On February 1st, 2018, the Dutch Government adopted a bill providing for administrative intervention in Statia, after the Committee of Wise Men, in their report, concluded that the then PLP/Merkman led Government was accused of ‘gross neglect’ of duty. The report further stated that, “this neglect has had a harmful effect on the island’s people”.
On February 7, 2018, State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops, appointed Marcolino Franco as Central Government Commissioner of Statia and Mervyn Stegers as Deputy Commissioner. The role of the commissioners would be to “perform all duties on the island until the Island Council is able to perform these duties properly again”, Knops announced.
Franco and Stegers in their new roles were determined to make things better in Statia. In an article dated, May 8th, 2018, Franco was quoted as saying that he was busy with a ‘thorough cleaning’ on Statia. However, two years after the utterance of these ‘prophetic words’, Franco and Stegers were mysteriously replaced by two new commissioners, Marnix van Rij (Government Commissioner) and Ms. Alida Francis (Deputy Government Commissioner).
Franco, looking back at his governance period, stated in an interview held with “Caribisch Netwerk” on February 13, 2020, that he was satisfied with the ‘progress made’. However, Franco and Stegers were accused of governing without any form of transparency. There was also great dissatisfaction among the population regarding the ‘limited progress’ made.
On Saturday, April 3, 2021, a cross section of the community of Statia was shocked to learn that Government Commissioner, Marnix van Rij will “resign his duties as government commissioner at his request with effect from April 18th”. Van Rij has accepted a position as interim party chairman of the CDA, in the Netherlands.
There is a lot to unpack here. Firstly, Franco and Stegers were replaced without proper explanation, after two years on the job, while van Rij has resigned after just 1 year on the job, clearly moving on to greener pastures.
Elected Governments are appointed for a period of 4 years, but due to political infighting, governments can either fall or new coalitions can be formed. When these things happen, we say that there is political instability in the land. What then must we make of the premature departure of Dutch appointed Government Commissioners? And how do these premature departures contribute to a better Statia? Do these premature departures have any harmful effect on the island’s people?
Can persons who are ‘parachuted’ onto the island to serve in our highest offices, only to depart like ‘thieves in the night’, truly clean up Statia? Or in the words of Knops, “perform all duties on the island until the Island Council is able to perform these duties properly again?”. The answer is no!
Guess what! The Statian Experiment has failed. So, there is only one thing left to do! Restore Statia’s Democracy, now!