Opinion: On the eve of upcoming elections, a lot is suddenly possible on St. Eustatius

by Harald Linkels

With the elections on St. Eustatius only a few days away, things are certainly heating up in local politics.

Will the party who was pro-Dutch intervention win most votes? Or will the same PLP/Merkman coalition, which was so shamefully deposed 2 years ago, be voted right back in power, albeit in a new makeup? Maybe voters are tired of both ‘blocks’ and will instead opt for the ‘Benjamin’ of Statia politics: the 3-candidate UPC. Who knows?

A lot of the discussion boils down to the question if St. Eustatius has benefited from the ‘Dutch intervention’; and if things are now better for the island, than they were before.

While even a blind person would probably admit that a lot is going on in St. Eustatius with the construction of a brand new airport terminal, new road construction, the ‘cliff stabilization’ project, and so on, and so forth, one also wonders if all that seems well, is indeed well.

The announcement today, that the island will ‘soon’ get better and cheaper internet made me think that suddenly, a lot seems possible on St. Eustatius which was not possible before. While the quality, speed and cost of internet on the island has been an ongoing annoyance since like ‘forever’ anyone who reads carefully through the publication on Government’s website, cannot help but frown.

So the Government of Statia (read: the Dutch Government) together with EUTEL (100% owned by local Government, so indirectly the Dutch Government) negotiates with Saba Statia Cable System B.V. (owned by the Minstery of BZK, or the Dutch Government) a new and better deal. Wow…. That must have been some tough negotiating going on there! The casual observer would maybe also question why it had to take till 3 days before the elections to get this wonderful news out, but okay.

The bigger question though is, if the situation with the Dutch-imposed government, can truly be compared to local governments since 10/10/10. The current government is not, in any way, limited by a lack of funds, is not constantly supervised -not to say worn out- by Cft and is not bogged down by endless preparations and negotiations about the upcoming budget or the shortfall in the free allowance. Never mind the fact that there is no island council in place, so no opposition and no need to discuss or present this budget in local parliament and receive the approval for it, even before getting Cft and BZK approval.

While many politicians and parties on the island over the years have truly deserved a good ‘two rope’, one cannot help but feel this is not an equal battle. If local politicians, or local governments are to be judged by the public, let them at least be judged under similar -if not the same- conditions. So, the same funds which have now been made available, the same speed and attention of involved ministries and the same amount of goodwill and personal attention from State Secretary Raymond Knops and his Ministry.

It is only then that we can truly compare how the current ‘local’ government is doing, compared by how future (truly) local governments will be doing. Yes, all governments should be held to the same standard, for instance the rules of Good Governance, but under the same conditions and with the same instruments (read: money).

Isn’t that the true essence of what article 1 of the Dutch Constitution states, namely “Be treated equally under equal circumstances”?

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