The Daily Herald writes that members of the Central Committee of St. Eustatius’ Island Council have voiced their dissatisfaction with the recent appointment of Gilbert Isabella as the new Dutch Government Representative for Bonaire, Statia and Saba. They also criticised the way in which he was chosen by the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations (BZK).
The Central Committee’s dissatisfaction was clearly expressed during Wednesday’s session and came shortly after Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs Reginald Zaandam reported in the media that he also did not support Isabella’s appointment. A letter from the Executive Council to the Ministry of Home Affairs indicating the various reasons as to why Zaandam was not in support of the appointment was also communicated to the media.
Central Committee Chairman Reuben Merkman was particularly critical. “We were assured by [Minister of Home Affairs Ronald – Ed.] Plasterk that the decision would not be political. Plasterk’s CDA predecessor appointed his CDA chum Wilbert Stolte. Now we have Plasterk from the PvdA party appointing a PvdA chum. So we now get yet another failed politician,” the independent Island Council member said. “He comes to these islands that he does not know, with a lot of reputational baggage. As city councillor of Utrecht, he spent a fortune for a theatre project after ignoring a report that the theatre would become an economical folly. And it did Responsible for the Utrecht Spatial Plan, he also forgot about the historic centre where he created, in full view, a facility for drug addicts. Bad judgment has clouded other controversial issues,” said Merkman.
“In principle, the role of the Kingdom Representative is to be the Caribbean eyes and ears of the Dutch government. In practice, the role has become that of the three wise monkeys. The last thing that Plasterk seems to want is open government and transparency. The community is still wondering where the missing millions of development funding have gone and why Stolte, as the former treasurer for the funds, is not held accountable,” he said.
Zaandam said that, through the years, the office of the Government Representative proved to be of no significance to Statia. If this office wants to play a pivotal role, Zaandam prefers somebody more capable and a bridge-builder between the islands and The Hague. “At the moment, major issues are handled via the relevant ministries in The Hague, not through the office of the Government Representative on Bonaire. Our candidate would have been somebody who had a track record and experience of managing people and the expertise to bring public entities and The Hague closer together. Isabella is not the fellow and never shall be.
The candidate list reflected a wealth of regional talent, skills and experience. But Plasterk plucked out an outsider from Utrecht,” Zaandam said. “We were given only nine days to express our expectations for this appointment and only 24 hours to digest the eventual decision,” said Zaandam, who said he expected many questions to be raised about the appointment in the Dutch Parliament.