Government Commissioner Alida Francis ISLAND COUNCIL SWEARING IN Wednesday March 29th, 2023

This is a day of national pride for our island and all the people of Statia. A day in which we all feel a universal sense of belonging. At the same time, it is a day with far-reaching implications for every adult and every child, every man and woman, every boy and girl who live and work here and contribute in one way or the other to the welfare and well-being of our beloved St. Eustatius.

This day, fellow Statians and friends of Statia, will go down as historic in our political history. It will go down as the day we, as a small community, began to craft a new path to our own bigger destiny. It will go down as the day we committed ourselves to coming together to conquer the challenges of today and construct a model society for tomorrow. A day when community prevailed over individuality and patriotism overcame parochialism.

And it will go down as the day when we, the good and faithful servants of this land, having been faithful with a few things, were put in charge of the many things that we must do for our island to succeed. Whether or not future generations will be well pleased in us, and be moved to proclaim, ‘well done, good and faithful servants’, will depend on the decisions we make and the road we take from now on.

Swearing-in this new Island Council helps us navigate through the final passages and roadways back to full democracy, we who are charged with the fate of our children and our children’s children, have to make a choice. We must decide right here, right now, whether or not we will apply our collective wisdom to use the rich and diverse wealth of knowledge and know-how, of expertise and experience, of ideas and innovations that we the people possess, to enhance, to elevate and to advance the quality of life of our Statian community.

Many will argue that the circumstances that led us here in the first place were not of our own doing.  And we must not be afraid to boldly face the conditions on our island today. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address back in 1933, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror will paralyze the efforts needed to convert our present situation into a bright and promising future for all Statians. 

The fact is, we are coming from a position where, back in February 2018, the Netherlands intervened in Statia, dismissed the Island Council and imposed a form of direct rule. We have since had to work to achieve certain criteria. We have literally had to negotiate for our democracy and nurse it back to health.

We have also had to face the reality of an island infrastructure that was sorely lagging behind most, if not all of our Caribbean neighbours, social housing that was woefully inadequate and poverty levels that were trending in the wrong direction

And to compound the situation, we have had to manage the biggest crisis of our lifetime: the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, resolute in our determination not to descend any lower, we, of necessity, re-ascended, ensuring that in our darkest hour, we were able to begin the process of bringing back some light. To quote Niccolo Machiavelli’s  early 16th-century political essay, The Prince: “The reason is, that valour produces peace; peace, repose; repose, disorder; disorder, ruin; so from disorder, order springs; from order, virtue, and from this, glory and good fortune.”

This is the spirit with which we faced our common challenges. Convinced that we needed to turn the problems into opportunities, we undertook a vigorous and sometimes difficult mediation process from March 2022, pertaining to the Restoration Act. And we successfully addressed the issues of personnel right and budget right.

Today, we can say with a high degree of confidence that we have met almost all of the conditions agreed with the Netherlands in order for democracy to be restored. The elections of Wednesday the 15th of March and today’s swearing-in of the Island Council are further signs of this progress. The new council members will continue talks with the Hague to move the process along, and it won’t be long before managing the business of the island is fully back in the hands of Statians.

While we were dealing with the political situation, we also tackled the deteriorating infrastructure head-on with several projects, including a new airport terminal, Airport Boulevard and the construction and renovation of roads. We cleaned up illegal dumpsites, removed unsightly wrecks, increased drinking water capacity, drilled wells, in support of farmers, built infiltration ponds, purchased prime real estate for future infrastructural development. 

There are some major projects that are still in progress and some that are about to begin, but on the whole, take a look and see how far we have come.

Our road network is improving again, construction is picking up again, and the confidence of our people to aspire and achieve is peaking again. The signs are there that we are gradually emerging from our darkest hour and we are now witnessing new rays of light.

Yet, the restoration of democracy will mean little if the people of Statia do not see an improvement in their standard of living. It will mean little if political power in the hands of a few does not translate to economic prosperity for the many. It will mean little if we fail to hold sacred, the promises we make of a better life and a better Statia for all

Island Council members, fellow Statians, friends of Statia. Restoration of full democracy requires more than the Netherlands simply returning political decisions for the island back to us.  It requires us to act, and to act now to restore people’s confidence in us as leaders to provide them with the basic necessities of life. It requires those entrusted with the responsibility of governing to honour this trust by governing fairly and to take decisions for the good of all.  It requires a programme of action to put our house in order, establish a strong local economy and build a society where old values and new visions combine in such a way that we are encouraged to dream big and forever aspire to achieve the seemingly unachievable. 

To borrow from Lyndon Johnson, we now have an incredible opportunity to move Statia, not only toward a thriving society, but onward and upward to the Great Society and the greatest Statian generation.

Whether by divine intervention or by design, this generation has the honour and privilege to shape the greatest Statian society. Let us ensure this day goes down in history as the day we invoked the true genius of our nation and begin crafting such a community of peace and prosperity, of loving and living, of mutual trust,  friendship  and cooperation among our people. A home where everyone can enrich their minds and enlarge their talents. A nestling of such a full and blessed life that those yet unborn will be moved to say, ‘well done, good and faithful servants.”  

I thank you.