if its constitutional status as Dutch public entity is not open for discussion and the option to hold a referendum is excluded, said Statia Commissioner Reginald Zaandam on Wednesday. Statia considers it unacceptable that in the evaluation The Hague wants to stick to the current public entity status or that of a municipality without keeping the option open to include the possibility for the island to look at other constitutional statuses.
The draft agreement Bonaire, Statia and Saba are discussing with the Netherlands in The Hague this week states literally: “The choice for the direct ties with the European part of the Netherlands will not be up for discussion [again – Ed.] during the evaluation. The evaluation will aim at making a choice for the ultimate content of direct ties within the Dutch constitutional model – public entity or municipality.” Zaandam made it clear during a session with people from Statia living in the Netherlands organised by the Consultative Body for Dutch Caribbean persons in the Netherlands OCAN in Scheveningen on Wednesday evening that Statia finds these two lines of the draft agreement “totally unacceptable.” “These lines will have to be adapted before we can agree,” he said. Statia will give its consent to the terms of the conditions of the general evaluation only if the option for a referendum is kept open, making it possible for the people of the island to choose a different constitutional status. “I will not take part in a trajectory of evaluation if it isn’t based on equality,” he told the gathering.
Zaandam told The Daily Herald the option of holding a referendum was one of the 18 points of the current coalition making up the government of Statia. He plans to stick to that agreement. Caribbean Netherlands Week will end today, Thursday, with the signing of a list of agreements between the Dutch government and the public entities. According to Zaandam, keeping the option open for a referendum is essential because the people of Statia never had a chance to express themselves on the public entity status that came into effect on October 10, 2010, when the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist as a country and Bonaire, Statia and Saba became Dutch public entities. A vast majority (76.6 per cent) of the Statia people chose to remain part of the Netherlands Antilles during the last referendum in April 2005. A mere 20.6 per cent of the people voted for direct ties with the Netherlands. Zaandam further said he was disappointed about the fact that the Dutch government seemed to be backtracking on earlier agreements regarding the execution of development plans for Statia to tackle poverty and eradicate the infrastructural backlog. “We were asked during the previous Caribbean Netherlands Week in March this year to draw up development plans, which we did. But everything has been put on hold. The finances to execute these plans have been put on the back burner. The Netherlands is not sticking to the agreements that we made in March,” said Zaandam. He had anticipated before coming to the Netherlands that there would be “stormy times” and Statia would have to reset its priorities because of the Dutch austerity measures to cut the budget deficit. However, there is one commitment that has been secured during Caribbean Netherlands Week: Dutch State Secretary of Social Affairs and Labour Jetta Klijnsma is making 600,000 euros available to combat poverty on Bonaire, Statia and Saba. These funds will be divided between the three islands. The islands have been asked to submit plans for this purpose.