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Weblog Kingdom Representative Gilbert Isabella


9. Kingdom Representative Isabella’s update on the progress of the Plan of Action, the Multi Annual Plan and the procedures for appointing a new Island Governor

Dear Residents of St. Eustatius,

For me it is important to update the community of St. Eustatius on developments regarding the Plan of Action, Multi-Annual Plan and procedures for appointing a new Island Governor.

As mentioned at the end of 2015 the Plan of Action provides a number of concrete suggestions and proposed action points, which should lead to the improvement of administrative and decision-making processes on St. Eustatius. For the past several months I have worked together with the Executive Council to start implementing this plan.

The Plan of Action briefly outlines how ‘good governance’ can be achieved and supported. The mentioned action points are based on and are linked mainly to previously identified bottlenecks that were also raised through administrative signals, signals with the civil service and also signals from people of the island.

From January 15th, 2016 until December 31st, 2016, the Minister of the Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations has imposed preliminary supervision. This means that no financial obligations may be entered into at the expense of the 2016 budget of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius unless the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations has approved this. Furthermore, the ban on commitments has been lifted giving the Executive Council more freedom and flexibility to operate.

With the implementation of preliminary supervision the Minister wants to ensure the Executive Council operates within the financial frameworks submitted by the Executive Council and approved by the Island Council and that proper procedures are applied.
Together, we have started with the 10 main priorities that must be tackled. The most important was the filling of important vacancies within the civil service. This is important because, this way, the advisory support to the Executive Council is once again restored.

There are now 2 process managers appointed: Mrs. Patricia Hassell who works on behalf of the Kingdom Representative and Mr. Laurens Duiveman on behalf of the Executive Council. Together, they will ensure that all points of the Plan of Action are prepared for the meeting of the Kingdom Representative and the Executive Council after which the Executive Council will make the necessary decisions.

Other key positions that are to be temporarily filled, with support from the Ministry of the Interior affairs and Kingdom Relations, are Census Office and financial management support. Within short, a new temporary Island Secretary will be appointed. At the same time, the regular process will be started within the framework of the vacant positions, which must be permanently filled.

Meanwhile, the first arrangements were also adjusted: auditing, mandating, control protocol and the regulation for budgetary control. These are important documents for the civil service organization to be able to carry out its work independently and efficiently.

During various visits to St. Eustatius and via a weekly video conference I have held meetings with the Executive Council to discuss the purpose of the plan and how to work out the Plan of Action focusing on the interest of the island and the people of St. Eustatius.

The Plan of Action is a public document, also available in English under publications on the RCN website. Therefore you can read for yourself which are the action points mentioned. Going forward the Executive Council and the Kingdom Representative will communicate jointly on the progress of the Plan of Action.

The Multi-Annual Plan
On the advice of the Kingdom Representative on February 1st the Multi-Annual Plan was signed by Minister of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Mr. Plasterk and Commissioner Mr. Zaandam at the Public Library on St. Eustatius. 

The different ministries have recently, partly as a result of discussions between the Kingdom Representative and Ministers, made available in their budget resources to address specific bottlenecks on the Island. In collaboration with the Executive Council this has resulted in good agreements being laid down in the Multi-Annual Programme for St. Eustatius.

For you as residents of St. Eustatius, this plan contains important projects, which we are now going to work out together with the Executive Council. For example: The Hague has made 6 million dollars available for the road from the harbour to Upper Town. This is a solid investment that will hopefully also stimulate entrepreneurs and the business sector towards economic growth.

The Central Government, together with the local administration, will continue with plans to achieve a common administration building for the RCN and the Public Entity of St. Eustatius. This will greatly improve the working environment for many civil servants and the service to you as inhabitants. There are also extra investments in school swimming for your children, extra activities at Mega D Youth Foundation and the expansion of social services

The Multi-Annual Plan is also a public document, which can be downloaded from the websites of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius or RCN.

A new Island Governor
As of April 1st, 2016, the first term of Gerald Berkel as Island Governor of St. Eustatius comes to an end. Mr. Berkel will not fulfill a second term as Island Governor whereby a vacancy exists for the function. The WOLBES, (the laws governing Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba) outlines legal requirements on how and according to what procedure the Kingdom Representative should provide succession. 

The Central Government is very grateful to Island Governor Berkel for his efforts during the past six years in which he, as Island Governor of St. Eustatius, has lead various Executive Councils of different political compositions. Also, for the way he has always put the interests of the inhabitants of the island first as a guideline for the local government.

In my experience, given the new constitutional changes since 10-10-10, Mr. Berkel has made a valuable contribution to the further developments on St. Eustatius, often under difficult administrative circumstances. His effort, with the Plan of Action to get the administrative organization on the island in order, deserves my utmost respect.

I wish Mr. Berkel and his family the very best. With regards to how his farewell as Island Governor will take place.
The process for finding a suitable candidate for Island Governor of St. Eustatius is ongoing. In the meantime work must continue. Based on article 90 of the WOLBES Mr. Julian Woodley has been appointed acting Island Governor of St. Eustatius. The new acting Island Governor will assume all tasks and responsibilities as Island Governor as of April 1st, 2016. Mr. Woodley was until April 1st acting Kingdom Representative.

We all agree that St. Eustatius is undergoing an important period in its development. I have therefore requested Mr. Woodley to especially focus his attention on continuity of the administrative decision-making processes and the progress of the implementation of the Plan of Action and the Multi-Annual Programme where is mentioned a lot of substantive projects in the interest of the inhabitants. I am counting on a good cooperation among all stakeholders in the interest of St. Eustatius. Mr. Julian Woodley has a long administrative and political career behind him and brings a lot of experience to the table.

All in all, there is much work to be done in the coming months and years to help strengthen the financial and administrative capacity of the Public Entity of St. Eustatius. This goal can be successfully achieved when all parties are working united. As mentioned earlier, priorities have been set in consultation with the Executive Council, important vacancies are being filled temporarily, vacancies of a more permanent nature are top priority, and two process managers are already working on implementing the Plan of Action.

There is a role and responsibility for each person and organization on St. Eustatius. Let us grant each other the support, space and time required to get things working optimally. Together, let us give St. Eustatius the push it deserves in the interest of all the people.

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8. A look at zones of opportunity, brain drain and corporate citizenship in the Caribbean Netherlands

Kingdom Representative for the Public Entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba
GILBERT ISABELLA
A look at zones of opportunity, brain drain and corporate citizenship in the Caribbean Netherlands

Tekst: Sanny Ensing  |  Foto: creativEnvision

Representative, Gilbert Isabella, sits across the table with a smile and starts talking rather fast. He has a lot of ground to cover and knows how to optimize his time. A quick bit of background information and within minutes he arrives at his vision for the three islands that form the Caribbean Netherlands today.

Yu’i Kòrsou
Gilbert Isabella starts off with a grin as he says: “I am a ‘y’i Kòrsou’ (child of Curacao). I was born on Curacao in 1961. My dad was from Curacao and my mom is Dutch. I was raised in The Netherlands. We moved there when I was three years old and I spent my childhood in Holland. That’s why I am a good ice-skater.” 
Isabella studied pedagogy and was a youth worker in the 1980’s. In the beginning of the 1990’s, he was active as a policy advisor for the municipality of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
He reconnected with his Antillean “roots” in Dordrecht as Program Manager of the Antillean policy.   Before his current position as Dutch Caribbean Kingdom Representative, he worked as a commissioner for the municipality of Utrecht for three years. He was a member of the Dutch labor party. “I’ve been on the islands for over a year now and I have a great team of people around me. It is different to be here. I am at the right place at the right moment and that means that I can improve the situation for the Caribbean Netherlands as well as be the voice of the islands in The Hague.”
A Kingdom Representative is appointed for six years. Isabella knows that he needs to work hard for the next five years but “I am not here to sit back, I want to make positive contributions to the islands.”

Zones of Opportunity
The recently published 2015-2018 program for the Dutch Caribbean has some clear recommendations that Isabella embraces – among them sustainable economic development.
 “We have to look at what can be done on the islands economically.
It is beneficial to the island today to be part of the Caribbean Netherlands as it creates a positive investment climate. There is continuity today and it’s up to us to fully make use of that advantage. And of course we have to support the local government,” says Isabella.
With the Dutch connection in place, it is possible to support local start-ups and entrepreneurs. An example is Qredits, a company willing to grant micro-credits to entrepreneurs on the islands. According to Isabella, the question is why we don’t create room for experiments.  He elucidates, “Give the islands a special status so that we can try out certain options that might not initially work in The Netherlands, but could work perfectly well on a small scale like on the islands. Some of the rules and regulations are specifically written with The Netherlands in mind, but need to be adjusted before they can be used on the islands.”
He cites an example: “By initiating a pilot with a predetermined beginning and end, we can take responsibility and push on. In Rotterdam they used certain zones of the city as ‘zones of opportunity (kansenzones).’ They would bend the rules slightly for these specific zones. As long as your arguments are clear and transparent, changes will make room for opportunities to arise.”
According to the Kingdom Representative, one of the first things that need to be done is to create more job opportunities for the youth on the islands. The scale of the islands can be a limitation for entrepreneurship, so we seek opportunities to help free enterprise along.

“Take Patrick, a young man who started his own carwash on Saba.
He borrowed money to rent a piece of land and now needs good equipment.
The first thing that comes to mind is how do we help innovative and inspired youth like Patrick to succeed?” Isabella continues to states his case. “Or take the conch shell in Sint Eustatius. By cultivating the shell and getting certification in place so tourists can take them home, we create more job opportunities. It is all about courage when it comes to entrepreneurship. That’s why I think it is important for businesses to unite so that they can stand strongly together. The government will help make improvements in all areas like education, legislation and much more. The circle is not yet closed and a lot remains to be done, but we need people with courage to start
innovative concepts.”

Brain Drain
Isabella shows a copy of the magazine he helped create called iLanders. It’s an inspirational publication to encourage island youth to return home and shows businesses, organizations and the government the advantages of having these children return. Isabella explains, “I think that it is very important to find a solution to the ‘brain drain’ problem of the islands. The idea is to stimulate the youth of the islands to come back by offering them an internship every year for a few years. That way they return to their home once a year to do an internship and keep the connection with their island alive. They will simultaneously secure a job opportunity back home when they graduate.” He looks at the magazine with pride and says, “This is something I really want to promote and we will start here at RCN (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland).”
It isn’t just a job the iLanders need when they return home, many of them are held back by the prices of real estate on the islands and a the lack of a competitive salary. But Isabella has a solution, “That means we also need to look at good starter homes.
These graduates come home and have been living on their own for the past four years so we need to provide for affordable housing, organize a place to come back to. This is something I am looking into.
We can even offer to pay back part of their study loan when things go well as an extra initiative to come back.”
Gilbert Isabella is looking to innovate and stimulate creativity and continuity, embedded in an open and transparent structure and, according to him, that is also what investors are looking for.  “If we don’t start changing things today, we won’t have anything done tomorrow.”

Corporate Citizenship
On a final note, Isabella mentions corporate citizenship. He is really looking for ways to promote it, because he wants people to know that RCN is not sitting in an ivory tower, that the Kingdom Government is part of the community and part of the islands. “Today we have even managed to create a small budget to sponsor good community initiatives, like getting Nadia Turner, a former American idol finalist, to motivate and speak to young girls in Saba and Sint Eustatius; sponsor t-shirts for junior walks or help out with the ‘Barí’ festival at Mangazina di Rei for example.
The idea is to help each other,
to connect and stand firmly next to each other, to look at the future and to take positive steps forward, together.”


Bron: JOB


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7. Time flies...

In the meantime, time seems to be flying. Time, time… What actually is time? Over the past few months I hardly have had time to think about all new events which I have experienced, the many (often special) people who I have had the honour to meet, the places I have been to, the visits, the conversations… Everything zipped by like a high-speed train, or rather a jet plane.


You can follow where I go and what I experience on my page www.facebook.com/Rijksvertegenwoordiger. I have gotten to know the three islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba better and better over the past few months. I celebrated the holidays, talked to the people, discovered the ideas, the opportunities and the challenges of each island and the residents.


My job as Kingdom Representative comprises various components which usually coincide. Conversations with people and organisations usually come about because there is something to discuss, or because we are making each other’s acquaintance or because a bottleneck needs to be discussed.


I usually have these conversationsat the office building in my office. Wearing my suit and tie, air conditioning blowing and  working in an office building on Bonaire. It might as well be an office or Utrecht. Particularly if you know how much paperwork and work rolls into my office via the PC. Answering e-mails, approving decrees of executive councils, checking ordinances, checking appointments, preparing appointments, video conferences, contacts with all kinds of media: the list is endless.


Fortunately I go out regularly: making people their acquaintance at their homes or their organisation (working visit) and then I see the other side of the multifaceted islands. How people live, where the company is located, what the surroundings look like and what is happening on the islands. Then I can get my jeans out, put on a cap and rub ample sun block. Since I have a skin disorder (vitiligo, which is the loss of pigmentation) I need to rub ample factor 50 sun block and stay out of the sun. And that in the Caribbean region, what a joke.


An important component of my job is the contact with the local government on all three islands. On Bonaire this can be arranged easily because I live there. With video conferences and regular visits to Saba and St. Eustatius I maintain contact with the executive councils on these islands, with the members of the Island Council and the administrative organisations.

Supervising good government, fine-tuning new laws and regulations, contributing ideas to the implementation, talks about the important themes per island, solving bottlenecks which one encounters both administrative-wise and as residents, etc. It is remarkable how much information I receive directly from the population and organisations by now, that is apart from the regular information from the executive councils, newspapers and the media. This gives me a great and wide overview and understanding.


The contact with The Hague and the ministries, ministers, state secretaries and all their officials concerned is just as important for a proper performance of my job. Which is why I regularly fly to The Hague, where I work then for a week. Then I can give feedback to the ministers whom I talk to, I gather information from the various ministries where – and do not underestimate this – I paint a picture of what happens on the islands. Just directly, without the intervention of officials or only based on a note or memo. No: just directly in a conversation. This is how I am fed both from the islands and from The Hague.


The main themes are discussed then.

The fight against poverty: how can we actually concretise this per island with the main partners? What is required? How can I get more attention for people on the islands, who are really having a rough time?

Children’s rights: are the plans going to work to see to it that (certain of) our children on the islands will get a slightly better life?

And how can we effect more momentum in the economic developments per country? There are more than enough plans and projects but now we should implement the right ones and make sure that they really work.


And this is how we work together on a better future for the Caribbean Netherlands. I have found my rhythm.


(20-03-2015)

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6. Visitors from The Netherlands

In my blog number 5 I already mentioned that I was busy making preparations for the arrival of the chairpersons of the Dutch Senate and the Dutch House of Representatives, accompanied by the clerks. A first official visit and I, as Kingdom Representative, together with my team would take care of the escorting. The party would visit all six islands within one week: a brief and tough program, which I know now from experience.


So get up Sunday morning at 05:45 hours to get to the airport on time, heading for Saba via Curaçao, on to St. Maarten. There I met the delegation from the Netherlands. A first - joint - visit of both chairpersons to the Caribbean Netherlands. All of us headed for Saba in the small airplane. This was somewhat nerving for a moment, I could see that from the looks on their faces. Naturally Island Governor Johnson was waiting for us to welcome the guests after the spectacular landing on the shortest runway. After that I gave an explanation of the three islands in the Caribbean Netherlands. I was talking for more than an hour and a half and it was good to notice how much I could already tell about the islands and which questions I was able to answer myself. I felt good about this. Immediately after that there was an informal talk with the members of the Island Council, who joined us when we had something to eat because we continued our very animated conversation. Monday was reserved for a tour of the island, explanations of issues regarding the harbour, sports facilities, social housing, the agricultural project, a walking lunch with civil society organisations and entrepreneurs (where I met many old acquaintances again), a tour of The Bottom, Windward Side and St. Johns. A quick tour of Saba.

And then back to the airport for the flight to St. Eustatius. After a warm welcome by the Island Governor of Statia, we immediately got into the car for a tour of the island. Here too a brief impression of all goods things Statia has to offer, the view of St. Kitts from White Wall, beautiful panoramic views across the sea, Zeelandia, the old historic centre, where the monuments in particular attracted the attention of the chairpersons (and this mainly because of the condition of these cultural-historical buildings), a view of Nustar, the goats and cows and a visit to 

a small primary school, where it was proudly mentioned that the Golden Rock School is the first school in Caribbean Netherlands that has met the quality standards which will take effect as of 1 January 2016. After that a small meeting with members of the Island Council and civil society organisations, which gave the members the opportunity to share their thoughts with the chairpersons one on one. Went to bed early after dinner because early next morning we were to visit the next island, St. Maarten.

As Kingdom Representative I briefly said goodbye to the delegation because I flew back to Bonaire, where I would welcome the delegation again after their visit to Curaçao. It is Thursday!


Navy vessel

They arrived on a navy vessel in the harbour, where I, together with the Island Governor, was waiting to welcome the chairpersons again. Sea legs or not, we immediately got on the bus for a tour of the island, during which we received a fantastic explanation from Papi Cicilia, who as a guide was able to give us all the background information. I myself also learned a lot again. The extraction of salt, the chogogos, the beautiful coastline, Sorobon, off to Rincon for a local lunch at the Rose Inn.

Talked to youngsters about their future and their island dreams, after which both chairpersons walked through the Fundashon Mariadal hospital in admiration and the director told his story about the hospital, domestic care services and the nursing homes. And without having noticed, the day had come to an end again.

I am sure that chairpersons Van Miltenburg and Berkers-Knol will not forget their first visit to the Caribbean Netherlands anytime soon and that they flew back with a different impression than the one they had when they started their visit.

Last week I received entirely different guests, house guests, which gave me the opportunity to take two days off and to look at Bonaire through the eyes of a tourist again. Also during this tour there were many oohs and aahs: went kayaking in the mangroves, walking in Kralenijk, did some tours and went snorkelling on Klein Bonaire. Wanna bet they will come back another time?

My work as Kingdom Representative has become orderly, which enables me to go more deeply into various situations. This lends colour to living and working on Bonaire.


(November 5th, 2014)

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5. Storm

Although I know of course that particularly Saba and Statia (and all those other Windward Islands) are situated in an area which is hit by storms and hurricanes in this season, I was nevertheless startled when I received the report that Gonzalo was heading towards the islands.

I was informed properly by the fire department among others and I contacted the Island Governors concerned to hear how things were and whether I could be of service with anything. However, the experience on the islands and the fact that they know how to deal with hurricanes in this area showed that they were prepared for it. Still it always results in material damage within the Kingdom and on Sint Maarten there was more damage and unfortunately they even mourned one dead person.


Everyday life on Bonaire was quiet compared with the two other islands in the Caribbean Netherlands. I was surprised when I visited the waste water treatment plant and the company which generates electricity by means of wind energy on the island. Incredible examples of technical ingenuity and innovation from which we can learn a great deal and from which we can benefit even more.

Just imagine what the purified water which is provided at low costs could mean for agriculture, private gardens and the growing of vegetables, fruit and other products. I have seen how green the islands becomes when there is water. To date it is not possible yet for private individuals to use it but I hope that this will soon become possible.

I was impressed by the percentage of energy production generated through wind energy that is already being realized by ContourGlobal. They are incredibly jealous of this in the European Netherlands. It is just that the costs remain relatively high due to the fact that back-up is still needed and this still runs via the expensive diesel generators (if I got it all right?). It is interesting to have another good look at it in the framework of boosting economic developments and the diversification thereof.

This of course brings me to the talks with the entrepreneurs and the corporate sector. Those people show a lot of enthusiasm and good will to work together to promote and actually implement good business cases which could benefit the island. This also applies to Saba and Statia.


 Apart from the talks about addiction care, good governance, psychiatry, the neighbourhood church and one-on-one talks with the Commissioners, I have also been busy making preparations for the visit of the chairpersons of the Dutch Senate and the Dutch House of Representatives. For me this is another good opportunity to (briefly) visit Saba and Statia.


(22-10-14)

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3. Making acquaintance in Saba

And before I knew it, the week on Statia had passed and I was on my way to Saba, 'The unspoiled Queen', early Sunday morning, September 14th. Transfer on St. Maarten, passport control, security check, running through the building to the same airplane we had arrived with to continue the journey to Saba?

 

Arriving on Saba is always spectacular. I cannot seem to get enough of it. I have posted some pictures on my Facebook page ‘ www.facebook.com/Rijksvertegenwoordiger - to show the beauty of the island.

 

I was welcomed by the Executive Council as if we were friends, which really made me feel at home right away and this is a strange sensation when you are so far from everything that you are accustomed to.

I think of this visit as an enterprising exploration focusing on entrepreneurship, economic developments and limitations, opportunities and threats.


Saba has shown itself to be quite enterprising in the meetings with two associations, the Saba Business and the Saba Merchants Associations, in the ideas for expansion, the harbour’s specific needs, limitations and wishes, the arrival of the weekly freight ship, the way social housing is being organized  together with the Dutch housing corporation Woonlinie, the large Medical School which has recently obtained Dutch accreditation, the RCN organisation with our staff, those creative people at the Centre for Youth and Family and the Saban youth. I am smiling again.

 

Worries also

Of course, there are also worries related to the decrease in tourism and the closure of catering and hotel facilities (there really is a decline) and a number of other vulnerabilities behind the front doors.

 

Saba’s environment is characterized by many fruit trees on the island, a wealth of flowers, the subtropic character of the Mount Scenery and rugged vistas. You know by now that I climbed the Mount and reached the top, accompanied by two sturdy young 9-year-old girls and James, the guide. I am just writing it down again, for those who do not know it: the highest peak in the Kingdom of the Netherlands is 877m!

 

After visiting the harbour with Commissioner Bruce Zager, I went out on the sea in a boat with two commissioners, Chris Johnson had also joined us in the afternoon. A sea trip around the island resulting in some unbelievably beautiful shots. Small beaches that can only be reached by boat, beautiful dive locations, rock formations in the sea, the small airplane which you could almost “touch” from the wat er while it was landing.

 

Ran out of time

Once again taking the time for a week of further exploration of the island, the council and especially the Sabans themselves, proved to be the way to gain much information and an opportunity to meet people. Unfortunately, I still ran out of time and I did not have the chance for a visit to the school or the hospital, a deep sea dive or Friday night karaoke at Scout’s place. I will have to save those for my next visit.


I wish Patrick a lot of luck. Patrick, a young and enthusiastic entrepreneur, stuck his neck out and surely rolled up his sleeves when starting his “Carwash” . Support that young guy! Just like that young 9-year-old girl who asked me if I could do something about the after-school facilities because they are so important for the young people...

I think that I will call the chairman of Jantje Beton when I am in the Netherlands next week. Some initiatives just deserve our support.....!

 

All in all, you can understand that my introduction week on Saba has made quite an impression on me.


(26-09-14)

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4. 'The Hague week'

“I think that after more than five weeks of making acquaintance, introductions and shaking a lot of hands, normal regular life on Bonaire is now finally starting to take shape little by little. I drive to the office early in the morning, do some groceries after work, make my own dinner, do my laundry and I am actually starting to feel at home on the island and that is nice feeling.

 

Now that I have talked to nearly all political parties and movements in the persons of the political leaders in the foreground and background, all information which I had gathered before my arrival is now starting to fall into place. Question which I have asked include: ‘What is your opinion about the current situation in Bonaire, what direction should it take, what problems do you see, how do you look back on the past few years, what is your view of the much-discussed referendum (meanwhile the Island Council of Bonaire has decided that a referendum will not take place until after the Island Council elections of March 2015) and what is your view of the future? And of course, how are we going to work together and build the future of the Caribbean Netherlands? And this does also present a fascinating overall picture of how politicians view the island and its inhabitants.


CN-Table 

And I could not have planned it any better but more or less immediately after that I was off to the Netherlands for my ‘The Hague week’: the first so-called ‘CN Table’, which I attended with my RCN director. The Caribbean Netherlands Table is the joint official meeting in The Hague where all departments involved talk to each other, share experiences and preview the agenda for the ministers concerned. So for me as Kingdom Representative this is also a gateway where I can present current information from the Caribbean Netherlands. So I also shared my first observations from the four weeks of making acquaintance on the islands there.

Subjects which I mentioned are, among others: the urgent need to address the issue of poverty on the islands; the increasing sense of ‘we’ and ‘they’ which I observe as an undercurrent; the joint efforts to develop the Long-term Policy Plan further; the problems behind front doors and the optimistic view of the young people on the islands.


Commitment

I am very pleased to notice how much commitment there is to and for the Caribbean Netherlands from the various departments. Together with the island governments this should lead to the solution of several problems which are known and have been experienced. I will make a contribution where possible.


In addition, I used the time for bilateral meetings at various ministries, to meet civil society organizations like Unesco and OCaN, to attend a debate in the Dutch House of Representatives and for the preparations for the visit of the presidents of the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives at the end of October. And I paid several ministers a visit.

 

And last but not least, there was some time again for social contacts and family. It was a diversified week and on top of that the weather was nice for this time of the year in the Netherlands.”

 

(8-10-14)

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2. Making acquaintance in Statia

During my second week (as of September 7) I continued my acquaintance as Kingdom Representative in Statia, The Golden Rock.
You notice it immediately, a different island with other characteristics and again very friendly people.
In Statia we naturally also started with talks with the Island Governor, commissioners and members of the Island Council. During personal conversations we got to know each other better and laid the initial foundations for our future cooperation.


Stimulating economic development is high on the agenda and it was not entirely a coincidence that there just happened to be a Strategic Conference together with Saba on this topic. There was one subject which kept coming up during my visit and that is the re-establishment of a Medical School on the island. Everybody is convinced that this would be an enormous boost for the local economy. Due to the different demands concerning recognition of the institute, among others, between the US and the Netherlands, this discussion has not been settled yet. It concerns a particular initiative with private investors with whom I had the privilege to have a brief conversation.

The island does not only have beautiful flowers, it also has a remarkably large number of fruit trees with unknown fruits to me. Fortunately locals helped me out with that. Much to the amusement of a group of youngsters, I thought that I was supposed to eat a fruit with peel and all but this was not the idea.


memorial service
Another special experience was the attendance of a memorial service for the recently deceased and highly esteemed Mr. Van Putten who has held many official posts and who played a large role in the Statia community. It was impressive to see how this inhabitant of Statia was paid the last honors.

Apart from ‘regular’ talks, here too I found time and space to talk to the inhabitants of Statia themselves. It is important to hear what is happening on the island. There are many worries about several developments, particularly when it comes to economic developments.



Finally, the talk I had with a group of students from the island’s only secondary school, the Gwendoline van Putten School, was also inspiring to me. The youngsters asked for more support from adults in order to be able to realize their ideals.

Saturday morning at 07:00 hours I set out for a hike on the Quill with one of the local employees of RCN, Celford Gibbs. Officially this a National Park but it is a dormant volcano on the island. Magnificent scenery, gorgeous views and feeling that you are in bad shape, in other words sweating it out. However, I am heading for Saba with a feeling of contentment. It is Sunday, September 14.


In short, Statia is more than worth a visit!


(15-9-14)

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1. Becoming acquainted with Bonaire

The first week on Bonaire is already behind usas most cordially received by  the Island Governor, the Commissioners, the members of the Island Council, organizations and residents on the island as well as the 'own' employees. 


 What a warm reception. I had lots of conversations, made a lot of acquaintances and shook hands with many. The friendly island has shown its best side.




Last Saturday Dia di Boneiru (Bonaire Day) was celebrated. I think every inhabitant of Bonaire was on the streets. After the official part, I still had some time to walk around to properly feel the atmosphere around me.


In the afternoon a well-known journalist, historian, and culture and nature lover, Boi Antoin, took me out on a spree. Some knowledge that gentleman has of the island. After our walk in the kunuku we ended up at some of his friends with whom I got to experience the real Bonairean culture, while enjoying a hot meal and hospitality without limits. 


Sunday was a travel day to St. Eustatius.


(8-9-14)

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