The constitutional status of St. Eustatius is too important to play political and mind games with.

Over the years we have seen our politicians at work. As a people one of our hope and prayer is that when we vote our leaders into office they would work in the best interest of the entire country. There is a well-known slogan that people on Statia use to describe how some of our politicians work. Statians describe some of their work ethics as working for “Friends, Family and Favor”. Although they see the country going to hell in a waste basket, as long as their families and friends are secure they ignore the status of the country. That is not only my experience on Statia, but also was the case within the whole former Netherlands Antilles. How many times over the years did the citizens of our country cry out because of the corruption that paved the way for the Netherlands to impose what they call “Higher Supervision”. Holland could not impose such harsh measures if they had no grounds to do so. Our own politicians helped create the situations that cause the masses to cry out to Holland to come and help us.
We who are in the kitchen are the ones who are feeling the heat. We have to live in the heat, we have to work in the heat and we have to continue surviving in the heat. It is easy to stand on the outside and say if you just do this or that you can overcome the heat. But what those on the outside fail to realize is that our experience of working in the heat over a life time have thought us a lot. We look for what is and who is actually helping us, irregardless of race. I know for a fact that many Statians feel that we are not ready at this moment to handle more autonomy. Just check the politicians track record. They keep letting the ball fall all the time. For years we sit on the street corner fretting about how the country is running. We know exactly who is doing what, because we are in the heat of the kitchen every day of our lives.
Now that the consequences are here due to some our politicians lack of integrity, wrongdoing, bias work ethics, and working solely in the interest of family, friend and favor, I say as one who is in the kitchen and feeling the heat: Time for a change. Until our politicians are mature enough to run our country in the interest of everyone, we open the door for Holland to run our affairs for us. Government after government sat in office and as a collective fail again and again to work together in the interest of our people.

For years when some of us got sick only a chosen few would get government grants/guarantee to travel abroad for further medical care. A chosen few had the privilege to travel to St. Maarten, Puerto Rico, Miami, or even Holland for medical care. Right now the ones in the kitchen feeling the heat, also get the same medical care across the board. Right now there are those of us that are terminally ill and are getting a chance at good medical care.
In times past the ones in the kitchen feeling the heat were told there is nothing we can do. It is too expensive to send you abroad. But those with money at that time and those with the right politician affiliation at that time got the help they needed. That is the heat in the kitchen that I am talking about. The leaks within the medical insurance right now needs fixing, yes. The procedures that are in place are not being adhered to by the patients at times. That’s a fact. But often times the workers in the office fall back in the old work ethics of “family, friends, favor”. That is some of the leaks that needs to be fix. The procedures that are in place are working in the interest of everyone, but the system needs to be adapted to ensure that some of the workers in the office do their jobs and work in the interest of every patient. As a patient I to had some issues with the procedures, but that was due to the fact that the procedures were not explained. That didn’t mean that the procedures are bad, it means that those executing the procedures have to learn how to do so objectively and not execute the procedures based on personal likes or dislikes or whether or not I am their friend. Again I say that doesn’t mean that the present status is bad. What needs to be fixed is the communication and working arrangement between doctor, patient and the workers at the medical insurance office.

When scholarships were handed out only a chosen few would be granted a scholarship to attended the top colleges. How much of us can send all of our children to school now, that it is free of charge. How much of us can now collect food stamps every month end to help put food in our bellies. A lot of people that need food stamp to help them out of their situation still don’t know about this kind of help that is available.
These are some of the help we are now getting to help alleviate some of the heat we are feeling in the kitchen. These are some of the reasons why I am convinced at this moment that we only need to fix the leaks and not change the roof. In times past individuals who had the better paying jobs and didn’t needed aid (we used to call it “understand”) got that free money because of the political affiliation. We all know what use to go on and is still going on with the Golden Rock houses. These are low income residents. The issue of rent that is being paid at the moment is a political hot potato, that no politician will touch because again it will cause him or her a vote or two. If our local politicians never had the courage to tackle this problem, why should I believe with more autonomy they will.

None of us like the tax system that is in place, but on the other hand if we demand that the government give us what we have rights to, the money must come from somewhere. If we are given more autonomy will we have to pay less tax? A lot of the tax laws that were always on the books were never implemented. With our present status a lot of the laws that have always excited are now being implemented. Had our local government in times pass implement those laws it would have undoubtedly cause them the elections. Right now that is not the case. We have to pay our taxes in one way or the other. If we don’t pay our taxes we would not be able in enjoy the benefits we get by paying taxes. We demand a good medical insurance with the best possible medical care, we demand decent road to drive on, we demand an educational system for our children that will help them compete in today’s market. Does demands come with a price. So some way somehow we have to pay taxes. We don’t want to settle for mediocre service. We want the very best for our hard earn money. We demand this from government. If our demands are so high then we have to expect that we will have to pay tax in some from or the other. For years a lot of us never paid taxes. Now that time is over.
Some feel that Nustar is the solution to all our financial problems. I respectfully disagree. Nustar can decided to leave at anytime if doing business on St. Eustatius in not profitable to them. I have trouble rationalizing that giving what we have now to solely depend on Nustar is a good thing. Nustar will have the monopoly regarding our income. If I take Winair as an example, a company that is part of us and have the monopoly on air travel on Statia. Look at the high price for the tickets. We can’t do anything about the high prices for years. If I am not mistaken Nustar is an American company. If they become our sole income they can do what they want. They will have the monopoly. When we had more autonomy in the times we were still in the Netherlands Antilles, our leaders sat at the bargaining table with Nustar and told them we don’t have the expertise in house to bargain with so you (Nustar) make us a proposal. After Nustar put their proposal on the table we complain that the can afford to give us more. This is the company that you want me to trust from the position of monopoly.

I know that my opinion on the following matters is going to cause some unrest. I have been criticized regarding my opinion on price control issues. Laws concerning prices controls were always in existence, but never implemented. Long before the Chinese restaurants and supermarkets were all over Statia, Statians complained of the high prices we had to pay for groceries and other items in our local businesses. Now that we have so many foreign businesses our local business owners use the fact that there is so many foreign businesses to compete with they have to raise their prices. My experience taught me different. The prices were high even before the Chinese came to Statia. Some of our local business owners set the profit they want to make at the end of the year. Then no matter what the tax office charge, then set their prices to meet the profit goal that they set for themselves. Even after the tax office said that certain goods would not be taxed, the businesses, including our local business owners, never changed the high prices on their goods. The excuse was: The price is high because of the high taxes. Now we know what they have to pay tax on and what they don’t have to pay tax on. When we ask but why you didn’t drop the price on those goods. The excuse they come with now is: We have to pay high freight for the shipping.
Are the high prices due to the tax, or is it greed? Does this mean that the present tax system doesn’t work, does it mean that we need more autonomy, or does it mean that we just need to fix the leaks.

Now if somebody wants to convince me that changing the roof is the best way forward, then your message must have substance. You need to address the aforementioned issues. We have been fooled to many times, and had to many promises made and when our chosen candidate gets in government, they forget the country and follow the “friend, family and favor” principle. My opinion that fixing the leaks seems to be the best way forward is based on the heat in the kitchen that is finally subsiding at this moment. We see it happening now, we are living it now. Trusting the next politician that tells me lets go back to how it was, but this time with more autonomy, is hard. That politician promising me that I will work in the interest of the country this time is again asking me to trust him or her. They are asking me to trust their whole political party, which include other candidates with their own visions, likes and dislikes. A party board with their own agenda. When one politician ask me to put trust in him or her they are asking a lot of me, seeing the track record of politics on Statia over the years.
Within the former Netherlands Antilles we had more autonomy and the track record that is recorded in history was “friend, family, favor” above country. I am convinced and resolute in my thinking and I believe strongly in my stands. Anyone with a message that we need to completely change what we have now, have to know what they are talking about, must be also resolute, clear and convincing. When I tell you why and what I believe and that offends you, then you have a very weak message. I consider this a very serious matter that is going to either break or better Statia. So anyone that want to dialogue and debate this matter must have a well balance, thought out, researched, comprehensive message. Persons with personal political affiliations or agenda’s that don’t have Statia at heart can better take their message elsewhere. If your message is more autonomy is better and in the same breath tell me that Statia don’t have any leaders then what am I going to do with more autonomy. Your message is confusing. Who do you purpose to be the leaders to govern us. Are those leaders capable of handling more autonomy. Our political leaders have a track record that speaks for itself.
Yes, our forefather fought, bled, suffered and even died fighting for more autonomy, which we had under the Netherlands Antilles. “We” messed it up. Our leaders that we keep putting in power messed it up. When we can prove that we are working in the best interest Statia as a whole then we can consider more autonomy. When we can guarantee integrity, no corruption, fairness, equal treatment, transparency, and all the requirements of good governance. It is sad to see that persons are not informed enough on our present status and are being asked to change to a status they we know even less about. Everybody is now playing the blaming game. Who should inform the public.
There is an old political strategy that has been used for years on Statia. If you can’t convince somebody to see thing your way, create confusion, create conflict, try to discredit the person. The constitutional status of Statia is too important to play political and mind games with.
Stop fooling the people and start telling people the truth. Present the information objectively form both sides. The present status and your purposed status and then let people make up their own minds on how to move forward.

Wendy Hodge