Rolando Wilson was inaugurated Friday morning as Commissioner in Saba’s Executive Council, replacing Chris Johnson, who is appointed as the new head of the Representation of the Netherlands in St. Maarten. Current communications advisor at Saba Government Information Service (SGIS) Vito Charles will be taking Wilson’s seat in the Island Council as a member of Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM).
In his outgoing remarks, Johnson, who served in the Island and Executive Council for the past nine years, said, “I was chosen for the position based on the good reputation Saba has in the Kingdom and through networking, and in general who I am as a person. It is not only a great honour for me and my family, but also an honour for the people of Saba.”
As Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs, Johnson had played an important role in negotiations during the constitutional transition of the islands. He said he hopes to continue to offer insight and assist in the best interest for Saba in his new role.
Johnson said discussions between the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber and St. Maarten concerning high travel cost between Saba and St. Maarten as the island’s main hub, improving internet connections on Saba via fibre-optic cables via St. Maarten, and the turnover tax structure are having an effect both on Saba and St. Eustatius.
Serving as an Island Council Member for the last 13 years, Wilson now takes over Johnson’s tasks in the Executive Council. Wilson encouraged a continued common working relationship with opposition Saba Labour Party. He said this has played a major role in sustaining a stable government for Saba, which the island has been praised for.
The portfolios Wilson will take care of include Health Care; Economic Affairs; Social Housing; Social and Labour Affairs; Cadastre; Agriculture, Fishery and Environment; Youth Affairs; Archives; Culture and Sports; Telecommunication and Energy and Women Affairs.
Replacing Wilson as Island Council Member is Vito Charles, who was a candidate for WIPM in last year’s Island Council election.
Charles noted issues which he is passionate about to change. “Many in the community are being dragged down by poverty as a result of the high cost of living,” Charles said.
He called on Dutch Government Representative Gilbert Isabela, who was present at the inauguration, to use his capacity to assist in the challenge of job creation on Saba.
“When is [Government Service Caribbean Netherlands – Ed] RCN going to create meaningful employment for the young people on this island? When are they going to hire our young men and women to serve in their community as Police Officers, firemen and Customs Officers, and in whatever other capacity available?” Charles wondered.
“In 1986, this island chose English as its official language of instruction, yet today, because of colonial-style rules, our young people cannot access these opportunities because they are fluent in the most widely-spoken language in the world,” Charles pointed out.
In his new role, Charles will accompany fellow Island Council Members to the Netherlands next week, where they will join Island Council Members of Bonaire and Statia at the conference of Association of Dutch Municipalities VNG.
The Daily Herald.