Clockwise from left: PLP Island Council Members Clyde van Putten, Rechelline Leerdam and Reuben Merkman with Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij (sitting centre), members of the State Secretary's delegation and State Secretary Raymond Knops (second right).
ST. EUSTATIUS--Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops said on Tuesday that he looks forward to restoring democracy in St. Eustatius.
He made the remarks during a meeting with Progressive Labour Party (PLP) Island Council Members in St. Eustatius during a visit to the island. In addition to the restoration of democracy in St. Eustatius, the working relationship moving forward, feedback on the outcome of the election, the economic development of the island and future plans for Statia were amongst the issues discussed when the PLP members met with Knops at Mike van Putten Youth Centre.
During the meeting, Knops congratulated PLP and its team for winning the election and congratulated their new leader on her position.
Island Council Member and PLP leader Rechelline Leerdam said both parties stressed the importance of dialogue “as this is the avenue to finding solutions” and it must be done with mutual respect for both sides.
Knops said he is ready and willing to work with PLP for the restoration of democracy on the island. PLP said this is welcomed as it will put to rest the many concerns as to whether Knops would cooperate and work with PLP based on what transpired in February 2018, when the administrative takeover of the Statia government occurred. PLP also assured Knops that they too are ready to work towards restoration of democracy along with the Government Commissioners.
The evaluation procedure that will determine how and when criteria have been met to enter into the subsequent phase was put forward as there was still a lack of transparency into the matter, Leerdam said.
Knops said the law gives the points that will be evaluated and the report will be examined using a process similar to that of an auditor. He explained that various factors play a role in completing a criterion, capacity being one. With certain experts not available in-house to carry out work, bringing in these experts will play a key role in meeting the criteria.
There are factors beyond the control of the Island Council that may cause delays in realising and completing the necessary criteria needed for the evaluation process.
PLP said this gives an open-ended feel to the restoration of democracy and suggested that two commissioners be appointed to carry out the necessary points together with the government commissioners. Knops said the law has provisions for appointment of commissioners once the phase has been completed and stressed the importance of sitting and working with the government commissioners to set timelines.
PLP reiterated its willingness to work with the government commissioners and will be providing feedback and solutions to facilitate the working relationship to accomplish the points set out in the law.
Leerdam stressed the importance of continuing the economic agenda that was started in 2015, as these projects would provide additional income to the island and create job opportunities.
PLP Island Councilmember Clyde van Putten was questioned for his views and interest on the constitutional ties with the Netherlands. Van Putten and Knops engaged in what was called fruitful dialogue about the autonomy agenda, where their respective views were exchanged. Van Putten said he has never championed independence, but instead an autonomous relationship within the Kingdom. Due to time constraints, this dialogue was not completed.
Van Putten and Knops thanked each other for the opportunity to have the conversation. Van Putten then extended an invitation to Knops to continue this dialogue in the future.
Even though there were times during the meeting when the two parties did not agree on points, the PLP deems the meeting fruitful.
The PLP leader and her team thanked the community of St. Eustatius for the prayers, good wishes and support they received in preparation for the meeting. The Government Commissioners were thanked for their inclusivity and positive attitude, which Leerdam said “would play a key role as we work together to restore democracy.”
Also attending the meeting were Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij and PLP Island Council Member Reuben Merkman.