Letter: Bumpy landings on Statia!

POSTED: 04/12/12 12:48 PM

Children should not play with matches yet politicians on Statia are perfectly happy to allow an oil terminal on St. Eustatius to obstruct the approach path of its airport runway. The location of these tanks with a height of 27.5 meters within the close proximity of the runway would clearly breach international regulations.

The ICAO that regulates airport safety has already calculated that these tanks pose a safety risk and should be no higher than 9 meters. However, according to the official response from the Executive Council to such objections, consideration had already been given to so-called ‘international’ regulations in drafting of the spatial plan. This is not true and Commissioners Sneek and Smith know this perfectly well. It literally flies in the face of more than 1, 300 objections posted against this scheme and the dissatisfaction of the majority of the people of Statia. So why do these commissioners and the supposedly neutral Lieutenant Governor continue to defend the construction of this risky eyesore? The answer to this question is clear. Self interest has now become the political norm. The motive is money.

I expect our politicians to be representative, responsible and responsive. These three principles of modern government have now been sacrificed by a microscopic minority at the expense of the majority. The people of Statia have been betrayed.

Even the disgraced former Commissioner Clyde van Putten has now come out against the expansion on the grounds that the overwhelming dissatisfaction of the people of Statia is a voice to be heard. Given that it was van Putten that signed the expansion into law without due consultation with the people of Statia, his cynicism could not be any greater.

It is evident that the politicians on Statia are determined to see the terminal expansion through to the end at any cost – including their reputation. Their own business interests are more immediate than the community they represent. Their irresponsibility in wanting to transform the island into an industrial wasteland is legend. Their responsiveness to the voice of their constituents is dumbfounding.

Heritage and safety will be sacrificed by a handful of crooks and cranks. Where do we go from here?

Legal objections will be lodged and this process will be lengthy and expensive for those who have the courage to fight the government and NuStar in the courts. However, one ray of hope is the ballot box. Meanwhile, a petition is now being launched to sack Commissioner Sneek (DP) whose integrity has been seriously challenged by this lack of representation, responsibility and responsiveness. As we have seen in St. Maarten on many occasions, personal gain for key politicians of the DP has always taken priority over the best interests of the people.

Through the many years of office, DP politicians on the island have made a solid contribution to the lives of Statians. However, distrust in the present now overshadows trust in the past. Motion follows emotion just as surely as reputation is so quickly shaped by perception.

The economic aim of tourism was trumpeted by the spatial plan. But NuStar’s oil tanks will obstruct the airport runway and is a clear contradiction to this goal. Even the Dutch government is complicit in wanting to harvest tax revenues rather than improve the social and geographical landscape. As its name suggests, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment clearly favors the former function over the latter.

It is time for the people of Statia to make a stand for their future and those of their families. Children should not play with matches. Neither should politicians!

James Russell

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