Oranjestad -There are still many questions surrounding the appointment of two so called ‘wise men’ to the committee which will be looking into the tensions between The Hague and local government on St Eustatius. Although many expected and always understood that the committee would consist of one member appointed by The Hauge and one by local government, Minister Ronald Plasterk (Interior Affairs) decided to name both committee members and accept none of the names presented by Sint Eustatius.
Not surprisingly, the PLP/Merkman coalition is not amused at all. Immediately after the news on the appointment of former Aruban Governor Refunjol and former VVD-politician Franssen broke a lot of discussion has been going on both in traditional and social media, what the exact content was of the agreement between Sint Eustatius and The Hague in regards to the ‘committee of wise men’.
The BES-Reporter spoke to PLP-leader Van Putten about the events leading up to the appointment of the committee. “As agreed during Mr. Van Zwol’s visits, a committee of two wise men would be appointed, with one member being nominated by Sint Eustatius and one by the Netherlands”, explains Van Putten. “On April 3rd, 2017, Richard Van Zwol called me on my mobile phone and suggested for the two members to be Mr. Franssen on behalf of the Netherlands and Mr. Refunjol on behalf of Sint Eustatius. I told him that this was not the agreement, that Sint Eustatius had both a nominee and a back-up nominee who know the ins and outs of all the issues and can represent Sint Eustatius , namely Mr. Blackman and Mr. Gittens respectively”, says Van Putten.
According to Van Putten, SG Van Zwol told him that the candidates suggested by Statia were good ones, and also suggested to increase the committee to four members in total, two each appointed by Sint Eustatius and Holland respectively. According to Van Putten he told Van Zwol that he had no problem with that suggestion, as long as Sint Eustatius would have its own members appointed.
According to Van Putten he was later surprised by the news that the committee would consist only of the candidates suggested by The Hague and the candidates suggested by Sint Eustatius were put to the side.
“This example again proves that the minister of BZK is not trustworthy, not of good faith, and doesn’t really want a dialogue based on mutual respect, equality and transparency. They always say “afspraak is afspraak”, but they themselves constantly breach agreements and move the goalpost to their convenience”, says Van Putten.
According to Van Putten, when Sint Eustatius protests this way of proceeding the minister gets offended and says Sint Eustatius’ tone is not constructive. “Time and again, he proves that Sint Eustatius is right in calling a spade a spade and being distrustful towards BZK”, says van Putten.
Van Putten provided the BES-Reporter with copies of emails between him and BZK Secretary General Van Zwol, giving details about the exchange. However, the BES-Reporter has not been able to trace back any official document which states in “black and white” that it was indeed a hard and firm agreement that both Sint Eustatius and The Hague would appoint candidates to the committee, even if this was the most plausible and reasonable approach. It is very hard to envision how the island would feel bound by any advice from a committee in which it has no representation.
DP Councilman Koos Sneek on social media stated that it was never promised by The Hague that St. Eustatius would also get to name a member to the committee of wise men.