Government Commissioner Marnix van Rij and acting Government Commissioner Alida Francis do deserve some credit for the way they are handling the Covid-19 crisis.
Both Commissioners have taken to the airwaves every night since the start of the corona-crisis. The effort to keep the community informed, by coming out in person each and every night to provide relevant first-hand information, is to be appreciated.
But moreover, they both come across as transparent, consistent and above all: credible.
The BES-Reporter was initially skeptical about he ability of the new Commissioners to make a true difference, especially when it came to the lack of transparency and lack of communication so blatantly displayed during the tenure of Mike Franco and Mervin Steegers.
Van Rij and Francis, on the other hand, are visible on the island, by no means ‘hide’ in the office, take the time to meet and discuss issues with people and organizations, and seem to take sensible decisions.
Of course there are those who are critical of the current Government. And those who feel that the crisis -and especially the measures around the quarantine and closure of the borders- could have been managed better. And maybe, some of the criticism is even justified.
However, and this is important to realize: A perfect way to deal with the current crisis does not exist. Every day there are new developments, insights, facts and challenges which did not exist the day before.
In actuality, St. Eustatius has not been more permissive in allowing people back on the island compared to Aruba, Curaçao or Sint Maarten. Only Bonaire has been more resolute in denying even its residents abroad the chance to return to the island. Something that has been highly criticized by those directly impacted and their families. In the current atmosphere on the islands -not to say the entire world- whatever measure is taken -or not taken for that matter- will be criticized by someone. Especially in hindsight, where vision is always 20/20.
Given the fact that Van Rij and Francis have had hardly any time to prepare and move into their new jobs, before this world-shocking crisis hit, they are doing a pretty admirable job. And, once this crisis is over, maybe St. Eustatius has a reason to be optimistic about the time they have left as ‘Special Commissioners’ in charge of Local Government.
Does this mean the BES-Reporter condone the current status of St. Eustatius and the appointment of Government Commissioners by the Kingdom Government? Not necessarily so. Neither are we thrilled about the current proposals for the gradual ‘snail pace’ return to real democracy on the island.
But leaving these bigger issues aside for the moment, we do feel that Van Rij and Francis -so far- can be considered a breath of fresh air on the island. It can only be hoped that they continue on their current path, both for darker days and brighter days to come!