St. Eustatius received unexpected support during last week’s Kingdom Congress. Leader of the Dutch Democratic Party D66 Alexander Pechtold called for a bigger celebration of the historic November 16, 1776, First Salute, while Aruba Governor Fredis Refunjol publicly stated that he would help to give St. Eustatius a push. This writes The Daily Herald.
Pechtold said during his speech at the opening of the congress at the Hotel Des Indes on Wednesday morning that the First Salute St. Eustatius gave to the US should be added to the list of important dates in the history of the Dutch Kingdom. “It was the first international recognition of the independence of the United States – by St. Eustatius and, with that, indirectly by the Dutch Republic,” he said. “The First Salute deserves more than a footnote in the history,” said Pechtold, who proposed to make the annual First Salute celebration on St. Eustatius a bigger event, and use the 250th anniversary in 13 years as an opportunity to create one big event, possibly together with the US. At the end of Pechtold’s glowing speech about the opportunities the Kingdom has to offer and the mutual respect and understanding that partners in the Kingdom should display more of, the audience was given a chance to pose questions and make remarks.
It was then that Aruba Governor Refunjol stood up and pledged his support to St. Eustatius. Refunjol referred to what King Willem-Alexander had said during his recent visit to Aruba about Aruba having to take care of its little brothers, the smaller islands in the Kingdom. Refunjol said that St. Eustatius needed a push because its economy was lagging behind. “During my last visit to St. Eustatius, I made a promise to put forward their case in the Netherlands. St. Eustatius needs that support. They just need that push,” he said.
Refunjol told The Daily Herald that he regularly visited St. Eustatius and was truly impressed with the island’s cultural heritage. During his last visit in September, he spoke with representatives of the public and private sector. One of the main topics in those discussions was the administrative burden and pressure of too many regulations that were introduced after St. Eustatius became a Dutch public entity on October 10, 2010. According to the governor, there is not enough specific attention in The Hague for the island’s situation and needs. There is too much focus on Bonaire, while much-smaller St. Eustatius and Saba are receiving much less attention.
Pechtold’s remarks prompted President of the Dutch Social Economic Council SER Wiebe Draijer, also one of the speakers at the Kingdom Congress, to also express support for a bigger celebration of the First Salute. “November 16, 1776, was a very commemorative event. It was an important symbol, not only for St. Eustatius and, by extent, the Netherlands, but also for the US. The First Salute symbolises the trading attitude and guts of the Kingdom. It was an important metaphor for where we stand for today,” said Draijer.