One of the agenda points in the Central Committee meeting last week was a covenant signed between the government commissioner on behalf of Statia and State Secretary Knops for the realization of a new government administration building. This is a project that all island council members agreed is way overdue. Still there were, in my opinion, valid questions and concerns about the contents of the covenant by most council members.
First of all, the document was signed just a week before the inauguration of the new island council, which raises the question why one could not have awaited the new council to take office and include them in the decision-making process.
The covenant comes in the place of a covenant signed in 2014. Since none of the members have a clear picture of the contents of that earlier covenant it remains thus far unclear what has changed and what were the reasons for the changes. I have requested a copy of this earlier covenant to get a picture as to what has happened.
According to the new covenant the local government, for two thirds, together with the RCN will rent the building from “Rijksvastgoedbedrijf”. This entity will be responsible for the construction and for this purpose will borrow the financing from the Ministry of Finance. The local government has the opportunity to purchase the building at any point in time for the then-to-be-established market value. Although we have not yet read the previous covenant, it is the belief that this largely deviates from the old one.
It is still unclear what the financial consequences of this construction are for the local government.
A bone of contention for the island council in the covenant is also the inclusion in the sale by the national government of Fort Oranje, Voges House and Government Guesthouse. These properties came in possession of the national government after the split-up of the former Netherlands Antilles, which was the owner at the time. My belief and that of the other council members is that selling these properties to a third party may not sit well with most Statians. Many of us believe these monuments belong, at least emotionally, to Statia. One may also wonder why this intended sale is included in this covenant.
I hope that after receiving a copy of the old covenant we will get a clearer picture about this matter.
Island Council member