Knops: “Gradual Return to Democracy on Statia”

State Secretary Knops, flanked by Goverment Commissioners Franco and Stegers answered many questions from those present during the Town Hall Meeting.

Oranjestad, St. Eustatius- According to State Secretary Raymond Knops a return to full democracy in Statia will be gradual and will also take the necessary time.

Knops faced many questions tonight by sometimes quite critical residents. At times the State Secretary seemed on the verge of loosing his patience, but overall kept his cool.

Why will it take over a year to partially restore democracy, when it took less than a month to suspend it?

“Why will it take over a year to partially restore democracy, when it took less than a month to suspend it”, asked a vocal resident? Knops explained that, among other things, it was necessary to have various things in place, before democracy could be restored to the point it was, before the intervention by The Hague.

According to the State Secretary the plan is to first hold Island Council elections, so that at least there will be a democratic institution controlling the local Government of the island. In a later phase, the Island Council will regain the right to name an Executive Council.

Delayed projects

Many questions were asked about the delay in projects; mostly concerning the infrastructure on the island. Knops said he regretted the delays and said it was also a learning point for him how much time it could take to get something organized on a relatively isolated island. Bot Knops and Government Commissioner Franco said they preferred for things to take longer, but to be done well, rather than to apply a quick fix which would not last.

Other questions touched on the lack of communication from the interim government, the reorganization of the government apparatus and the lack of funding for previous governments, which led to what Knops himself called a ‘huge backlog’ in maintenance of infrastructure.

Knops maintained that the intervention in local government had been necessary and that he thought that it was very important to strengthen local government and institutions, before turning the full executive power back to the island.

For local standards, the Town Hall was relatively well visited and with quite some participation of the attendees.

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