Opinion: Saba’s government should become more democratic

Dear Editor,

I hope that you will allow me to share my views on the coming elections with my fellow compatriots on Saba.

I am a journalist from the European part of the Netherlands. I realize that, at first hand, many Saba residents may not be very interested in my views about the upcoming elections. But then, I am highly interested in the process of a community transferring from the political system of one country, the Dutch Antilles, to another one, The Netherlands.

I am aware that I miss the detailed knowledge of the local issues and pressures that play a role on Saba. However, I have closely followed the functioning of the present government through the local press, national press, discussions with Sabans in the Holland and locally on Saba during my recent visits.

As I am not a player in the local politics, I believe that I am an independent, objective observer. Therefore, my perspective might help individuals to make a better educated choice on March 18.

In the article in this paper on “Upcoming elections should be based on Agenda’s not personal interests” by Nataly Linzey probably describes very clearly how the political system was before 10.10.10. In Holland many people would consider this somewhat corrupt. It does not come as a surprise to me that Mrs Linzey calls for a change.

In the Netherlands Antilles era, the Commissioners were the masters of the Government and the Island Council were mostly following. After 10.10.10, it is the Island Council that discusses the issues, takes the decisions and these need to be executed by Executive Committee This consists of the Commissioners and Lieutenant Governor. This dualistic structure of the government is the key of our modern democracy.

How is this build? The Island Council is directly elected by the voters. Subsequently, the Island Council appoints the Commissioners. The Lieutenant Governor is nominated by the King, but after consulting the Island Council. As Saba only has two political parties participating in the elections of March 18, the party that obtains the majority could run the government completely by themselves, virtually ignoring the views of the other party. It may be clear that this is not a healthy situation, but that is what it is.

You probably have observed that the transition to a modern democratic system involves a process that forces everyone in government to become familiar to their new role and responsibilities. To assist in the transition, the Executive Committee appointed Mrs Boers as Island Registrar to guide this process. Mrs Boers has a well established track record in as registrar in communes in Holland and has written a book about the subject. Her influence became quickly apparent. Paperwork discussed in the Island Council was published widely so the community was informed before the Council meetings. The training of the Island Council members culminated in their tour around a few Councils in The Netherlands where they could observe how a democratic local government functions. I had the pleasure of talking personally with the delegation during their Meet and Greet in The Hague: Saba was getting well prepared for the 21st century.

But after the return of the Island Council members from Holland, it seems that the Executive Committee suddenly realized what the consequences would be: a shift of power from them to the Island Council. The solution was easy: they did not extend the contract of Mrs. Boers and they appointed a person with very little experience as Registrar. The impact of the departure of Mrs. Boers was immediately noticeable: the stream of information to the public immediately stopped. Today, if you want to know what the Executive Committee has decided concerning the rules and regulations that directly affect the citizens, you will discover, that these are only published on the publication board at the government building.

And the influence of the Island Council today? They very seldom meet and then they rubber stamp the decisions of the Executive Committee as in the days of the Netherlands Antilles. Only Island Council member Buncamper sometimes had had something to say in the Council Meetings, but at the end, there were almost never motions to improve the proposals tabled. On top, the Island Council always approved the proposals of Executive Committee unanimously, even including Mr. Levenstone, the member of the opposition. So, in effect, I conclude that there is no properly functioning Island Council on Saba. Over the last four years, Saba was governed by the Commissioners and these are appointed, not elected. The election of the Island Council was democratic, but the way they operated was not: no feed back to their voters.

What are the choices now? Go for “the Devil you know” or “the Devil you do not know yet”?

From the WIPM program you can read: “It is very important for voters to remember that it takes a collection of individuals to run a government. Based on the dualistic system of government, the party that wins the election will need between five to seven qualified members to hold political office. This is because the party with the majority will have to fill at least three, but up to five members of the Island Council, and then appoint the two commissioners of the island. Because of this it is of absolute importance that voters not only base their decision on the individuals running, but on the parties as an entire group that will have to run the government of Saba for a four year period.“

The statement suggests that the party has decided that, in case they win the elections, they intend to appoint the Commissioners from the persons on the list.

The WIPM party has been running the running the government over the last four years. This is “the Devil you know”. When you look at the list of proposed candidates, you’ll see that the first five persons on the list are persons that have an established track record in the present government. You know how they perform. However they are also the same persons, that have virtually blocked the democratic decision making on Saba during the last four years and #6 is the present Government Information and Protocol Officer, the person probably directly responsible for the lack of flow of information towards the public.

From the WIPM party program it is clear that they want to continue to run the government in the way they have been doing the last four years. If this is what you want, then your choice is simple.

On the other hand, the SLP program suggests, that they have understood the issues. They intend to address and resolve these. They promise to change the way the Government functions with equal opportunities for everyone. Of course, one does not know how they will perform once they get into office. They are “the Devil you don’t know yet”.

Your choice on March 18.

To be continued.

Kees Jansen,

Freelance journalist.

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Opinion: Elections should not become a mudslinging contest

5 comments

  1. Well said Mr. jansen. it is shameful for saba that even an outsider has taken note of what is taking place on this island. you talked about it not being a healthy situation, let me tell you a lot taking place in government is not healthy and not ethical. I always questioned myself how government could employ certain person in position where first of all the have no “education” since that seems to be the theme for this election and no background in that field. positions such as that as an Island Registar as you mentioned. probably the former one although well studied and qualified in that area was succeeded by one without the education and capabilities. How does it work within governemnt. i think we can look around the vital department set ups in government and see how qualified or not. but then again that is how they like it and want it on Saba.
    Indeed the island council has never functioned properly in the last 4 years, except for opposition and mr buncamper would would attend meetings but still they all postulating themselves again. i ask the question what can some of the council members say they did in the last 4 years, and yet they expect to be re elected? come on give me a break.
    here we have our GIS and protocol officer running for office. like you said he probably the one directly responsible for the lack of communication and this person wants and expects people to elect him. if you cant function where you are at now how you going function with higher position. its is so sad to experience the shambles we are in. than you Mr. editor and Mr. Jansen for your article.

  2. So is this an article praising the blue party? Anyone familiar with their list can tell you that their main candidate is functionally illiterate, the second candidate can’t wait to sell the rest of the good land off to foreigners, and another candidate is a well known supplier of marijuana.
    Choices, choices…
    Note Webmaster:
    I have left this comment as an example of mudslinging. Please stick to issues. I will remove further comments with mudslinging text.

  3. You never know – perhaps growing marijuana and finding legal means for its distribution (medical marijuana) is part of the SLP platform down the road. Look how many jobs and money it has generated in Denver over the past 2 years. If throwing mud at the SLP party is a tactic, then it can also be thrown the other way. Despite there being a complete lack of transparency from WIPM over the past several years, their arrogance fails to recognize that people on the island are still in the know and come March 18th, will let their views known. It’s high tie for a change, despite the outcome of this election. Both parties need to seriously listen to their constituents as you are our representatives. If you don’t, then you are failing to do your job and should be held accountable immediately and not wait another 4 years. Politicians must be held accountable regularly or else the issue of lack of transparency will continue to raise its ugly head.

  4. Dear reader,
    Please note that I consider the content of Hassell74 as mudslinging. I have left this comment online as an example of content that will be removed. Please stick to issues!!!

  5. As one of the so called Ex Pats living on Saba , I would like to say to the WIPM gentleman who was complaining that the Ex Pats take all and give nothing , – the following.
    We have been on Saba nearly 10 years having come from Antigua. We bought a wooden Saban Cottage, which we have fully restored. Most of these wooden cottages when for sale are bought by Ex Pats, not pulled down, but, restored, these buildings are your heritage , built by your forefathers.
    We also organize and run with Evette a fleamarket once a month for the Animal Foundation of Saba, this over the last 4 years has raised thousands of dollars for this cause, and recycled all the items.
    For us as Ex Pats, it is a Priviledge to live on the beautiful Island of Saba, and of course we will be voting on the 18th of March.

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