Statia News reported that in a well attended town hall meeting in Statia former Governor of the Netherlands Antilles, Prof. Jaime Saleh, a scholar in constitutional law, shared with his audience his views on the current constitutional status of Statia. He said that, although he agreed with many of the complaints about the status of public entity, it is not so much the status that matters but much more the way laws and regulations are implemented. He thereby very much doubts that an alternative status, whatever this may be, will take away the complaints. He also asked his audience if they were having any ideas as to how to work out another status and deal with the same matters Statians are complaining about now. In his opinion it is very important that government and private sector join forces together with the other islands, Saba and Bonaire, and see how matters can be solved.
Comparing the current status with the former Netherlands Antilles he disagreed with the notion that the islands, which have opted for public entity status, have less autonomy than before.
On the question whether a referendum should be held before or after the evaluation he stated that it was up to the people of Statia if and when they want to keep a referendum. It was his opinion however that the best time for this would be after the evaluation in order to make full use of the information on the current status that will become available. He stressed that a referendum cannot be binding and future governments can change plans anytime. As an example he mentioned the developments in Bonaire. He also emphasized on this as the next elections for the island council are just around the corner and will be held on March 18th next year.
Mr. Saleh took time out to explain the various options according to the United Nations, in particular the option of free association. He said that the answer lies in the name; free means independent and in the case of Statia outside the Kingdom. In a free association two independent nations have a voluntary agreement whereby the former colonizer usually takes up responsibility for foreign affairs and defense. This agreement can be terminated by either party at any time according to Saleh.
In the event the island opts for full integration into The Netherlands this will at no time take away the right of self-determination for Statia. The island has and will maintain this right at all times until the moment it becomes independent.
After his lecture there was time for a question and answer session, whereby Mr. Saleh cleared a number of misconceptions living among the people.
The town hall was organized by the Statia Democratic Party. Governor Gerald Berkel as well as independent island council members Reuben Merkman and Millicent Lijfrock were among the attendees.
After his lecture Mr. Saleh was presented with a small token of appreciation by DP party leader Ms. Adelka Spanner.