Oranjestad- Commissiones Charles Woodley and Derrick Simmons have scored an important psychological win in their battle with interim-governor Julian Woodley and, indirectly, the Dutch Government in The Hague. The Court of First Instance for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba today rendered their verdict concerning the dispute between the two Island Commissioners as plaintiffs, and acting Governor Julian Woodley as defendant.
The decision of the Court boils down to the fact that the acting governor is ordered to sign decisions the Executive Council has agreed upon by majority of votes. These decisions concern among others, the suspension of the Harbor Master, the signing of the Waste Management Agreement, the co-signing of a letter to the Minister BZK and the approval of an official mission by one of Commissioners to The Hague. The Court rejected however the claim concerning the contract with NuStar.
The Court in the first place found that it had jurisdiction in this case. The claims of the plaintiffs, in their capacity as Island Commissioners, were according to the Court, indeed admissible. The Court also found that there was a pressing interest that allowed the Court to give decisions in this injunction case. They lawyer for the interim-governor had pleaded to deem the claim of Woodley and Simmons as inadmissible; something the Court apparently did not agree with.
The Court in its judgments also stated that there is no basis in the Wet Openbare Lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba (WolBES) for the Acting Governor to refuse to sign decisions that are taken by the Executive Council with a majority of the votes cast. The acting Governor, according to the Court, is together with the Commissioners, responsible for a thorough preparation of the decisions. If the Acting Governor is of the opinion that the decisions are not in conformity with the law he (or the Kingdom’s Representative) has the possibility to request nullification of the decision by the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. According to the verdict handed down, there is no basis in the law for the acting Governor to simply refuse his signature.
The Court has not imposed penalty payments on its order to the Acting Governor to sign the decisions. The Court is of the opinion however, that it should reasonably expected of the acting Governor to adhere to court decisions. The Court also awarded court fees to the Commissioners in the amount of USD 5.000,00. This is not irrelevant as minister of BZK, Ronald Plasterk, had made it an issue to state that the Commissioners would have to pay for the court case out of their own pockets, as they had not requested prior approval from Kingdom Representative Gilbert Isabella, to engage in such costs. Plasterk had also stated that the legal fees for Governor Woodley on the other hand would be covered, as according to Plasterk, he had no fault in being demanded.
The win by the Commissioners can be deemed important and relevant in the ongoing struggle with The Hague. The Commissioners felt, for some time already, that Governor Woodley was acting on instructions from The Hague to thwart the Executive Council as much as possible from moving forward with matters important to them as local government and to governing coalition.
Minister Plaster was livid after the decision of Woodley and Simmons to start a court case against Governor Woodley, stating in a letter to the Commissioners that “this is not the way we do things in the Kingdom”. Plasterk said he had strongly preferred a process of mediation. The Commissioners, on the other hand, felt that going into a process of mediation would only be a waste of time.