Bill concerning reinstatement of provisions for the administration of St. Eustatius

This bill is intended to extend the administrative intervention on St. Eustatius and to gradually phase out the current provisions of the Temporary Act on Neglect of Duty in St. Eustatius (hereinafter: Temporary Act).

In response to the report from the Committee of Wise Persons that there was a gross dereliction of duty by the island administration of St. Eustatius, in February 2018 the legislature decided on an administrative intervention on St. Eustatius. Under the Temporary Act, the island council was dissolved and the administration relieved of its duties. A government commissioner was appointed, who has been governing the administration of St. Eustatius since that time. The intervention was intended to end the gross dereliction of duty and to create conditions for a lasting improvement of good administration, to enable future island administrations to properly perform their duties themselves. The basic principle of the intervention was that it may not last any longer than necessary, yet at the same time the Dutch government and the Committee of Wise Persons took account of the possibility that a term of longer than two years might be needed.

In a letter dated 24 September 2019 to the House of Representatives and the Senate2, the progress achieved on St. Eustatius as of 1 September 2019 was assessed against twelve criteria that were included in the second progress report of 14 November 2018. The conclusion based on this assessment is that since the beginning of the intervention a great deal of work has been done and there is a clear picture of what improvements are still needed, but that – despite all the steps that have been taken – the situation in the short term is not expected to be sufficiently improved to provide a sound foundation for a new administration to properly carry out its tasks. More time is also needed for putting the financial management and the civil-service organisation in order. In short, in certain areas the gross dereliction of duty has not yet been sufficiently repaired by the government commissioner, so that it is unlikely that a totally local island administration would be able to function properly, and it would be irresponsible to terminate the intervention in the short term.

The Temporary Act provides for a deadline of 17 March 2021 for island council elections, followed by the cessation of the Act. The current situation on St. Eustatius, and the pace at which lasting improvements are being achieved, mean an extension of the intervention is necessary. Only then can the improvements implemented thus far be lastingly secured and further improvements implemented. At all times we must take care to prevent a return to the situation on the island before the intervention once normal administrative relations are resumed. At the same time, it is of great importance for the population of St. Eustatius that local democracy be restored as quickly as possible. Elections are essential to the local population; this is the way in which they are represented. The letter of 24 September 2019 expressed the confidence that there would be sufficient institutional stability by the autumn of 2020 for island council elections to be held.

The government deems it desirable that the island council resumes an important part of its tasks, but at the same time feels it is necessary for the government commissioner to remain responsible for the other tasks of the island council, as well as the tasks of the executive council and the governor, for some time to come. This bill is intended to extend the current provisions and also to introduce transitional arrangements to facilitate a gradual return to a normal administrative situation. The return of the island council is the first step in these transitional arrangements towards phasing out the administrative intervention.