The Daily Herald reports that voters on St. Eustatius will have the opportunity to give their opinion on the island’s preferred constitutional status in a referendum on December 17, the Island Council decided.
The electorate will be able to choose from four options: public entity (“status quo”); independent country; autonomous territory within the Kingdom; and integrated territory of the Netherlands.
The Island Council had already approved a referendum during its meeting of October 8. A motion submitted by United People’s Party (UPC), Statia Liberal Action Movement (SLAM) and independent Island Council member Reuben Merkman instructed the Executive Council to consult the people in a constitutional referendum preferably no later than December 31. The Referendum Committee was called to propose the choices for the referendum no later than October 22.
A majority in the Island Council adopted a motion on Friday to hold the referendum on December 17. The motion received broad support, with only the Democratic Party (DP) voting against. The motion went against the advice of the Referendum Committee, which had proposed the date of January 14, 2015, for the referendum. In its advice to the Island Council about their proposed date, the committee said this date would allow for “sufficient preparatory time, whilst at the same time leaving enough space between the referendum and the Island Council election,” which is set for March 18, 2015.
The Island Council also agreed to adapt the Referendum Ordinance. The new Ordinance explicitly states that the result of a referendum is not binding. Also, it was agreed to increase the threshold for the validity of the outcome of a constitutional referendum to 75 per cent of the electorate.
In drafting its advice on the referendum options, the Referendum Committee had attempted to seek the advice of three advisors: professor emeritus International Public Law at University of Utrecht Alfred Soons, former political advisor to three chairs of the United Nations Decolonization Committee Carlyle Corbin and Judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice and President of the Constitutional Court of St. Maarten Jacob Wit. However, the Island Council only found Wit’s candidacy acceptable.
Considering that there were only two days left to seek alternative candidates and also considering that it did not want to base its advice on the input of only one advisor, the Referendum Committee, in the end, decided to draft an advice without the input of any constitutional expert.