Crisis over position Eiland Secretary Kerkhoff deepens

Island Secretry Koert Kerkhoff seen here on an archive picture in company of former commissioner Astrid Mc. Kenzie-Tatem. Photo: BES-Reporter
Koert Kerkhoff

Island Secretry Koert Kerkhoff seen here on an archive picture in company of former commissioner Astrid Mc. Kenzie-Tatem. Photo: BES-Reporter

Oranjestad- The crisis over the position of Island Secretary Koert Kerkhoff has deepened with a new letter from acting Island Governor Julian Woodley, dated August 10, stating he wants Kerkhoff gone, as the appointment of Kerkhoff does not carry the approval of Kingdom Representative Gilbert Isabella.

The deepening conflict is quite illustrative for the state of affairs when it comes to the relations between the PLP/Merkman Government on the one side and The Hague, Kingdom Representative Isabella and governor Woodley on the other side.

The BES-Reporter has in its possession various letters from the Kingdom Representative, Governor Julian Woodley and the lawyers looking into the case on behalf of commissioners Woodley and Simmons. One of the key questions seems to be who decides what the position of local Government is in a certain issue, including the position of Kerkhoff. The coalition Government is of the opinion that Kerkhoff does a good job and should stay where he is.

Woodley and Isabella on the other hand seem to take issue with Kerkhoff’s appointment and want the island secretary gone. This already led to a somewhat grotesque show where Kerkhoff was escorted out of his office by police officers who had been called in by the acting Governor.

In a lengthy letter from AT Advocaten in Baarn, the Netherlands, to Kingdom Isabella, mr. A.S.D Lijkwan points out to Isabella that the extension of Kerkhoff’s appointment cannot be seen as a new appointment and as such is not regulated by Article 126 of the Wolbes, which speaks of the approval of the Kingdom Representative when it comes to appointing (new) Government workers to any of the Public Entities.

Lijkwan also states in his letter to Isabella that the position of the Kingdom Representative that there would, by lack of an approved budget, be no coverage for Kerkhoff’s position, is not a valid argument. “Every Public Entity has an Island Secretary”, according to Lijkwan. “We also note that, even if the Public Entity has no approved budget as of yet, Kerkhoff was paid until now and there was never an issue with his payments”. According to Lijkwan the situation with reference to the budget or the position of the Island Secretary has not really changed, reason why it is unreasonable to now state that Kerkhoff’s continued tenure would now be a violation of both Wolbes and Finbes.

mr. Jason Rogers from Lawfirm Hoeve & Rogers has also written a letter to his colleagues from HBN Law, representing Governor Woodley, arguing why the position taken by Isabella and Woodley cannot be defended.

Rogers writes in his letter to mr. Rutte from HBN Law that according to him, both decisions taken by the Island Council of May 3 and July 25th of this year are valid decisions by the Executive Council and that his clients (Charles Woodley and Derrick Simmons), therefore, are of the opinion that Koert Kerkhoff is still the Island Secretary of the Public Entity Sint Eustatius.

Rogers ends his letter by stating that Woodley and Simmons are still open to mediation to solve the conflict between themselves and island governor Woodley/Kingdom Representative. “My clients propose to jointly approach a neutral mediator”, according to Jason Rogers’s letter to HBN-Law. Rogers proposes, on behalf of his clients, for lawery Rik Bergman to be the mediator in this case.

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