26 January 2012

St. Eustatius Coalition Government Dissolves

ST. EUSTATIUS--The Coalition of Hope Government collapsed Wednesday after coalition member United People's Coalition (UPC) headed by Reginald Zaandam withdrew its support.
There were no indications up to press time of any attempts being made to form a new government.

UPC informed its coalition partners Progressive Labour Party (PLP) and St. Eustatius Empowerment Party (STEP) of its decision in a tersely worded letter Wednesday.

UPC said in its letter sent to Franklin Brown of STEP: "Through this letter, we would like to inform you that effected [sic] today, we of the United People's Coalition are withdrawing our support from the present coalition. This decision is based upon the fact that our organisation is convinced that the people's business is no longer the first priority anymore of this coalition; therefore, we do not feel comfortable anymore in being part of the coalition of hope."

The letter was signed by UPC President D. Simmons, Acting Secretary E. Henriquez and party leader R. Zaandam.
PLP leader Clyde van Putten could not be reached for comment Wednesday. According to STEP's Brown, the UPC decision caught him by surprise.

News about the fall of government broke and spread like wildfire through the island of St. Eustatius around 2:30pm on Wednesday.

Initially Zaandam declined to comment on early reports that the government had fallen, but he confirmed later that UPC had withdrawn its support. He said he had written letters to Commissioner and PLP leader Clyde van Putten, Councilman Franklin Brown of STEP and Governor Gerald Berkel.
Zaandam said it was a very emotional time, but it was something he had to do. He promised to release a detailed statement at a later time.

The Coalition Government started unravelling around the time of the ousting of Glennville Schmidt as Finance Commissioner – a development that drew a negative reaction from the community with persons suggesting that Coalition of Hope heads should pack their bags and go home.

Relations within the coalition worsened around mid-January after Commissioner van Putten's executive assistant Laurens Duiveman tendered his resignation for reasons still not very clear.

Around that time, Zaandam opened negotiations with the Democratic Party about forming a new government, but those talks collapsed, the UPC patched up its differences with its coalition partners and the Coalition of Hope survived.
The DP holds two seats in the Island Council, with UPC, PLP and STEP holding one seat each.

The news of the coalition's demise was greeted with the honking of horns and cheers in the streets by some residents, and with disbelief by others who sought confirmation.
However, generally, residents seemed to have been caught by surprise, especially as Commissioner van Putten had scheduled an important session with farmers that was expected to be held in Vincent Astor Lopes Legislative Hall on Wednesday evening

Some of Zaandam's loyal supporters were at his side after he had submitted the letters.

Some groups were upset about what had transpired during the last Island Council meeting. In particular, there was criticism of Commissioner van Putten for "name-calling"

DP leader Rueben Merkman said the coalition's collapse came as a huge surprise to him and to other DP members.
STEP leader Franklin Brown said UPC's withdrawal of support from the Coalition of Hope was a surprise to him. He said he had been in a board meeting discussing what STEP's next move should be when he had received the news.
Brown also said that based on what had transpired earlier Wednesday, he didn't see enough grounds to throw down a government. Questioned about what exactly had transpired, Brown suggested that that question be put to UPC.

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