With the arrival of the government commissioner and his deputy, I did not expect that the helm would be handled immediately. After all, first the gentlemen have to read in and talk to people about things as they are. At least, that is how I can imagine it.
A few months later, I still didn't see much difference with the period before the intervention. Before the intervention there were council meetings and executive meetings which sometimes had a very peculiar character, but now - after the intervention - there was nothing you could hold on to as a resident.
It would be good if a kind of growth path were defined with goals and activities (which lead to products or services, which in turn make it possible to achieve the desired goal). Walking along that path, experiences are gained and the path can "grow" to a better path.
But where to start? Well, that is not clear. And that doesn't matter as long as you recognize that the path is a GROWTH path. Then at least after every step it gets better!
In short, where you start doesn't matter as much, as long as you are willing to improve the path every time.
The question remains how to get to a reasonable starting point. Well, when you talk to the residents, you automatically come up with a wish list. If you put that next to a list of things you want to achieve in any case, you will arrive at a schedule of activities with which you can enter into communication with the residents.
At least, that's what I thought. But nothing at all happened that could be seen or felt from the outside. Perhaps things were happening internally in the civil service, but the citizens saw nothing.
In a single informal conversation with the government commissioner, I understood that he didn't like planning very much. The reason for this is that you can be held accountable for this by those who, on the basis of the published planning, have expectations that are not realised in practice. You can argue that there can always be circumstances in which the planning cannot be achieved. This is, of course, not a disgrace at all and is perfectly explainable.
In August 2018, I wrote a letter to the Kingdom Relations Committee to this effect. This letter was not followed by a substantive response.
While reading the newspapers, I once came across the phenomenon of "basic income": an income for which there is no quid pro quo, such as work. In several countries there were experiments with this.
It seemed to me that Statia is isolated enough to be seen as a testing ground. Perhaps it is possible to experiment here with something like the Basic Income.
To this end, I wrote several letters in August 2018:
Apart from Mr Kalshoven's reaction, I have not received any substantive reaction from the Lower House.
In November 2018, I will write another letter to the House of Representatives' Committee on Kingdom Relations. Almost immediately (but no causal connection) follows the 2nd Progress Report by the State Secretary for the Interior and Kingdom Relations (dated 14 November 2018). An appendix to this letter lists the current projects as at 14 November 2018.
Note: This English translation of the 2nd Progress Report has followed after approximately four months (!). The list of projects has never been translated.
On 17 December 2018, I will write two letters to the House of Representatives' Committee on Kingdom Relations:
On 8 February, I took note of the State Secretary's answers to questions from the House of Representatives (in Dutch) following the working visit of the Commission for Kingdom Relations to Statia (and Saba) in January 2019. On page 9 (of 16) I read question 16 and the answer to it. The new building of the prison will NOT be at the police station; another place will be searched for. I haven't read this before on the internet or in a newspaper here on the island.
On 13 February 2019 there will be another meeting of the Commission Koninkrijksrelaties over Sint Eustatius in the Lower House of Parliament. In preparation for this, I will send an update of the developments on the island on 8 February 2019.
At the end of the meeting I will give my sympathetic but somewhat disappointed comments.
Two days later I decide not to write to all members of the Committee on Kingdom Relations, but only to one, namely Mr. Ronald van Raak (of the SP). Of all the members, he seems to me to be the most involved to date, so if I manage to reach him it seems to me to be a good thing. I will send him this letter.
On 25 February 2018 I will receive a letter from the State Secretary, addressed to the Lower House, in response to my earlier letters. A double feeling takes hold. On the one hand, I see it this way: as an individual citizen, you can indeed contribute to islandly/national policy; on the other hand, the content is somewhat disappointing.
I will write my response to the letter from the State Secretary on 4 and 6 March 2019 (with attachment).
On the same 6th of March, I will take note of the State Secretary's response to questions from the SP and PvdA groups. The response is evasive in nature and is based on references to previous reports.
On 30 March 2019, the Financieele Dagblad will publish a review of the developments on St. Eustatius (in Dutch). It seems to me that the article does give a good outline of the developments and feelings.
On 20 April - another few days before a meeting: I'm trying to make a habit of it - I'll send an update of the Statian developments to the Committee on Kingdom Relations. An e-mail with four annexes (Annex 1, Annex 2, Annex 3 en Annex 4; annexes only in Dutch). In my e-mail I try to link information from previous reports to the information I find on the website of the local government. I'm not doing that very well.
In my last update I talk about the physical and financial progress of a project. By means of an example I will explain what I mean. Suppose you have a holiday of ten days estimated at a thousand euros. Then you have a hundred euros a day. Possibly a little less because you might have some more costs at the beginning (buying a backpack, booking a hotel, etc). But if you're halfway there (the fifth day of the physically achievable holiday) you can expect to have some four to five hundred euros available to spend the rest of the holiday. Your budget is then 50 to 60 percent realized. If the holiday really goes this way, the physical and financial realisation will more or less keep pace. So that goes well.
In fact, you would like to have a document per project that states which end product will be realised, which sub-activities are to be carried out, how they are planned over time and which budget is involved per sub-activity. Only then can you form an opinion. Take for example projects 000028 and 000029: Upgrading website resp. Translator website. It is not very difficult to get the financial realisation right: you need proofs of payment that total about 28 and 40 thousand US dollars respectively (assuming that the amounts in appendix 2 represent the available budgets).
However, the website of the local government is still the same as a few years ago and the appearance is not very "nice" when you consider that the only link that really leads to up-to-date information is that of "Notices, Tenders & Services", after which you still have to look for information that seems to have been thrown into the collection bin chronologically. The other links that seem to have been modified after the intervention of February 2018 are "Welcome", "Isl & Exe Council" and "Directory". For the rest, it's all old information.
And as for the language/translation: the current website is in English and that's enough. It would be more convenient if the site were in two or three languages: not only English, but also Dutch and perhaps Spanish. But setting up a website is not rocket science and translations today (with the help of Google Translate and DeepL: translation sites available free of charge) no longer require specialist knowledge either. In a first impression, 28 or 40-thousand US dollars - a comfortable annual salary anyway - seems to be a lot of budget for the job.
And then there are only two projects, mentioned in appendix 2 of my letter, which are by no means the largest (in a financial sense). The appendix mentions one hundred and eleven.
On 26 May 2019, I will again present a situation sketch to the House of Representatives Committee on Kingdom Relations. The sketch concerns the apparent "nothing" that is happening, whereas one would expect "anything" from an island in an administrative transition. I also indicate that I have arranged the developments to date in a website: www.statianews.info. The site opens in English and with the little flag at the top right you can switch to the NL-part of the site.
On 29 May 2019 the letter sent by the State Secretary to the Second Chamber of the Parliament will be published containing the third progress report concerning the developments on St. Eustatius (incl the list of projects and the requirements to be met with respect to organising local elections). On 31 May 2019 I will give my reaction (as a letter to the House of Representatives). In that response I make a reference to the CBS-publications (in Dutch) "Trends in The Caribbean Netherlands" about the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
For developments on the financial structure: read here more (June 2019).
On 20 June 2019 I will write another e-mail to the Second Chamber of the Parliament. This time a short analysis about the difference between Saba and St. Eustatius regarding the effectiveness of the communication with The Hague. This is the result of a radio interview with former island governor Charles Woodley. The mail ends with a (repetition of my earlier) call for a dialogue (in the form of townhall meetings). In my mail I refer to footnote 1 on page 7 of the report "Het Koninkrijk tegen het licht". The report is in Dutch; the title means "The Kingdom against the light".
In preparation for a plenary debate on the social minimum on 2 July, I will send an e-mail on 29 June containing two topics:
On July 6 there is a panel discussion on the radio in which I was one of the panelists. Another panelist - Mr Denicio Brison - was a strong supporter of an autonomous Statia and quoted passages almost throughout the broadcast from a document, dated 25 February 2019, of the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. Googling on "mauritius" "archipelago" and "international court of justice" gives even more hits, including newspaper articles about this document. In the opinion of Mr Denicio Brison, this case has an effect on the constitutional status of St. Eustatius within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. I am not currently a lawyer, but I would like to bring this development to the attention of the Lower House's (Second Chamber) Committee on Kingdom Relations.
On August 7, 2019, koninkrijksrelaties.nu publishes the news that the DP of Sint Eustatius is urging the State Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations to quickly restore local democracy. Here is the article in PDF-format and in English.
On 10 August 2019, I will address my response to the DP letter to the House of Representatives' Committee on Kingdom Relations.
On 25 August 2019, I sent a letter to the House of Representatives containing three points:
On 1 September 2019, I will send a small supplement to my earlier letter of 25 August. This is in preparation for the meeting of the Royal Relative Commission on 11 September 2019.
Also on 1 September 2019 I will send a letter to the Education, Culture and Science Committee about the very slow introduction of legislation and regulations in the context of the introduction of CXC on St. Eustatius. This is also listed here.
On 23 September 2019 there will be a townhall meeting in Lions Den in which State Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Knops, explains the state of affairs on the island. He also announces that local elections will be held on 21 October 2020. A short conversation with him I confirm with an email to him.
The townhall meeting was well prepared: the letter from the State Secretary to the Lower House about the progress and the state of affairs on St. Eustatius was already ready and was sent shortly after the meeting.
On Saturday 26 October 2019 I will send a letter to the Committee on Kingdom Relations with an update of the developments. I am reflecting on the townhall meeting of 23 September 2019 and on my letter on this subject to the State Secretary, who is still unanswered after the period in which the answer was promised.
The mail to the State Secretary, written immediately after the townhall meeting of 23 September 2019, was answered (in Dutch) on behalf of the State Secretary on 31 October 2019. That same 31 October 2019, I immediately sent my response to the State Secretary.
On Monday 25 November 2019 I was invited for an interview with the government commissioner and his deputy (at the request of the state secretary). After this conversation I will send my reaction to the State Secretary, of course with copies to Messrs Franco and Stegers.