Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated on Thursday that he is “disappointed” about the objections of St. Eustatius to the appointment of Gilbert Isabella as the new National Government Representative (“Rijksvertegenwoordiger”). “I regret that the Island Council of St. Eustatius beforehand has reservations about the suitability of Isabella as National Government Representative,” Plasterk stated in response to written questions separately posed by Sietse Fritsma and Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom PVV and Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP). Fritsma, Wilders and Van Raak, all Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, sought clarity on the July 4 decision of the Council of Ministers to appoint Isabella and the subsequent motion unanimously adopted by Statia’s Island Council in which it expressed a lack of confidence in Curaçao-born Isabella, who has no ties with the Windward Islands.
In his response, Minister Plasterk indicated that he was hopeful that the matter with Statia’s Island Council would be resolved once the island politicians would meet and get to work with Isabella. “I hope and expect that the stance of the Island Council will turn positive and constructive after meeting and working with the National Government Representative,” he stated.
Plasterk made clear that the Island Council doesn’t play a role in the appointment of the National Government Representative. He explained that in line with the general law for the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the WOLBES, the three public entities were consulted in the procedure to appoint Isabella. “That has been the case for the Island Governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. In the WOLBES there is no role for the Island Councils in the appointment procedure.”
The minister further explained that the profile sketch of the National Government Representative was drawn up by the evaluation committee comprising of top advisor Marcel van Gastel, Inspector General of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Jenny Thunnissen and Saba Island Governor Jonathan Johnson. Isabella was the sole candidate of an independent selection committee, consisting of former Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, former President of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Gerdi Verbeet and former Governor of the Netherlands Antilles and Curaçao Frits Goedgedrag. According to Plasterk, the islands were sufficiently taken into account in the composition of this committee.
The minister stressed in his reply to a question of Fritsma and Wilders that Isabella “should not be able to put one foot on Bonaire, St. Eustatius or Saba other than for vacation purposes” that the person in question was appointed after a “careful and transparent procedure” on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers.
In answering a question of Van Raak, Plasterk stated that he had “every confidence” that the new National Government Representative would fulfil his tasks and role in a “motivated and prudent” way. Isabella starts his new job on September 1. In the week of August 18, he will personally meet the members of government of the three public entities.
In a reaction to ThePostOnline website on Thursday, Van Raak stated: “The previous National Government Representative had no support on the islands. This has caused a lot of things to go wrong and much mutual distrust. It is incomprehensible that Plasterk again has chosen a Representative which again cannot count on sufficient support on the islands. I am curious as to how long Isabella will stay.”