Published On: Sat, Oct 24th, 2020

Statia’s deadlocked political future

By Hilbert Haar

If the result of the island council elections in Statia have made anything clear it is that change does not come easy to people. You can take horse to the water but you cannot force it to drink, the well-worn cliché goes.

The electorate has spoken and the message is clear: they have lived for twenty years with Clyde van Putten as the controversial leader of the Progressive Labor Party and they want him back. The PLP won three of the five seats in the new Island Council, one more than it did in the 2015 elections. Van Putten remains firmly in the saddle; the party won almost 51.4 percent of the vote and Van Putten’s personal score of 171 represents almost 10.8 percent; impressive and clear.

Decision makers in The Hague must have been rooting for a landslide victory of the Democratic Party that would have reduced Van Putten to an irritable footnote in history. Obviously, the electorate had different ideas and now Van Putten is back with a vengeance. Given the election result he will once again become the PLP’s frontman, ahead of Rechelline Leerdam who held the number one position on the party-list. Van Putten beat her at the polls with 171 to 111 votes.

For the time being though, the Island Council is rather powerless as all decisions are subject to approval by Kingdom Commissioner Marnix van Rij. Shenanigans are out of the question for the time being. Whether the PLP is going to play nice or whether it is going to continue where it left off before the Dutch intervened remains to be seen.

A more important question is what the kingdom has achieved with its intervention on the island. After the devastating report from the Committee of Wise Men it was not an option to do nothing. State Secretary Knops could hardly be expected to say something like: Oh, well, that’s Statia being Statia. They’ll figure it out.

Knops, with political support from the First and Second Chamber, went for the big gun: the appointment of a Kingdom Commissioner as the temporary ruler on Statia. Goodbye Island Council; goodbye Executive Council; goodbye Lieutenant Governor.

I am prepared to accept that the Dutch intentions were good. The Hague cannot have any interest in a power-grab on a tiny island where fewer than 1,600 citizens have the right to vote.

Remember my formula I + A = R? (Intention plus Action is Result).

That’s what we have to look at now. If the intention is good and the action is bad, the result will still be negative.

The electorate on Statia has spoken and it has given another mandate to Van Putten and the PLP. That should at least be some food for thought for State Secretary Knops.

Was the intervention really justified? Was there no other solution? How will matters ever become sustainable if the same people are going to rule Statia again after the intervention ends?

The nature of the beast requires closer inspection in my opinion. Oranjestad is not the same as The Hague. What makes people tick and how do you make them understand that you cannot – in extremis – get around the law of the land?

Surely, what was bad according to the Committee of Wise Men has to be corrected. It is not that difficult to do but it requires the unrestricted cooperation of the people who live on Statia.

Maybe that is where the real problem is to be found. The ICT-world has an interesting term for situations that have no solution, where in addition to computer crashes, another crippling condition that can happen to computers is deadlocked data processing called: deadly embrace. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. That seem to be the political future of Statia.

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