The results of the Island Council Elections of October 21, 2020 came as a shock to many. Statements such as, “The population of Statia still longs for the old political situation”, and “The people want Clyde van Putten, the controversial leader of the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) back” were heard just hours after the outcome of the election was made known.
But if you truly know Statian history, you will realize that this is not about the PLP and Clyde van Putten. Statians have always been champions of justice and human rights. Here as some examples to back up my claim:
- Thomas Dupersoy, a local free man of color together with five enslaved men, initiated a slave revolt in Statia in 1848, after they had heard about the abolition of slavery in French St. Martin and Martinique. According to local accounts, the enslaved people became very restless as they took to the streets shouting, “Liberty, liberty, liberty”. Even though Thomas and the 5 other men who initiated the revolt were subsequently put on a boat and shipped off to Curacao, their act of bravery did not go unnoticed.
- In the late seventies, Mrs. Inez Shaw- Mars started a legal case against the Antillean and Statia Government addressing the issue of gender discrimination. Mrs. Shaw- Mars fought for pension rights for female civil servants and equal pay between male and female civil servants. Mrs. Shaw- Mars won the case and since then civil servants have been benefiting from her struggle.
- Also in the seventies, now retired politician, Eric Henriquez Sr., and the late Ralph Berkel, together with others, fought for Statia to get direct representation in the parliament of the Netherlands Antilles because in those days, Saba and Statia were represented in the Netherlands Antillean Parliament by a representative of St. Maarten. Because of their struggle, Statia eventually got direct representation in the Parliament.
- In April 2010, then Senator Reginald Zaandam stood up for the people of Statia’s right to self- determination when he addressed the Dutch Second Chamber. There he made it clear that the Public Entity status would be implemented without the endorsement of the people, and he therefore requested that a referendum be held to gauge the will of the people. Even though he was later ousted from the political party he represented, his stance helped to pave the way for additional action.
- From 2010 until present, civil society organizations such as “Pro Statia” and “Brighter Path Foundation, together with several political parties have been fighting for Statia’s right of self- determination. In several referenda held over the years, the majority of Statians have opted for more local autonomy within the realms of the kingdom. But this wish has been systematically ignored.
A local elder once said, “We come from a community of fighters and emancipators”. It’s in our blood people”. With these words in mind, Statians will continue to fight for justice, freedom, liberty, and equality, a fight that is bigger than any one individual. Hopefully after reading this, persons will put the outcome of the recently held Island Council Elections in its proper context.
President of Brighter Path Foundation