From left: Members of the outgoing Island Council Clyde van Putten, Rechelline Leerdam, Reuben Merkman, Government Commissioner Alida Francis, interim registrar Hans Andeweg, council members Nicolaas “Koos” Sneek and Adelka Spanner.
ST. EUSTATIUS--The Island Council of St. Eustatius, which was installed in October 2020, held its final public meeting on Tuesday. The newly elected council will have three familiar faces and two newcomers. They will take the oath of office at 2:00pm today.
Progressive Labour Party (PLP) retained control of the local legislature by securing more than 55% of the 1,759 votes cast in the March 15 Island Council election, which translates into three seats in the five-member council.
When the new council sits for the first time, PLP will be represented by Rechelline Leerdam, Reuben Merkman and Clyde van Putten, all of whom also had a seat in the outgoing Island Council.
Democratic Party (DP) Statia, which secured about 38% of the votes cast in the election, held the remaining two seats. DP will be represented by newcomers Rachel Spanner-Carty and Mercedes Lopes-Spanner.
The new Island Council’s term of office is four years and will end in 2027.
The outgoing Island Council was installed on October 29, 2020, and was the first to sit in since the administrative intervention by the Netherlands in 2018. Its final sitting on Tuesday was the last for Adelka Spanner (DP) and independent Nicolaas “Koos” Sneek, who both failed to garner sufficient votes in the election to gain a seat.
The outgoing Council engaged in the mediation process with the Netherlands – along with the Government Commissioners – on the Restoration Act and restoration of full democracy. Council members made several trips to the Netherlands to meet State Secretary Alexandra Van Huffelen and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations on the issue. They also represented Statia at the Inter Expo Caribbean in the Netherlands and at meetings of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities VNG.
Locally, they visited several agencies and projects, including the EJL Services waste plant, the harbour and fishing reserves, the newly-renovated homes in Golden Rock and the former Golden Rock plantation burial ground.
Credentials Committee Chair Spanner said 36.7% of votes for the Island Council were cast via proxy. She said there were indications that proxies were abused, which the committee said was “worrisome.” However, this was not reason enough to hold new elections. The committee did deem further investigations into the abuse of proxy votes necessary. Credentials Committee member Van Putten said that anyone, even in his own party, who has bought votes should be locked up.
The Island Council members reminisced about tough and joyful times and funny moments. Many of them said that 10-10-10 has sometimes affected the island very negatively. They said what had been promised to them back then and what is taking place now are completely different.
The members thanked the Registrar’s Office, the government commissioners, governors and civil servants who have worked with them over the many years. Special mention was
made of former registrar the late Militza Connell-Maduro, who passed away during her tenure.