24 May 2017
THE HAGUE/ST. EUSTATIUS–Dutch caretaker Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk has announced the start of the Committee of Wise Men for St. Eustatius. Members of that committee will be former Aruba Governor Fredis Refunjol and Member of the Council of State Jan Franssen.
In order to assure an objective, independent functioning of the committee, the Minister has decided not to expand the Committee with the two members that were put forward by the majority of the St. Eustatius Island Council because the persons in question have direct ties with the Statia Government.
St. Eustatius had proposed former Island Governor and former member of the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT Hyden Gittens and Executive Council advisor, former State Secretary of Finance of the Netherlands Antilles, former St. Maarten Commissioner of Finance Xavier Blackman.
The Daily Herald understood that when the two governments came to an understanding in March this year to establish a Committee of Wise Men that would assess the functioning of the Public Entity St. Eustatius, it was agreed that the parties would each supply one candidate.
It was also, in March, that the Committee would carry out an assessment within three months and that it would report its findings to the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations on how to arrive at better functioning Statia Government. The Committee would also make the preparations for a Round Table Conference (RTC).
The Minister has now asked the Committee to submit a final report to him no later than September 2017. The Committee has the option to present interim reports. The Minister stated that the procedure to appoint a new Island Governor for St. Eustatius will not start until after the Committee has submitted its final report.
The Committee will visit the island several times for consultative talks. These talks will be of a confidential nature and the information that these persons supply will not be retraceable on an individual level in the report.
The Committee will regularly share its work activities with the Statia Government so the latter remains involved in the process. The Executive Council and the Island Council will have a chance to respond to the Committee’s (first) findings.
The Minister explained that the reactions of the Executive Council and the Island Council will be incorporated in the final report in a transparent manner. The Committee’s correspondence will remain confidential until the final report has been submitted.
Plasterk has asked the Committee to assess the current administrative strength of the Public Entity St. Eustatius and to come up with suggestions on how to bring this capacity to a desirable level.
All aspects of the management of the Island Government will be involved including the Executive Council, the Island Council and management. Included will be the preparation and approval of policy, as well as the execution, the evaluation and adaptations thereof. The Committee will also give ample attention to the use of legislation.
Where it concerns the execution of policy, the Committee will look at the execution of legal tasks, the level of service provided to the people and the private sector, and the management of finances and personnel. Government-owned companies and foundations carrying out government tasks will be incorporated in the assessment.
The report will further address the manner in which the Dutch Government, the Kingdom Government Representative for the Caribbean Netherlands (“Rijksvertegenwoordiger”) and the CFT give content to their responsibilities. The report will include conclusions and recommendations. The Minister will provide (personnel) assistance if required by the Committee.
The Statia Government will be informed today, Wednesday, of the Minister’s decision to establish the Committee of Wise Men. The Island Government on several occasions expressed discontent about the lack of speed with which the Minister handled the establishing of the Committee, and even accused the Minister of stalling the process.
On April 11, the Minister had stated in a letter to Statia’s Executive Council that he would get back to the island government “very soon” about the composition and establishing of the Committee. The Island Government insisted that the Minister stick to his word that the Committee would materialise as soon as possible.
According to the Statia Government, a committee of this kind is crucial to breaking the impasse in the relations between the Oranjestad and The Hague. The Island Government contended that as long as there was no committee, the stand-off would continue and the much needed dialogue would not be taking place.
The Statia Government has expressed the wish for a broad dialogue at the RTC with all stakeholders, including representatives of the Statia and Dutch Government, the CFT and other financial experts.
At that meeting, the problems would have to be discussed in an open, straightforward manner, while the Statia Government would also want participants to look at concrete solutions to improve the island’s financial management and to support good governance.
Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten