Netherlands to take over St Eustatius on corruption, abuse accusations

A morning view panorama & landscape of Sint Eustatius from the ship anchorages
A morning view panorama & landscape of Sint Eustatius from the ship anchorages. Photo: Paramayra / Wikimedia Commons

The Netherlands is taking over the governing of Sint Eustatius, an island that forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, State Secretary Raymond Knops of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations announced on Monday. This decision was made based on a report from a committee that investigated the state of the island and concluded that there is a "gross neglect of duties" on Sint Eustatius.

The island's governing body, called the island council, will be dissolved and other officials will be relieved of their duties. A government commissioner will be appointed to restore order on the island. Knops will travel to the island later this week to explain the Dutch government's decision to the local population. 

The governing situation on Sint Eustatius has been a concern for some time, and as previous measures to improve the situation had no desirable effect, the previous Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Plasterk established a committee to map the problems and make recommendations on how to proceed.

The committee concluded that the current governing situation is characterized by lawlessness and financial mismanagement. There are also signs of discrimination, intimidation, threats and insults, and the pursuit of personal power at the expense of the inhabitants, the committee said. "Citizens and entrepreneurs experience legal inequality. No administration is in order and the island is neglected in a physical sense", according to the committee. 

"Since other measures have not brought the island council to repentance, there is only one thing left to do: governing intervention. It is the harshest measure, but now that everything else has failed, it is the only possibility that remains", Knops said in a statement. "The people of Sint Eustatius deserve better." He would not guess how long this intervention will last. He told NU.nl that it will be as "short as possible and as long as needed." 

The government commissioner will perform all duties on the island until the island council is able to perform these duties properly again. Only then will elections for a new island council be held, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations said. 

The committee was also critical on the Dutch government's role in the development of the situation on Sint Eustatius. Over the past years delays arose in projects to improve roads, water supply, housing, underground pipelines, waste processing and the sea- and airport. The committee attributes this partly to the governing situation on the island, and the consequences it had on the relationship between Sint Eustatius and the Netherlands. The committee advised that investments be accelerated wherever possible so that these delays can be caught up. The government will follow this advice, the Ministry said. 

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