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The Island Council of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius: Organize a Constitutional Referendum

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Petition Background (Preamble):

The Country of the Netherlands Antilles originally existed since December 15th 1954 and was comprised of six islands (Curaçao, Aruba, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba), which each formed a separate administrative unit, called ‘eilandgebied’ (island territory). As such, each Island Territory had its own local government. In addition, there was a central government for the Netherlands Antilles, as well as a senate that was comprised of representatives of all six (6) islands.

In 1986, Aruba became a separate Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while the other five islands remained within the Netherlands Antilles.

In the early nineties, there were discussions within the Netherlands Antilles regarding the constitutional status of the Country as a body. There were referendums held on all five (5) islands. All islands had the opportunity to choose between:

A. Remaining part of the Netherlands Antilles. However, the Netherlands Antilles would then be restructured;
B. Separate status and as such becoming a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands;
C. Direct ties with the Netherlands;
D. Independence.

All islands of the Netherlands Antilles, including St. Eustatius, opted to remain in the Netherlands Antilles. As the intended restructuring of the Netherlands Antilles did not take place, discussions among the islands once again took place regarding remaining within the Netherlands Antilles as a country. St. Maarten was the first to have its referendum in June of 2000, which sparked the other islands to have their referendum in 2005.

During the referendum in St. Eustatius the following options were provided, which yielded the following results:

Option                                                                               Votes   Percentage
Option A: Remain part of the Netherlands Antilles           605      76.6%
Option B: Direct
constitutional ties with the Netherlands                            163      20.6%
Option C: Becoming a self governing country within
the Kingdom of the Netherlands                                        17       2.2%
Option D: Independence
                                                                                            5        0.6%

Following the referendums on the various islands, the first Round Table Conference between the islands, the Netherlands Antillean government and the Netherlands took place on November 26th 2005. It was agreed that Curacao and St. Maarten would become countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while the three other islands would become directly part of the Netherlands.

The people of St. Eustatius had once again chosen to maintain the Netherlands Antilles. Hence, their vote in the 2005 referendum was a confirmation of their vote during the first referendum of the early nineties. However, due to the fact that St. Eustatius was the only island that opted to remain within the Netherlands Antilles - a choice viewed by many as impossible - it was decided that St. Eustatius would have direct constitutional ties with the Netherlands, as Saba and Bonaire opted for.

The Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist on October 10th 2010. The islands, with the exception of St. Eustatius, obtained the status which they voted for during the 2005 referendum. It was decided upon that together with Bonaire and Saba, St. Eustatius (together referred to as the BES islands) would become a part of the Netherlands. As such, each one of the BES island would be a public entity of the Netherlands.

Unlike the situation of the Netherlands Antilles whereby St. Eustatius would have a representative in the Senate - and depending on the coalition, also a representative in government - St. Eustatius does not have any representative whatsoever in the Parliament or the Senate of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, said bodies - the legislature - create and implement laws that are applicable on St. Eustatius.

It was agreed upon by all partners within the Kingdom of the Netherlands that there would be an evaluation of the current status after a period of 5 years. As such, the evaluation will take place in 2015.

In light of the aforementioned, the people of St. Eustatius are adamantly of the opinion that they have not exercised their right to self-determination, and as such have been denied said right, as they have not freely determined their political status or the chance to decide how to pursue their own economic, social and cultural development. According to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV), any change of status should “be the freely expressed wishes of the territory’s people acting with full knowledge of the change of their status…”

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