Category Archives: Opinions

A referendum is a very tricky thing

(from DH 22 Feb) Dear Editor,

I’ve read the article of Mr. Zaandam on your opinion page and I feel the need to react. He is promoting a referendum for Statia without properly motivating the reasons for this and especially not offering an alternative status. This can only lead to confusion and maybe that is the whole intention. The only possible status without interference from Holland is independence. Every day it is clear that Holland will intervene in St. Maarten, Aruba and Curaçao if the well being of the people is severely threatened.

If Mr. Zaandam is promoting a status away from the colonial power then he should say so. A referendum is a very tricky thing. You don’t know what people will vote for. When you go out promoting separate status they may very well vote for full integration. Whatever you do you must be fair and honest with the people and explain the alternatives well. I’m now in Colombia and it is rumoured that about 60 Statia people are here some receiving medical attention and some as chaperones. The fact is that our people have gained access to a level of healthcare that was  probably never before available to us. For sure not in such great numbers. This is definitely one of the success stories for the situation after 10-10-10. A lot of talk was going around that the former constitutional reform was rushed and things were not worked out properly. Do we know enough about our current status to make an informed choice about whether it is good or bad? Are we truly thinking about the people? We should examine the motives behind the call for a referendum. The only one I’ve heard so far is that the people did not get the chance to voice their opinion about the current constitutional state. We may not have had a referendum but Statia people voiced their  opinion by means of a vote on at least two separate occasions. The reason no referendum was held was because there was no call for a referendum at that time. The people who were living in St. Eustatius at the time would know this. I am deeply concerned about the racism issue that is being promoted by Mr. Zaandam and others, and the nonsense that all Dutch people working on the islands are double agents or spies for the Dutch Government. Mr. Spanner was like a fly in a glass of milk when he and his Caucasian friends marched to the governor’s office to protest the NuStar expansion project. Now he is again playing the racism card. It is remarkable how chubby we can get with our Caucasian friends when we need them. I see a lot of Dutch people on the island and I don’t believe they are all working here, I think that many are visiting. Can we really afford to  discourage any tourists white, black or otherwise from coming to Statia? I wonder what the business community will think about that. I don’t know where this racism thing is coming from, but I think we should stop with the nonsense. Mr. Zaandam and the UPC is dead and they are looking for an issue to go into the next election. Wiels in Curaçao campaigned for independence and when he won the election his government’s first act of business was to sign for separate status in the Ridderzaal in Holland, agreeing with all the consensus laws that he so strongly campaigned against. He took the trip, collected his daily allowance and no one saw him at the event. It is all cheap politics. We should fight to improve our status where and whenever possible; we won’t fix everything and there will be setbacks that we must deal with constantly. We must have a long term plan to broaden our economic base, increase our income and improve our balance sheet so that we can do more ourselves for the people of Statia. Open your eyes people Holland is closing the pipe on Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten while it remains open in Statia, Saba and Bonaire during these challenging economic times. Forget the colonial nonsense and the popularity contest let us take our time and really look at our opportunities. Put the real reasons that you want a referendum on the table and explain to the people of Statia how this will benefit them.

Ernie Simmons

 

Chairman of the DP

 

Commissioner Sneek: “Don’t be misguided or mislead!”

Don’t be misguided or mislead!

There were two articles in the Daily Herald that warrant a response. On Friday we could read a rather one sided article with the title “Island Governor under fire in island council meeting”. On Saturday in a letter to the editor, councilman Zaandam explained his take on Dutch interference.

I assume the writer of the first article is the local correspondent of the Herald. My advice to the correspondent is when writing an article always try to highlight both sides of the discussions in the island council. When you for instance write about a complaint by councilman Zaandam that the definite decision list for the CN week was not presented to the Island Council, you should also mention the statement by council lady Spanner where she said that this topic had been on the agenda of the central committee three times. Next time also mention that commissioner Sneek stated that, although there is still room for improvement, many documents and information is shared with the island council, both on request and voluntarily. This contrary to the policy of the former coalition of hope, of which Zaandam claimed to be the leader, where absolutely no information was shared by the then executive council. No information was shared with the opposition at all and later it became clear that even the coalition members were kept in the dark. The latter was the main reason that led to the demise of the coalition of hope.

The main bone of content the opposition has with the executive council is that the latter is not willing to provide private information of civil servants or that of applicants who applied for government jobs. The fact that this type of information is protected by privacy protection laws is something that seems difficult for the opposition to accept. Also, in their quest for attaining said information, they are scrupulously misusing the trust of civil servants and force them to ignore their pledge of confidentiality by supplying them with the information.

And further to respond to the letter to the editor by councilman Zaandam in the Saturday paper one can Google the opening lines of the letter.  When doing so you will notice that the councilman is not using his own words, but is committing plagiarism. He is literally using the text throughout his letter of a brief by the first president of Ghana Mr. Kwame Nkrumah. Mr. Nkrumah was a communist politician (Marxist), who eventually was ousted in 1966, leaving his country with a, for those times, astronomical debt of 1 billion dollars.

If this is the example and the path councilman Zaandam intents for Statia to follow, I would say, Statians be aware.

Without any substantiation Zaandam is comparing the constitutional status our island is in with the struggle for independence of African countries in the 50s and 60s of last century, when these countries were fighting to get out of the colonial status they were in. He tries to convince us that more than half a century later Statia is fighting a similar battle. It is clear that he willfully tries to blur the vision of the people and this makes one wonder what his ulterior motives are.

Councilman Zaandam makes us to believe that the status as public entity we are in is bad and that it is driven by ulterior motives of Holland supported by the Executive Council. I am convinced that the majority of the people of Statia know that this is utter nonsense and seemingly only used by the councilman the cover up his ulterior motives. In this respect councilman Brown at least plays his cards openly. In many island council meetings Mr. Brown has already professed that his business interests is mostly what is driving him.

When you continue reading the letter of Zaandam, you wonder why is he so vehemently against informing the people about the fact that the situation the island is in has rapidly improved since 10-10-10. It is for everyone visible that the quality of education is improving and that fast amounts of moneys is being invested in the school infrastructure. It is for everyone visible that the quality of healthcare has improved drastically and that through the introduction of general healthcare insurance for all residents, working or not working, everyone is entitled to the same standard of healthcare, while in the past many of us were uninsured.  As a result of the threshold in the income tax of close to 12 thousand dollar, many of us are receiving healthcare without any cost. Is this really bad?

We complain about minimum wage, old age pension and rental subsidy and rightfully so. Our bench marks need to be the level of service in the European part of the Netherlands. But one cannot but agree that there is already some improvement. Our minimum wage is the highest in the BES. St. Maarten is struggling to increase their AOV to one thousand guilders (550 dollars). Our old age pension presently is US $ 609.

Can you imagine that Statia is following Zaandam’s train of thoughts and we opt for instance for a status similar to that of St. Maarten? I have made a calculation of the budget necessary to run our island on the level of today. This calculation is based on the total amount of 230 million Euros per year that is spend by the central government on the three islands. For Statia that comes down to an amount of approximately 64 million dollars. In taxes and healthcare premiums an estimated amount of 15 million is collected on our island. This means there is a deficit of about 49 million dollars. This does not include the backlog the island has in infrastructure as a result of being a part of the former Netherlands Antilles, which can be calculated roughly at an amount between 50 and 60 million dollars. A six grader can do the math.

It is very difficult to ignore that in the last island council meeting and also in the letter by Zaandam the race card is presented. It is very unfortunate that he, and others as well, are attempting to set up our local population against European Dutch who are assisting us to get our household in order. I am living on Statia for more than 25 years and have always experienced our Statia people as very open minded and liberal towards anyone coming from outside.

The previous governments were unsuccessful to clear up the financial household of government and to improve the organizational structure. Long drawn out vacancy procedures did not result in attracting quality personnel. The present government has successfully attracted a few highly qualified individuals, who are contracted on a temporary basis, to assist with the upgrading and improvement of the government apparatus. The results are clearly visible. The government finances within a year have turned from a deficit in 2011 to a surplus in the budget of 2012. The performance of the civil service is improving from day to day. As I stated these individuals are contracted on a temporary basis. One of their assignments is that during their tenure they have to prepare a local counterpart to be able to take over at the end of their assignment. In particular in the finance department I see already great improvements as a result of this.

Zaandam in his hysteria against his so-called neo-colonialism even attacks the possibility the BES islands have since 10-10-10 to obtain interest free loans. In his opinion it strengthens the dependency of the islands and therefore self governance and dignity of the people will be eroded. I completely have lost it here. The institution of interest free loans in my opinion is, similar to the possibility of individuals to acquire a mortgage for their home, to strengthen the position of the island. This however does not mean that we have to over burden our budget with annual loan repayments. The main focus should be to accelerate the improvement of government, our infrastructure and economic development. As stressed by our executive council time and again, we still have to and we will hold the central government responsible to assist us to fund our back log in infrastructure. The “referentiekader” research clearly states that the cost of this has not been taken into consideration by establishing the amount of the free allowance.

As is stated in the law WOLBES, an evaluation has to take place in 2015. Leading to this evaluation process and during the actual evaluation, everyone has the right to express his or her opinion, we the inhabitants of the BES islands as well as the central government. We do not have to agree with all the statements and points of view. Important is that the three BES islands on all levels of society will play an active role. My advice in this is to listen to all arguments and try to separate facts from emotional rhetoric. The end result of this evaluation has to outline a status that is best for our island and our people, no matter what status at the end of the day this will be. During the remainder of the period until 2015 it is the task of our government and that of the central government to improve the status we are presently in.

In the meantime we Statians need to keep on educating ourselves and don’t be misguided or mislead.

Commissioner Koos Sneek

My take on Dutch interference

(DH 15 Feb 13) Dear Editor,

In order to halt the colonial power interference in the affairs of developing islands, it is necessary to study, understand, expose and actively combat that interference in whatever guise it may appear. For the methods of the inference of the colonial power are not easy to notice and manifest themselves in different forms. They operate not only in the economic field, but also in the political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres.

History furnishes innumerable proofs that the moment it is clear that the colonial power is faced with the militant peoples of the ex-colonial territory, they simply switch tactics. This means, they will depart and claim that they are giving “autonomy” to their former subjects, to be followed by “aid” for their development. Under cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism.

In Statia, that interference is now visible not only in the economical, but more specially in the political field. This disguise of the colonial power is clearly noticeable in the stance of the Executive Council of Statia in dealing with constitutional status. This Executive Council, contrary to the position of the factions in the Island Council, believes and also makes use of every opportunity to convince the people of Statia that nothing is wrong with the status. It is up to Statia to sit with Holland and negotiate better conditions for the people of Statia.

This is strongly supported by Holland. According to them, the evaluation of 2015 will mainly focus on fine-tuning the current constitutional structure and the Kingdom consensus laws. Now already, they are emphasizing when talking about the status that it would not be wise to opt for a different constitutional structure. These words are a testament of how Holland is gearing up towards the evaluation of 2015.

As a result of that, a disturbing trend within the governmental structure of Statia is getting more and more traction. Non-Caucasians in key positions within that structure are being transferred under questionable circumstances to make place for Caucasians. The Caucasians are coming in, most of the time, under the guise of hired consultants and shortly after that, being appointed. This development, fully supported by the collaborators within Statia’s community and backed by the kingdom representative as the puppet-master supreme, indicates only one thing and that is: slowly, but surely, the colonial power is becoming the shadow government of Statia. Therefore, as a people, now is the time to stand up and fight for our rights and forge the path towards a referendum.

Another handy tool used by the puppet-master is the availability of interest-free loans. These loans are being promoted with a strong emphasis on the goodheartedness of the colonial power, as the so-called effort to help develop Statia. Placing this in proper perspective, the conclusion is that making use of these loans strengthens the dependency and therefore the little that is left of self-governance and dignity of our people on this island is further eroded and as a result of that, the grip of the colonial power becomes more and more constricted.

The imbalance in the Executive Council allows the main puppet in that council to execute their devious plan with methodical thoroughness and touching attention to detail, evidence of which can already be seen within the governmental structure.

One thing is sure: the moment they realize that the process of enlightenment is being executed and that will lead to the emancipation of the people’s mind from mental slavery, they and their collaborators in Statia will not hesitate to portray this process as racial. As citizens you should be strong and keep your focus. Moreover, never allow yourselves to fall for that ploy. In a post-colonial world, in which we are all dealing with our unconscious assumptions about racism, sexism, imperialism and capitalism as normative, it is imperative that you understand what is going on. Just remember, keeping us as second-class citizens is without any doubt racial.

We as a people must stand strong in times of change. It is the responsibility and duty of the strongest among us to work for all who are in need, battling always for equality, fairness and peace.

Having waded through all this, however, we have begun to understand only the basic methods of neocolonialism. The full extent of its inventiveness is far from exhausted. Acknowledging this interference proves beyond doubt that neocolonialism is not a sign of imperialism’s strength, but rather of its last hideous gasp. It testifies to its inability to rule any longer by old methods. Independence and/or country status within the Kingdom is a luxury it can no longer afford to permit its subject peoples, so that even what it claims to have “given,” it now seeks to take away.

Reginald C. Zaandam

Message to the Dutch First Chamber by Jacintha Brice

Message to the Dutch First Chamber as compiled by members of the Statian community

January 2013 (published on the website of OCAN)

written by Jacintha Brice.

Introduction:

Actress  Julia Roberts acted as the wicked spoiled queen who lived her life large.

The beautiful parties, a wonderful palace and all the luxeries one could afford. However she could not afford it. She taxed her poor and needy villagers to death, and when there was nothing left she taxed them for nothing aswell.The village that was once bright with song, dance and laughter turned  dismal and dreary and all song and dance ceased. As her people cried out for help she laughed and sneered. She was the queen they had to obey!

(The  recent  version of Snowwhite “Mirror, mirror” with main actressJulia Roberts)

Statia is is at the moment suffering the same fate as this above described village. We are scared, angry and being pushed to the place of desperation. Someone needs to hear us and act soon, as we have all seen in recent times how far desperate people can go. Please listen to our plea before it is too late.

The following complaints are written under the the five basic human needs format according to Dr. Glasser:

 

 

1. Survival

– This need is a physiological need, which includes the need for food, shelter, and safety. Because we have genetic instructions to survive, not only as individuals but as a species, this includes the need to reproduce.(source internet)

On Statia:

Water: We do not have water. There are no rivers and streams on our little island and although we are surrounded by lots of it we do not have enough to survive. We rely solely on the rain, if there is no rain, we have no water. At my home we recently spent $163.22 (124.43euro) for 14.6 M3 of water.  But before it could be delivered we waited one week! We showered at friends, bought bottled water 3 liters $3.25. And that is how we survived. If you do not have the money and many don’t, no shower, no clean clothes, no cooking or cleaning, this is a reality on Statia.

Food: Our meals never came cheaply. Long ago People planted and there was enough for everybody. As the population grew and land and water became scarce, storms destoyed our vegatation, demands changed, local farmers could not consistently meet the demands, and folks we forced to purchase their food at the local supermarkets.

 Our local supermarket buy their stuff from America or The Netherlands via St. Maarten. Cargo makes one or two stops before it reaches us and no middle man works for free. St. Maarten has its own taxes which are also added and there you go:

Food prices from the American market + freight to St. Maarten= St. Maarten’s price + profit, freight and tax + Freight from St. Maarten to Statia + 6% total of the goods+ 6% frieight, (if it is directly from Holland or anyother international port, they charge 6% on the freight from the country of origin) + harbor fees + supermarket’s daily expenses +profit=consumer price!

That is hoping the consumers can afford it. They often can’t!

They charge taxes before you have the chance to verify if the cargo arrived so often you pay for something that is not even there, with no apologies it is a done deal! A basic need like food is not so basic. On average with a family of 4 to eat the basics, one would spend about  $500-$1200 monthly!

Shelter: The Dutch arrived looked around at our large homes and thought”these people must have money their homes are large”.

Yes, some of them are, but they were not built with money but with love!

Example: One neighbor calls to the other “next week I’m pouring” and all hands joined in. We have a local collection “system” (Padna Han) that carried over from slavery where we would save each other cash as we added our own share. And we would agree to the amount, when and whom wanted their cash.

As one would get ready to complete the first fase of their home, the foundation, they would request their “padna han” and buy the cement.

We would dig for our own sand with our own hands, transport it with a friends truck, together we would mix the mortar to build and make the blocks for the next fase ect. That is how it was done! Not with any help from government but by friends and neighbors sometimes until way after sundown with torch lights, get enough sleep to be ready for the next day’s day job.There are no general housing commitees on Statia, no building or rent subsidees, we need shelter and we have to build it ourselves, no choice!

Safety: We once felt safe and confident however we are very concerned that crime which has already increased will escalate. Our leaders have disapointed us and sold our souls how can one feel safe under these conditions.

 

2Love & Belonging

– This need and the following three needs are psychological needs. The need to love and belong includes the need for relationships, social connections, to give and receive affection and to feel part of a group (source internet)

Since 10-10-10 we are seeing an increase divisions. We once coexisted with foreigners  without  making anything an issue there was no need, now there is a distrust of everything that is Dutch, people feel a need to be defensive,and segregation is developing simply because there is a lack of equality in terms of communication and decision making. Locals are angry and frustrated and are placing the blame on the innocent who has nothing to do with the power game, and only want to help.  

3. Power

-To be powerful is to achieve, to be competent, to be skilled, to be recognized for our achievements and skill, to be listened to and have a sense of self worth. (source internet)

On Statia:

We have lost our power as a people to achieve, as with the above mentioned house. We had something no one could take away from us: the feeling that if we had a dream, worked hard enough to achieve, it  would be done, and the results would stand, literally. Building a home on Statia is not about economic status, building a home on Statia is about, the pride of perseverance, personal creativity (we would design them ourselves) willpower, and the pride and strength of managing enough funds to complete it. Completing a home here is directly tied with who you are and your personal power.

To tax our homes and threaten to take them away, you are removing deep emotional bonds,  traditions of togetherness, memories of the pain of the many setbacks, Year and years of toil, hope and despair, removed by a power who simply does not understand. Leave our homes and businesses alone look around many are still being built! Because here it takes us decades per home! Our homes are our symbol of power and strength if you touch them you touch the very core of who we are striving to be, our sense of self-worth.       

4Freedom

– The need to be free is the need for independence, autonomy, to have choices and to be able to take control of the direction of one’s life (source internet)

On Statia:

We are no longer free! We do not feel free. A lady told the story last evening at a meeting where her bank accounts were seized, she could not use her credit card, or her ATM cards as the tax had demanded the bank to seize it all. Because according to them she owed them. Minimum wage on Statia is under five dollars an hour. The average none professional employee earns this amount and this is the largest group in our population. Imagine having rent of 400,- to 600,- dollars. Which leaves you with 400,- to spend on groceries and utilities monthly. After which all is spent!

Was there any research done  concerning the spending power of the average Statian before 10-10-10 ?

Yes there is a Poverty report (Mei 2012 Armoede in Caribisch Nederland) why even with this information you do nothing? Worse you add to the cost.

Quick look at the average monthly salary& expenses for a Statian:

·          Salary $900,-

·          Food $500,-

·          Shelter $400,-

·          Transportation $ 200,-

·          Cooking gas 120,-  (100 pound bottle)

·          Cable $55

·          Internet  $ 139,- (very poor, very slow)

·          Clothing $80

·          Telephone $100

Which leave us with a personal deficit of 594,- monthly and this the reality! And the same fate befalls small business owners who cannot afford to pay himself a salary after all expenses have been paid.

You see our beautiful vehicles, but are you aware that we have no form of public transportation save for the school children?

Are you aware that we need to purchase our vehicles overseas as we do not have car dealers on the island? You profit from the inevitable fact by charging 25% for us to bring the much needed vehicles in.

Do you realise with our horrendous roads and harsh climates that we need (not want) these vehicles  to move around.

Do you realise that those beautiful vehicles are owned by the banks, offered by banks at high-end car shows.

 

First chamber members how can our people be free when:

·          We have no safe running city water?

·          We have no proper roads?

·          We cannot afford groceries and are constantly getting sick because of malnutrition?

·          Our expensive electricity fails on an average of twice weekly or appliances destroyed, if we are late to pay the bills we are disconnected without warning! and no one to complain to?

·          You have tested and proven that our educational system is way below average level and we are losing our brightest minds

·          No proper healthcare for our people we are losing the best literally to death because of lack in proper care. Often after two or three improper diagnosis they are sent overseas and hopefully they are not too late. Too late have been the fate of many!

·          Hygiene facilities not up to par. Flies and mosquitoes are overwhelming and dangerous, dengue a disease for years unheard of is back in full force

·          Dumping facilities not organized, garbage strewn all over our roads and animals ravage the remains, leaving a disgusting sight and smell for all. No recycling possibilities

·          No structured and consistent afterschool programs for our youth

·          Debris from our dump enters our seas and destroys marine life.

·          The resilient and consistent roaming of farm animals, destroy the little that we dare call an infrastructure.

·          To travel off island (mostly because of a need not a want) one can only travel  by Winair  (local and European owned), tickets cost us per person 202,- dollars plus $15,- for exit tax. Imagine travelling with a family of 5!

·          Where in Holland do you pay 155 euro to visit your  relative who resides in another town or village? This is our reality!

·          When you cannot find workers in The Netherlands you open doors for foreigners to come in and help. Since 10-10-10 you have made it next impossible  to bring labourers from neighbouring St. Maarten. Before this date if we needed someone we placed an ad and workers with Antilleans rights of residency could come and work here, now that is blocked and we are in dreadful need of help and you are not forthcoming.

·          Where in Holland do you send a gift to a relative in the next province and you are heavily taxed for that gift?

·          We no longer have a full functioning postal service did you know?

·          Our harbour facilities are a mess, boat arrives with perishable goods, harbour truck is broken down our stuff stays there and spoil if a local will not cease his own work and use his truck to transport the containers. Cargo Boat come in late no lights at the warehouse . They close whenever they please ignoring their own hours of business signs, and we just have to wait for our expensive goods hoping that they are not spoiled until the warehouse can again open.

·          We often do not have petrol to keep our cars going, no public transportation exists so what do you do?

·          Our roads are no longer  properly lit, and I know of a case where a lady twisted her ankle because she did not see the pothole in the dark.

·          Our police force is crying out for help they do not have enough officers and/or facilities to support the growing crime on our island

·          Internet is very poor and expensive, (see above) telephone cost is out of control.

·          Government Service is nonexistent they do not even bother to answer a letter and sometimes the telephone. Many project proposals by locals are left in files never to resurface.

·          Before 10-10-10 Buildings were tendered to local contractors  and everyone had a fair chance to bid and receive a project.

We recently saw a new building built, heard of an architect working on designing new government projects but all done without the knowledge of the people, are we Free!??

·          Are we free when new tax laws are being implemented without our knowledge or our input? and when we can’t or refuse to pay our salaries are seized, and our accounts blocked!

·          Are we free when, to make ends meet we have to work an average of 14 hours a day on our side businesses and/or jobs? And every cent earned next to our full time job is taxed! By you?

·          Are we free when we have to pay retroactive tax, from a country that ceased to exist to a country that is we are not fully a part of, where benefits are concerned, and refuses to understand our pain?

·          Are we free when the country is siding with our local leaders whom the majority for years have trusted and who have brought us into this desperate, horrendous mess?

·          There is no way you will enter a dirty, unkempt village restaurant and pay the price of Michelin restaurant. This is the situation now on Statia. You make us pay a service that we are not receiving with only empty promises.

·          How can we be free when many of  our laws (and all laws are meant for liberty and equality of the people) are in a language 90% of our people cannot read and understand!   

·          We have a billion dollar company destroying our land and seas and throwing crumbs next to our plates,throwing their heads back in laughter, with your consent.

·          So now we are sick blind and broke,…. you cut the insurances and what little hope of healing we had, too is gone.

·          I could go on and on but these are the basics. Shame on you for taking us back to a system that was abolished since 1863. You claim to have grown and changed and would never do it again, but as love blinds greed also blinds, and you did it again!  

 

5. Fun

– The need for fun is the need to find pleasure, to play and to laugh. Should you doubt that this is as important as any of the others, imagine a life without hope of any enjoyment. Glasser links the need for fun to learning. All of the higher animals (dogs, dolphins, primates, etc.) play. As they play, they learn important life skills. Human beings are no different. It is true that “play is a child’s work.” (source internet)

On Statia:

This here is our strength and downfall simultaneously. We dance, and are merry, make jokes  and smile. The last crumbs that we can muster we use to distract ourselves from the grief and pain we face daily. Most of us cannot afford vacations so we do without and continue to create fun.

 However one warning; even that God given ability is being lost. And when as the final basic human need namely our ability to have fun is gone. Something awful will happen. We people of Statia dread to think of what can happen, so we are beseeching you chamber members. Return to the drawing board,  we demand a new referendum, and research into which status best fits our island,Financially, Geographically, socially and economically.

Our local leaders have failed miserably and you are just behind. We will no longer stand for this we want to laugh again. Final most important need!

Opinion: Paint Box Woes

Dear editor,

Please allow me a few minutes of your time as I address a matter that burdens me: Statia’s paint box woes

Let me explain. Since the new constitutional status much has changed for the island and its people. There are the issues of cost of living, taxes and health insurance. All major issues that need to be dealt with. And, let us not forget the constitutional evaluation upcoming in 2015. 

Many thought that the constitutional change would mean a clean slate. Better days ahead. The Dutch government would come in and solve all the structural problems that we have failed to address, or for years have disguised by rampant nepotism, non transparent governance and a general lack of vision and perspective on behalf of past governments. For the sake of argument let us code this situation as: orange.

Then there were elections. All parties were in gear. Standing on their various podiums, presenting on tv, visiting homes, making (empty) promises and promising to eliminate the “stench” of the Democratic Party.  That party who we code “red”,  was done away with and in its place we had the “coalition of hope”.  Let’s term the coalition “green” as their rhetoric promised better days for Statia and all Statians. Within no time, “green” was replaced. For sadly, the grass on the other side of the fence proved to be full of “weeds” such as: lack of trust, again nepotism, incredulous and exorbitant  salaries, gigantic ego’s, and a blatant disregard for the people. Yet there was still some hope, and the once “green”  grass was now “yellow”.  Not surprisingly, colours changed again and  “yellow” mixed with “red” and then everyone was back to square one.

But now comes the interesting part: what has really changed for the people beside the colours?! Did the price of consumer goods level out?! Were the roads improved?! Have the cows stopped roaming the streets endangering lives and property?! What about taxes, health care and the general welfare of the people?! Is the Statian population generally content  with the current state of affairs on the island?!

When I take out my 5 year olds paint box and I mix together all the colours mentioned above; do you know what I get? A big black mess! And that is what is going to happen to Statia unless ALL politicians put away their painting boxes and take care of the people’s business. For once and for all stop this silliness! About “black” and “caucasian”, personalities, egos and nepotism. There is no bliss in ignorance!

 Instead, recognize and accept that YOU ALL were at fault, YOU ALL  messed up, and therefore YOU ALL owe it to the people to make things better!

Stop this foolishness, put aside your pride, band together and fight for the right and future of your country, your people! Realize for once and for all,this is not about you. This is about the people! And also realize that while you are debating colour, your counterparts across the ocean are debating and drafting amendments and deciding Statia’s future. And if that happens which colour will you blame then?!

 

Jean Marie Molina.

 

 

DH Editorial: Again?

Talk about throwing a monkey wrench into the current structure of the Dutch Kingdom! The Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM), by far the majority party in Saba, wants to sever ties with Bonaire and seek closer cooperation with nearby St. Eustatius (see http://www.sabanews.nl/6%20News/0%20Saba%20WWW/wordpress/?p=9799). Bonaire is where the Dutch Government’s services for the Caribbean Netherlands now are headquartered. One hardly can argue with the argument that the distance to Bonaire is relatively great. On the other hand, that obviously was known beforehand when it was agreed to make the three “smaller islands” overseas special public entities of The Netherlands in dismantling Netherlands Antilles per 10-10-10, with Curaçao and St. Maarten becoming autonomous countries within the Dutch Kingdom as was the case for Aruba when it left the Antillean constellation back in 1986. By the same token, considering that Bonaire is the largest of the three public entities, one also could have foreseen the Dutch Government’s presence to be most prevalent there. Still, it is understandable that the latter can lead to some discontent in Statia and Saba, having gotten away from a long history of frustrating dependence on the no-longer-existent Central Government in just-as-far-away Curaçao.

The question is how practical it would be to decentralise the national services in question even further, considering the limited scale. If it involves added expenses, which is almost certainly the case, The Hague is unlikely to be favourable towards the request, taking into account the fi nancial issues and budgetary measures in the European part of The Netherlands.

The stance taken by WIPM also is bound to be frowned on by people in the entire Dutch Caribbean who were happy the constitutional quagmire that for decades took so much in terms of effort and resources of the islands finally seemed resolved. A lot of support within the Kingdom – other than perhaps from St. Eustatius – therefore realistically cannot be expected. Of course, it is said “the voice of the people is the voice of God,” so if this matter were to be made an election issue and/or the subject of – yet another – referendum with possible involvement of the United Nations (UN) the final outcome would be far from clear. That is not necessarily a good thing, because clarity and stability rather than more confusion is what the Dutch Caribbean and the Kingdom as a whole can best use at this juncture.

“We should care,” says Ganzevoort

By Suzanne Koelega

THE HAGUE–Making space for others and their views. It is this motto that Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ruard Ganzevoort of the green left party Groen- Links, professor of practical theology and former preacher also applies in his approach towards the Dutch Caribbean. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t critical about some  developments, especially in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the Caribbean part of The Netherlands. The burden of too many taxes and regulations, the steep prices, high airfare between the Windward Islands, a trimmed health care package and the lack of commitment to assist where help is really needed bothers him. According to Ganzevoort (47), a member of the First Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations and part of the delegation that visited the islands early January 2013, The Netherlands is especially over-regulating in the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

“While on the islands it became clear to me that we are doing too much. We can do without so much legislation, especially considering the small scale of these islands. Take infrastructure. Prohibiting the dumping of waste water is beautiful but what good does it do when you have no sewage lines. The islands are plagued by regulations that are quite impossible to execute.” The new tax structure that The Netherlands implemented on the public entities is another example of too much and too complicated, according to Ganzevoort. Instead of making things too complicated, authorities should work on a better tax compliance. “The number of people paying taxes should go up. There are too many tax evaders. Authorities should not compensate with higher taxes because you punish those people that already comply. Higher tax compliance will result in more income for local government which means that there is more money for improvement of infrastructure and social facilities,” said Ganzevoort.

The Senator sees a solution for the increasing poverty in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba by tackling three issues: increasing salaries, lowering of (food) prices and a better tax compliance. “in my opinion the solution lies within that triangle,” he said.  

Combined effort  

According to Ganzevoort the solution would have to be a combined effort of the local government and the business sector in consultation with The Netherlands, Curaçao and St. Maarten. The latter two countries have a big influence on the prices of goods because they serve as transhipment points and in many cases taxes are levied on products that go to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Ganzevoort said that when he visited the islands with a delegation of the Senate he became well aware of the urgency of the situation and the need for a solution. “Many people simply do not manage and that is unacceptable.” The high prices, the steep cost of living increase, the low wages and elderly allowance AOV, health care and the role of local government were recurring topics during the meet and greet gatherings that the Senate’s delegation attended in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The December 21 decision of Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers to restrict the health care insurance package in the Caribbean Netherlands per January 1, 2013 is not wise, said Ganzevoort. As a matter of fact, the entire First Chamber is objecting to this decision which was taken without consulting the islands.

 Killing health care 

“You run the risk of killing the local health care system,” said Ganzevoort. He said the principle of making the system equal to that of The Netherlands doesn’t apply because it is not a level playing field: people on the islands cannot take additional health insurance and cannot switch health care providers. “Measures to cut cost are always painful but you cannot transplant the system one on one.”

Overall there are three larger issues that need to be solved in the Caribbean Netherlands: fewer regulations/legislation, clearing the backlog especially where it comes to infrastructure, working on truly better relations and more cooperation among the partners in the Kingdom.

Firstly, it is important to determine which laws and regulations are really needed and which are not. Overregulation makes no sense, said Ganzevoort. Secondly, “We also have to look at the aspects that have not been cleared and check what is really necessary such as the infrastructure. For example, the roads in St. Eustatius and a water distribution system in Saba; aspects that were never addressed when the islands were part of the Netherlands Antilles.”

Thirdly, partners in the Kingdom have to constructively look at ways to improve relations and cooperation. Fact of the matter is that St. Eustatius and Saba will remain dependent on St. Maarten. Cooperation with surrounding islands is essential. We have to approach this as a network, see what is possible not only geographically with other islands but also with organisations, NGO’s,” said Ganzevoort.  

High airfare 

The Senator was struck by the high prices of air tickets in the Windward Islands. He agreed with residents and governments of St. Eustatius and Saba that this has an adverse effect on the accessibility of the islands and the economic development in general. He said it was important to determine the exact cause of the high prices and who is responsible.

Asked if Winair should be considered a form of public transportation which should be subsidised by government just like the Dutch railway company NS, he said that the two cases could not be compared. Also, The Hague would have to look at the cost involved. Ganzevoort agreed that the Dutch Government is partly responsible for good, affordable connection by air. “Fact is that it is a problem. The issue does require a deeper analysis.” He suggested consultations with the St. Maarten airport to see if the airport taxes could be lowered. The problems of St. Maarten are of an entirely different nature. Ganzevoort has respect for the way the largest of the Windward Islands is building a country and the determination to make something of it. But St. Maarten remains fragile, he added. The people whom I spoke with seem to be well aware of the challenges. After all it is a very small country.”

According to Ganzevoort, St. Maarten seems to be searching for its own position in the Kingdom and trying to find a balance in its relationship with The Hague as far as its dependence on The Netherlands while at the same time showing the willingness to cooperate, also in the interest of its sister islands St. Eustatius and Saba.  

Short mandate

 Asked about his impression of the new Curaçao Government, the Senator pointed out that this cabinet as a short mandate. “The question is how things will be in one year. The measures that this government will have to take are very far-reaching. It remains to be seen to what extent the measures can really be executed,” he said. He noted that it will be a challenge to close the gap in the government’s finances. “Fact is that they are taking responsibility and that is very good, also for the people and the relations in the Kingdom,” he said, stressing that his remarks were based on what he had seen and heard during his visit and that by no means he meant to interfere in Curaçao’s own affairs or how Willemstad manages its own finances. How did Ganzevoort end up in the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations last year? “I spent part of my childhood in Suriname. I have a more than average consciousness of the width of the Kingdom and the importance of good relations. I want to contribute to these relations, also from the perspective as to whether the decisions that we take here are good for the islands.”

There is every reason to handle the islands with care and not to lose sight of their interest, said the Senator. “The islands are small and deserve to be treated with care. Democracy is not only power of the majority but also the protection of the minority,” he said, aiming at the role of The Netherlands as the biggest country of the Kingdom.

So why does a preacher who studied theology become a Member of the First Chamber? Because of his motto: making space for others. Diversity, accepting ne another for who they re is important to him. “There is too much polarisation, ertain groups in society are excluded. One political party said that the islands should be put on marktplaats.nl. That is in contradiction with my motto. People from the Dutch Caribbean are citizens of the Kingdom. We should care.

“Good Antilleans can stay, criminals must go back” says Fritsma

~ PVV Member of Parliament Fritsma: without reciprocity no equal partners ~

By Suzanne Koelega

THE HAGUE–Agreed, not all people from the Dutch Caribbean are criminal. In fact the majority are doing well in The Netherlands. But those who trespass the law should be sent back to the islands, applying a sliding scale which takes into account the nature of the committed crime and the time that a person resides in The Netherlands.

Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Sietse Fritsma (40) – and member of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations since September last year – is clear about the vision of his party, the Party for Freedom PVV. “We will keep asking for measures as long as Antilleans are overrepresented in crime statistics and the usual lists of social welfare, unemployment and school dropouts.”

The group called “Antilleans” in The Netherlands, the majority of them being from Curaçao, is not doing well, said Fritsma in an interview with The Daily Herald earlier this week. “Figures show that one third of these youngsters have been in contact with justice. One third is a lot – way too much, if you ask me.”

The main problem is that people from the islands have always been admitted into The Netherlands without any conditions attached. People from The Netherlands, on the other hand, are not allowed to freely take up residency on the islands. “That is very strange, to say the least. That has created an imbalance,” he said.

As long as this imbalance exists, there can never be equality between the partners in the Kingdom, said the Member of Parliament (MP). “We have to be able to set the same conditions. That includes the possibility to send back criminals. As PVV we always had this opinion and that remains unchanged.”

Sure, there is a “large group” from the islands that is doing well in The Netherlands, said Fritsma, when asked if he knew that the majority of the “Antilleans” were good, hardworking people contributing to the Dutch society. There is also a large group of students who aren’t causing problems either, he acknowledged.

No fear

“If one third is not doing well, it means that two thirds are doing well. I am very happy about that. This group should have absolutely no fear of being sent back. People who say that we want to throw out all Antilleans are lying. We never said that,” he said.

However, the issue is the group that is spoiling things for others and causing big problems in The Netherlands. “They are overrepresented in crime statistics, they are committing violent crimes, large numbers are living off social welfare and many are dropping out of school. That is a problem that needs solving. As long as those problems exist, the PVV will keep this issue in the spotlight.”

The PVV is in favour of implementing a system for people from the Dutch Caribbean, whereby the residency of a person and the crime committed is linked to a certain penalty. The system would be a sliding scale format: the shorter the period of residency, the quicker one can be expelled, depending on the type of crime.

“When a person has resided in The Netherlands for a long time, he or she will not be expelled more quickly than a person who has been here for a short while. For a person who has been here for a long time to be expelled, he or she must have committed a very serious offence,” he said.

Fritsma explained that authorities in The Netherlands use a similar system to expel foreigners who get in trouble with the law. Fritsma is also PVV’s spokesperson on immigration affairs. After his study of social geography at Groningen University, he worked at the Immigration and Naturalisation Service IND until he was elected into Parliament in 2006.

Because people from the islands have the Dutch nationality, legal experts question whether it is legally possible to expel these Dutch citizens or refuse them entry to The Netherlands. According to the PVV, both are possible or should become possible. “Curaçao is another country so that justifies the decision to expel or refuse a person. We think that it is possible to treat Dutch citizens from another country differently,” said Fritsma.

Say farewell

It is no secret that the PVV would rather get rid of the Dutch Caribbean partners. In fact, the PVV election programme clearly stated that the party wants to “say farewell” to the islands, including the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Especially Curaçao is a problem, which various PVV politicians have called a “banana republic.”

To emphasise the party’s view of the islands, Fritsma presented a motion during the handling of the 2013 draft budget of Kingdom Relations in October last year which called on the Dutch Government to facilitate the independence of the islands. The motion didn’t make it, but the PVV had made its point.

“Curaçao is a priority candidate for independence,” said Fritsma. “On none of the other islands is there as much political chaos as in Curaçao.” Although he has never visited Curaçao or any of the islands for that matter, Fritsma said he was “shocked” to learn of the “avalanche of craziness” committed under the auspices of the Schotte cabinet when he became PVV’s spokesman for Kingdom Relations. “Debt, reports of corruption, fraud, nepotism, and the list went on.”

PVV’s scepticism of Willemstad remains with the appointment of a new cabinet which wants to restore tranquillity, trust and (economic) stability. “The election results didn’t give us much confidence. Helmin Wiels (Pueblo Soberano), the man who threatened to send Dutch people back in body bags, won,” said the MP.

St. Maarten less chaotic

Fritsma was more positive about St. Maarten. “It isn’t as much of a chaos as it is in Curaçao. But there are problems. St. Maarten is often mentioned in combination with fraud, corruption, drugs and the mafia. Here too applies: St. Maarten should become independent.”

Asked if St. Maarten, St. Eustatius or Saba weren’t too small to become independent, Fritsma said that the solution was more cooperation among the islands, creating (economic) unities. “That is a real possibility. It happens all over the Caribbean region.”

Why should the islands get out of the Kingdom? “Our interest is the Dutch taxpayer. Too much money is going to the islands. It is a one-way relationship dominated by money from the Dutch Government and migration from the islands to The Netherlands. The interests of the Dutch taxpayers have been hurt and compromised,” he said.

The PVV would rather spend the money in The Netherlands. “We have enough problems of our own to solve,” he said. The PVV vehemently protested the payment of the 1.5 billion euro Antillean national debt during the constitutional process to dismantle the Netherlands Antilles.

Fritsma got quite a lecture from his colleagues of other parties in the Second Chamber when he claimed during the handling of the 2013 Kingdom Relations budget that The Netherlands has the right to step out of the Kingdom, just as the islands have that right.

Various constitutional experts have said that a United Nations (UN) regulation on decolonisation prevents The Netherlands from forcing the islands into independence and one-sidedly ending the relations. The right of self-determination lies with the former colonies and not the former coloniser.

No self-determination

But Fritsma remained adamant. “There are also constitutional experts who say that we do have the right to end the relationship. The Netherlands is the only country in the Kingdom that has no right of self-determination or an independent position. Curaçao and the other overseas territories can choose to leave; we can’t. I refuse to believe that we can be held forever hostage by the islands.”

According to Fritsma, clarity should come once and for all on the issue of the right of self-determination. “The central question has never really been answered. And, as it is a recurring topic in the discussions about the islands, it is important that we do. As long as this question remains unanswered, we will keep having differences of opinion.”

Fritsma already has thought of a solution if it turns out that The Netherlands indeed can’t unilaterally end the relationship with the islands. “Then we will have to change the conditions of the UN resolution. The PVV will not accept this as a given, because we find it very strange that we would have no say in this.”

The fact that a large group of some 140,000 people from the Dutch Caribbean live in The Netherlands shouldn’t obstruct the independence of the islands. “The relation with the islands doesn’t have to be in the form of Kingdom ties. The Netherlands has good ties with many countries in the world.”

OPINION: Red has destroyed Statia – part one

 Dear Editor,

A father and a mother create the culture within their home. Domestic culture includes language, the choices in cleanliness, the economic environment and the general feel of the living space. Some parents are violent while others are serene, some totally dysfunctional as others are suffocatingly organised and orderly. Our community home of St. Eustatius is no exception.

Our leaders have, for decades, managed to mould the minds of a once strong, creative, hard-working community into a culture of hopeful dreamers, endorsers and sufferers hoping that soon somehow, someone somewhere will come through, just as superman zooms out of nowhere and saves the hour, will save us.

Red, the colour of life, of blood, the very carrier of life itself, bright, vibrant, attractive. Research has proven this colour mesmerizes even the strongest of minds and Statia has for decades proven this fact (has been mesmerized).

Three groups exist wearing this colour:

Group 1: we trust, we believe, we do not have the luxury of intellect to think for or to research ourselves so we follow the colour. It is pretty– we want to win it always wins, so we vote red.

Group 2: has some intellect and sufficient means to get by. The attitude is: we know what we have and we do not believe this will ever change anyway so we vote red; it is pretty and we forget hat voting is directly linked to our pocketbook or we do not vote at all (which by the way is a vote for red), or vote for a candidate because he or she is a relative, brother or sister in the church or just a friend.

Group 3: The final group thinks as follows: we want to get rich, lots of us already are. We are not community minded and could not care less. We believe we are better, smarter, work harder and deserve more than others. And, we love the way things are in Statia. Oh yes we see many, many areas that can or even should be improved in a matter of weeks. We know of many projects for our people that can be materialised. We know the standard of living could and must be improved. We know the place can be beautiful, our people can be happy and healthy. But, if we keep things the way they are, we benefit, we continue to grow in wealth. So, we convince group 1 and 2 that this is the way things were, are and will be in Statia and that this the best for all and have them, therefore, vote red.

Today, thank you Teacher C, we should remember the frog experiment. You throw a frog in hot water it jumps out; but, if you put a frog in cool water and heat up the water slowly the frog will not budge. It waits and boils in taxes unwarranted and unmerited, in poor education that turns the bright and curious into a ghetto culture of lost youth. We boil in decisions which we were not given the opportunity to study. We boil as we lose our land and our sanity; we boil as we take comfort in the cents they are throwing us grateful for the occasional dime while we deserve thousands. We boil in victimisation,

 To be continued.

Jacintha Brice

(from Daily Herald)

 

Editorial Daily Herald: Homework

It turns out the controversial health care insurance cuts for the Caribbean Netherlands will not go into effect until July 1, rather than per January 1. Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers stated this following much criticism in the three overseas special public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but also from within the Parliament in The Hague.

The minister said a notice of six months for such measures is common in the European part of The Netherlands, but the question remains why that wasn’t applied to the islands from the beginning rather than after the fact when the December 21 decision already had created considerable consternation. It already had been announced earlier this month tht the part regarding physical therapy would be postponed to July, which now also goes for dental care.

The latter is important, because local dentists are making use of the current coverage to provide all residents with a check-up and basic treatment. As not everyone has had a turn yet, this process at least can continue during the next six months.

In general one sometimes wonders whether not necessarily public administrators, but especially high-ranking officials who help make government policy do enough homework regarding the actual circumstances on the ground. Another example is the proposal reported in Saturday’s paper to adjust the Dutch electoral law so that parties only need 10 instead of 30 support signatures in the same three public entities to participate there in elections for the Second Chamber.

While that is probably not such a problem where it concerns the latter, the situation when it comes to elections for the Island Council is completely different. The fact that only 30 signatures were needed, not 10 per cent of the last valid vote total as in Curaçao and St. Maarten, already led to several new parties taking part in the most recent local polls in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. On top of that, these three islands were faced with cancellation of the “seat threshold” system which determined that so-called residual seats could go only to candidate lists that already had earned a seat outright on their own. The result was an unusually high number of one-seat fractions that eventually sparked premature changes in government in both Statia and Bonaire. Rather than worrying so much about Dutch politicians being able to seek votes on the three islands, perhaps the political establishment in The Hague should pay a bit more attention to the relative instability in governing the public entities to which the new regulations apparently have contributed.