As of January 1, 2021, the responsibility for the land registers in Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius falls under the Cadastre in the Netherlands. Prior to the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles (on October 10, 2010), Statia’s Cadastre’s function was the responsibility of the Central Government of the former Netherlands Antilles. After 10-10-10, this function was assigned to the island, with Cadastre St. Maarten providing the necessary assistance.
After the news of the shifting Cadastre tasks broke, I consulted with local political insiders about the developments. I was informed that starting in the late 80’ the then WIPM led Government engaged in talks with the Federal Government about the transfer of all Cadastral tasks to the administration of the island government. But the talks did not amount to much because the WIPM Party was not voted back into office in the early 90’s.
During the governing period of the Coalition of Hope (2011), the Netherlands had put forward the idea to place the Cadastre function of all three public entities (Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius) under the control of one central organization. This idea was rejected by the Coalition of Hope that subsequently started the process of establishing a local foundation tasked with Cadastral affairs. However, due to the fall of the Coalition of Hope in 2012, this process was temporarily placed on hold. But was subsequently taken up again in 2015 by the PLP/ Independent Councilman Merkman led government. In 2015, the Netherlands had once again put the suggestion forward to place the Cadastre function of all three islands under one central organization. But this was again rejected by the then coalition government due to concerns of a cultural nature. However, the willingness to collaborate with the Netherlands to improve the Cadastral services on the island was expressed.
There was also strong opposition from the Democratic Party Bonaire (PDB) against the Dutch idea. Despite this political party’s objection, an agreement between the Bonaire Patriotic Union (UPB)/ Movement of Bonaire People (MPB) coalition government and the Netherlands was signed in 2012 in support of the transfer.
It is believed that with the dissolution of the Statia Island Council in 2018 and the subsequent appointment of a Government Commissioner,’ the seal of approval’ was given to complete the process of shifting the islands’ Cadastral tasks to the Cadastre in the Netherlands.
I am deeply troubled by this development because, contrary to the situation in Bonaire, the decision to shift the Cadastral function away from the administration of the Statia Government to the Cadastre in the Netherlands, did not come about based on agreements made between a democratically elected Island Council and the Netherlands. In addition to this, while assistance from the Netherlands is a good thing, one cannot help but wonder why the decision was not made to continue providing support in strengthening the Cadastre Institutions on the Islands, instead of taking over said institutions. Also, which country, independent or not, would voluntarily relinquish all its rights to manage and establish revenue generating activities associated with its own land? In the words of a very good friend, “Cadastre is a money machine”.
In my view, the recent developments, illustrate once again, the importance of keeping Statia’s current constitutional status high on the political and social agenda. If we do not keep this fire burning, more undemocratic acts will continue. Before concluding, I must state that the “Calimero Complex” of some so-called Dutch Caribbean leaders, also needs to be addressed. But this is a topic for another day.