The Island Governor of St. Eustatius has been reported to the Public Prosecutor for his order to illegally demolish the first protected monument of the island. The legal offenses are now being investigated by the office of the Public Prosecutor of the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba). The case was filed by the St. Eustatius Monuments Foundation.
The demolished building was one of the last of less than a handful of remaining large wooden residences of Oranjestad, the capital of St. Eustatius. The house stood on an eighteenth century, high, stone cellar that was bulldozed through. In the first half of the twentieth century it became the residence of the government doctor. Several different uses by the local government followed before between 1976 and 1985 it housed the island’s historical museum that was regularly visited by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. When the Queen bought a new building for the museum, it was handed over the archaeologists. When they left the building, it was subsequently deliberately neglected by the government of the island, owner of the monument, until it fell into increasing disrepair.
“Of all people, the Island Governor should know better”
Demolishing a legally protected monument without a demolishing permit is an infringement of the Monuments Law for the Caribbean Netherlands and of the local Island Monuments Ordinance St. Eustatius. A demolishing permit was never given or even applied for. Moreover, the building stood within the Urban Conservation Area of Oranjestad. This also implies that demolishing the building without a written permit from the Executive Council is not allowed and that the law was broken.
St. Eustatius Monuments Director Walter Hellebrand reacts: “If something needs to be pulled down, there are procedures to be followed – and that is for good reasons. It is nothing new that successive local governments have done nothing to maintain the historical buildings they own and are lax with the enforcement of the regulations regarding the Urban Conservation Area. But the Island Governor of all people should know better. If there are no consequences for this gross violation of protection laws, it will be a free for all and St. Eustatius may well chuck its slogan “The Historical Gem of the Caribbean” right in the bin.
Press release St. Eustatius Monuments Foundation
Unfortunately the situation on Saba is even worse. Not any cultural historical building is protected by the local government. Therefor ten owners of traditional cottages lost the opportunity to use part of 1.25 million Euros that had been made available by the Dutch National Restauration Fund last year. The money is likely to be transferred to house owners on Bonaire. Shame on our politicians.