Ombudsman’s researchers holding open office hours

Two researchers of the Na­tional Ombudsman’s office in the Netherlands are cur­rently paying a working visit to the Caribbean Nether­lands. Daniel Anon Parreia and Yvonne Kraan are hold­ing open office hours on Bo­naire, Saba and St. Eustatius to handle complaints about government.

Since 2011, residents of the three islands who have com­plaints about government entities can consult Dutch National Ombudsman Reini­er van Zutphen and his staff. They deal with problems with the Public Entities, the Tax Department, the Pros­ecutor’s Office, the Police, the Public Bodies and Gov­ernment Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN.

The National Ombudsman handles complaints about Government and Government entities.

Citizens can file complaints via telephone, via the Om­budsman’s website, but also in person. “Twice a year the investigators of the National Ombudsman hold open of­fice hours.

On Statia, the Ombuds­man’s researchers held con­sultations on Monday. Con­sultations on Saba will be held at the office across from the post office in Windward-side on Thursday, 2:00pm­5:00pm. They also visited the island in March.

The two researchers said they had busy schedules dur­ing which they met with gov­ernment representatives for discussions and to receive complaints from residents.

“The consultations in Sta­tia were very well visited. It is very good to notice that people know how to find us,” said Kraan. “Fortunately, many people already know where to find us, but where familiarity is concerned we still have a long way to go.”

She said the nature of complaints that were filed showed a “good mix.” Rela­tively few complaints con­cerned the public entity of Statia. There were also com­plaints about the ‘Tax Depart­ment and RCN.

“People want to be heard. Sometimes it is already enough to listen. People want to be taken seriously,” said Kraan.

In seeking ways to solve a complaint the Ombudsman does not seek confrontation. “We do not want to confront people; we want to help in solving a problem. That ap­proach is being appreciated by government institutions. We are having good con­tacts with them,” she said.

Each island has its own problems, culture and atmo­sphere, and the differences with the Netherlands are big.

“In the Netherlands most complaints are being han­dled by letter, and most peo­ple know how to find their way in seeking redress. On the islands, people do not grab pen and paper so much. They are used to visiting a government entity and try­ing to speak with somebody, but in complex cases involv­ing lots of emotions it may be helpful to put things in writ­ing,” Kraan said.

The Ombudsman does not make any decisions where complaints are concerned, she explained. People can seek the assistance of a law­yer and go to Court to ask the judge for a decision. In cases where residents may file for objections against government decisions the Ombudsman is not authorized to interfere.

The Daily Herald.

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