Islands file more complaints at National Ombudsman

The Dutch National Ombudsman received some 210 requests of Caribbean Netherlands residents in 2016. People of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are increasingly finding their way to the Ombudsman.

The 2016 annual report of the National Ombudsman, which was presented on Wednesday, states that many people know how to find the National Ombudsman with complaints about the Dutch Government departments and the Governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

In fact, the National Ombudsman receives more requests from persons in the Caribbean Netherlands than in the Netherlands. This is partly because the Ombudsman does the primary handling of complaints on the islands, meaning that residents can directly turn to the Ombudsman.

Taking into account that the Caribbean Netherlands has a combined population of some 24,500 and that the National Ombudsman received 209 requests, it means one request per 117 inhabitants was filed.

In the Netherlands, which had a population of 16.8 million in 2016, the Ombudsman received 35,000 requests, a ratio of one request per 480 inhabitants. This means that more than four times as many requests were received from the Caribbean Netherlands compared to the Netherlands.

The 2016 figures showed an increase compared to the previous year: in 2015 the Ombudsman received 126 requests from Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. According to the 2016 annual report, the number of complaints has been increasing steadily in the past few years.

Still, many islands residents have no knowledge of the National Ombudsman and the work that he does. “They have to learn about the Ombudsman as an easy accessible, independent institution where a citizen can take its complaint about the government.”

The National Ombudsman and his staff travelled to the three islands twice last year. The team held consultation hours and met with officials of the local governments. The Ombudsman carried out several investigations last year, which is different from the past when the majority of the work consisted of interventions, the solving of problems as a result of the complaints that were filed.

Two specific cases were highlighted in the 2016 annual report, both in St. Eustatius: the Gwendoline van Putten School for secondary education complained that it was concerned about the safeguarding of its education level due to the lack of internet capacity, and the complaint of a teacher regarding the failure of the Statia Government to supply information to Caribbean Netherlands Pension Fund PCN. In both cases, the Ombudsman asked the Dutch Government to address the matter.

The 2016 annual report also mentioned the continued cooperation and training sessions with Curaçao and St. Maarten. The cooperation between the Ombudsman of Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands which took off in 2015 with the support of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK was given further content in 2016.

The three Ombudsman organisations provided a training of one day and a half to civil servants of the St. Maarten Government. In attendance were several secretaries- general, department heads, policy workers, as well as members of the St. Maarten Police Force and the Customs Department. The National Ombudsman was satisfied with the large attendance of some 100 civil servants.

The Daily Herald.

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