On Thursday, March 21st a motion was brought in the Statia Island Council for the organizing of referendum before March 2014 by the STEP and UPC parties. Personally I was caught off guard by this motion, because in the Central Committee there is a gentleman’s agreement that this is an issue that we were not suppose to play politics with.
This motion was rejected by the Coalition, for the following reasons:
1. On Sunday, March 17th a town hall meeting pertaining to the constitutional status was organized by coalition leaders Millicent Lijfrock- Marsdin and Reuben Merkman. Approximately 30 persons showed up to the meeting. Based on the discussion and questions arising out of the meeting it was clear that more information needed to be shared with the public about referenda, the Evaluation in 2015 and the right of self determination. Also a request was made during the meeting to organize more informative meetings and provide pamphlets for informing the people surrounding these issues.
2. The first considerans (a consideration, something taken into account to reach a decision) in the motion reads: “Sint Eustatius in a referendum in 2005, voted overwhelmingly (76.6%) to stay in the Netherlands Antilles. It has already been establish that currently there are two options open to the people of Statia: public entity or integration.” As is stated in the considerans, 76.6% of the people rejected these 2 options in the 2005 referendum; does the UPC have secret information that the people of Statia have changed their minds about what status they desire? Or have the UPC concluded that the path chosen by the Democratic Party in 2010 to become a Public Entity of Holland was the correct one?
3. The following considerans in the motion states “St. Eustatius didn’t vote for direct ties with Holland in 2005.” Direct ties with Holland is the only result possible of a referendum at this time. (Plasterk, 2013 and Saleh, January 2013). What are you espousing that with a referendum the current status can possibly change to one of indirect ties with Holland. This considerans contradicts the standpoint (less than a week old) of the UPC as stated in the Island Council. The UPC council member stated during the island council meeting that the best status for Statia is integration with representation. This standpoint is again absolutely opposite to what has been championed in the past and doesn’t coincide with the views of the STEP, which is independence.
4. Currently the WoLBES and the public entity of Statia don’t have an ordinance for organizing a referendum, moreover a binding one. This would mean that Island Council would be approving a motion that refers to a law in the WolBES that doesn’t exist. In the motion reference is made to article 152 in the WolBES, which doesn’t mention one iota about referenda. This article in the WolBES states that the Island Council can make ordinances that it deems necessary. Therefore the first step is to put a referendum ordinance in place and then utilize the ordinance for organizing of the referendum. This type of modus operandi is called putting the cart before the horse, which can only move the process backwards. Additionally the Island Council cannot make laws that will supercede an agreement or law from a higher body, coming out of the “Slotverklaring” it was decided that an evaluation would take place in 2015. In this agreement there is no mention of a change of status, therefore I question if one can speak of a binding referendum. (Also see point 3, above)
5. There are a number of organizations that are busy with a signature petition drive to present to the island council in the future. It is very important to let the democratic process take its course, whereby a basis for a referendum would be legitimized.
6. The decision of the Senate in The Hague not to anchor the status in the Constitution provides the island with additional time to experience the current system and seek adjustment where necessary. (The Daily Herald, 22-3-2013). All of this information was provided in the council and notwithstanding the UPC and STEP still persisted with their agenda. I personally believe it was God’s divine intervention to the council and the people of Statia. How probable or improbable is it that on the day that the topic of our Constitutional Status is being discussed in the council, that a decision is reached by the Senate that pertains to this self same issue? This is great victory for the BES islands and for Statia in particular. It allows us more time to focus on our Evaluation of the status and in 2015 to present a document that reflects the views and wishes people of Statia.
7. The UPC faction was charged by the Central Committee in September 2012 with the responsibility to contact Mr. Carlyle Corbin, a renown constitutional lawyer, to advise the island council. On various occasions, the council has requested from the councilman information pertaining to the services of Mr. Corbin and the councilman has not been able to produce an iota of a proposal. As chairman of the Central Committee, I have not seen the phantom email that the councilman has sent on various occasions. Notwithstanding the first opportunity that presents itself to grandstand, the UPC and STEP comes with a motion in the island council. Hereby the UPC and the STEP maliciously excluded the majority of the Island Council members in the preparatory phase of this motion.
Because of the 7 abovementioned reasons it was decided not to support the motion brought by the UPC and STEP. Further there has not been any changed in the position of the coalition members pertaining to referenda for the people of Statia. The Coalition believes that the process should be carried out in a transparent manner and with dignity and respect for all stakeholders. This process should be decided on by the entire Council and not by a few persons wanting to make the island council a lawless arena and hold the government hostage. Foremost the motion doesn’t have a legal basis and contains many half truths and statements that needed to be scrutinize more in-depth. The DP and the Coalition will not be cajole or rushed into supporting any motion by political parties and organization that we are not comfortable with or that is not transparent, not based on legal grounds and will adversely affect, now and in the future, the very fabric of our way of thinking, our culture and our children.
Whatever the outcome of this process, such outcome should be the result of clear, free and well-informed choice.