Keynote speech from Ms. Suzy Camelia Romer, former prime minister of Dutch Antilles, at the DP party congress. 

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening,

It’s a great honour and pleasure to be invited tonight to share some of my thoughts on government, especially on the fundamental organization and distribution of responsibilities between the governing bodies.
Essential to government is to promote the welfare of mankind, which is to be the centre of every policy.

Welfare can be defined the as realization of man in all his aspects: the spirit, the mind and the body. The Government’s role in this self-realization is to protect us and to organize those services that are collectively better attended to in a socially just or affordable way.

Consequently: a guiding principle of government is to be of to service to the people, by furthering the realization of fundamental human rights and freedoms, legal certainty, education, healthcare, economy etc., and by balancing contradicting individual interests in sake of public interest in such a way that our vulnerable fellow men are not left to their fate.

For our small island communities, organising government to provide for an acceptable level of service (‘voorzieningenniveau’);setting up all the necessary departments such as departments of health, labour, of economic affairs, education, traffic and communication, public works, foreign affairs, police, public prosecutor’s office, court of law, etc.; poses us before a Herculean challenge of ensuring availability of enough specialized civil servants to carry out all these essential tasks; and of course to generate the necessary funds to provide for the civil servant body and policy implementation, such as providing for schools, housing etc. It is surely is not an easy task.

First of all it’s not easy, because due to our limitations, such as our small territories and a limited amount of people, having only some natural resources such as beaches or natural ports, we have to organise our government contrary to the natural tendencies of us as a human beings. Most human beings have an inner intelligence; one could say instinct, which drives us towards independence. As soon as a child can talk, it will say: I can do so myself or “yes, I can”.

This deep-rooted value of autonomy is disrupted by our rational thought which brings the realization that good governance and creation of the right conditions for the public administration of a country require much more than the wish to be self-governing and independent. It requires the availability of enough skilled people to fulfil all the functions necessary to guarantee good governance in all sectors of government and a tax basis big enough to sustain it.

Simply put: to fulfil the duties of a governing a country, to be able to work on issues such as eradication of poverty, implementation of education, healthcare, safety ,security, creation of a legal framework for economic development etc., one needs a population big enough to carry the work and pay taxes for to finance the services needed.

Definitely the economy needs to have a sufficient size of a market and sufficient people participating in it, to be sustainable.
This economic principle is one of the fundamentals of the creation of the ‘European Union of coals and steel’, which has been successful in the prevention of war in Europe, provision of jobs and social security for the European people. For these aims, the Europeans were and are still giving up bigger or lesser parts of their autonomy in all areas of government and are still working on the amplification and strengthening of the European Union.

The feeling of intrinsic need of autonomy, of self-determination, the ‘heart’ one can say, however opposes the ratio, the ‘head’, which is the awareness of the need of sufficient economic income: ‘bread on the table’, and social security: ‘a roof over our head’.

There is a difficult balance to be reached between the contradictions of the ‘heart’, with its natural wish for independence; and the ‘ratio’, with its careful examination of everyday reality. It is because of the heart that the people in the Dutch referendum opposed the changes to the European treaty, though -rationally- the changes where indicated.

This contradiction raises the same interrogation for Statia, it raises for all our islands, the question what is, in our islands’ specific case and circumstances, the most acceptable balance between the wish for more autonomy to decide on matters in governmental areas ta concern us and the need give up some autonomy – as the Europeans did- to be able to provide for the basic human rights, legal certainty, good governance and an acceptable level of services of the people’s needs?

If this then, is our quest, which are the factors that should play a role in this decision? If a may suggest a few:

· The local scale of the population, thus the execution power to perform the governmental tasks?
· The local size of the economy, thus the purchasing power necessary for complete sustainability of the community and the tax basis to pay for it all?
· The conservation of our local culture and values, in balance with globalization, the influence professionalization in the Netherlands and that of social media?
· The possibility to provide social security and care, like homes, “onderstand”, modern healthcare and education?
· The local possibilities to provide and guarantee the necessary and/or desired level of governmental services?
· The possibilities to see justice is done, to provide for a professional police corps, prosecutors office, independent judges and an ombudsman?
· The reality of being and small Caribbean island depending on external factors as the oil terminal (or refinery in Curaçao) and tourism, which are vulnerable in the escalating terrorism in a big part of the world?

These are the kind of questions we need to answer with the ‘heart’ and ‘the head’.

Answering these questions, we must never lose sight of the aim of government: how do we best provide for our people? How do we best provide for our children’s future?

Some say: there is no price to be put on dignity, “la dignidad ni se compra, ni se vende” implying that the more self-governance, the more dignity.
I say: there is a price ….for good governance, good education, good health care and good social security….and we need to negotiate that price not only in a material way, but in terms of involvement of taking our responsibilities with the Netherlands, and we need to coordinate with our sister islands those responsibilities that can give us all a better service when done together.

The agreed upon evaluation after 5 years of the new constitutional status’ is taking place as we speak, and in case of Statia it is meant to give answer to the question how the new status has worked, so corrections can be made. It presents in my view a great opportunity to address many of your points of criticism, if you state them clearly.
As Statians living in the ‘Public Entity’, ‘Openbaar Lichaam’, you know better than anyone where it pinches and why it pinches.

It is to be emphasized that the “Openbaar Lichaam” as is legally given shape in current laws, is not the final stadium of your constitutional position, nor was it meant to be. It can be developed and bettered based on the 2015 evaluation and on further evaluations as more experience and knowledge is gained in coming years.

You can, and in my opinion you should, take your time (10, 20 years?), to work toward the best fitting organization of the government for you, as Statians, taking thereto realistically into account what responsibilities the Island of Statia can honestly carry, and make your constitutional status really tailor-made to best serve the people of Statia.

The evaluation, if wisely used, can be an excellent opportunity for correcting the troublesome issues of the new status and to realistically balance the need for self-governance, “the heart”, with the need for good governance and the need for an acceptable services level for the people “the head”, and even while we must admit that our historic reality sometimes makes it difficult to maintain a sensible balance, we have to let the past go, to make room for the future.

Thank you

Suzy Römer
Sint Eustatius
Opening of the Democratic Party campaign
7 February 2015