The five members of Saba’s new Island Council for the period 2019-2023, Eviton Heyliger, Vito Charles, Carl Buncamper, Hemmie van Xanten and Esmeralda Johnson, all of the Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) were sworn in on Thursday, March 28. WIPMs two biggest vote getters Bruce Zagers and Rolando Wilson during the March 20 elections took the oath as Commissioner.
In total, the Island Council met three times on Thursday. The first meeting, at 10:00am, was the last meeting of the 2015-2019 Island Council. The meeting started with the reviewing of the credentials of the five incoming Island Council Members by a three-member committee consisting of Monique Wilson, Eviton Heyliger and Carl Buncamper.
After the vetting and approval of the credentials, it was time to bid farewell to outgoing Island Council Members Ishmael Levenston and Monique Wilson, both of the Saba Labor Party (SLP). Levenston was not present for health reasons. Monique Wilson gave her farewell speech.
“Many say they feel sorry for the SLP, but we accept no pity. We claim strength, because I feel overwhelmingly proud that I served my island being true to you and to myself, never once sacrificing my position for wrongdoings. And, let us never forget Ishmael Levenston and the unselfish work he gave for the people of Saba. A genuine people’s politician who cares for you more than he did for himself. Our time for political war has ended. Let those who you have appointed serve our island with unbiased honestly, dignity and respect to ensure we continue to prosper as your only opposition leaves the building,” said Wilson.
Chairman of the Island Council Island Governor Jonathan Johnson thanked Wilson and Levenston for four years of good working relations. He referred to Levenston as a “unique figure in our politics” having been an Island Council Member for five times, always reminding the government of their responsibilities towards the people.
After a short break, the second Island Council meeting took place during which the five new Island Council Members took the oath: Bruce Zagers, Rolando Wilson, Eviton Heyliger, Carl Buncamper and Vito Charles. After the swearing in, all five Island Council Members held an inaugural speech in which they thanked their voters as well as outgoing Island Council Members Levenston and Monique Wilson.
Zagers said that winning all five seats didn’t happen very often, with the last time being in fact 40 years ago. “The mandate given to the WIPM party proves that the people of Saba appreciate and support a stable, proven government. Today I can state with full confidence, as President of the WIPM party, that we will take this mandate very seriously. I can assure you that we will serve. We will lead. We will at all times have the best interest of Saba and her people at heart. Most importantly, we will not let you down,” he stated.
About the lack of opposition Zagers said: “Some people have expressed concern over the fact that the WIPM now holds all five seats in the Island Council. However, during the last four years,
WIPM Island Council members were at times even more critical than the elected opposition. I am confident that although there is no elected opposition, our WIPM Council members will do the job that has been entrusted unto them and they will ensure that the integrity of government is held to the highest possible standard and that the rights of our people are protected and defended.”
Island Council member Vito Charles echoed Zagers’ sentiments. “Having all five seats is no small feat. It means we have a big responsibility to ensure that democracy is upheld. We will do so. I am not here to sing in the choir, but to preach.”
Zagers and Rolando Wilson only remained Island Council Members for a few hours, because during the third meeting at 2:00pm, they resigned. The new Island Council unanimously voted in favor to appoint Zagers and Wilson as Commissioners. The Island Council then moved to review the credentials of the two new Island Council Members, Hemmie van Xanten and Esmeralda Johnson. Van Xanten first took the oath, followed by Johnson. Then it was the turn of Zagers and Wilson to take the oath as Commissioners.
Van Xanten and Johnson held their inaugural speech in which they thanked their voters and gave an outline of the important issues that they want to tackle in the coming four years. Johnson, with 21 years the youngest Island Council member ever, pointed out that history repeated itself. In 1979, her grandfather David Johnson was also a member of the Island Council when the WIPM secured all five seats. “Today is another historic day, and I am proud to be part of a victorious party, and being the only female Island Council member. I hope that my involvement in the political area will encourage more women and youngsters to join,” she said.
ZVK a priority
Van Xanten announced his first priority would be the medical referrals of the Caribbean Netherlands Health Insurance Office ZVK. “I am sure that as Island Council, with the support of the Executive Council, this issue will be discussed very soon. This can be our first example to show the people how this magnificent team will cooperate, compromise and decide unanimously. There is no room for dictatorship. But that does not mean that things will be taken for granted,” said Van Xanten.
The two newly appointed Commissioners also gave a speech in which they promised to continue working hard in the best interest of the Saban people and the island’s development. “Our door will always be open for everyone,” said both Zagers and Wilson. “This is a victory moment, but it is also a sobering assignment to carry out the work with dignity and hard work. I will continue to do so and to champion the cause of the Saba people,” said Wilson.
Zagers said he looked forward to continue working on the many policies and ongoing and new projects. “Leading the discussions with the Netherlands on our quest to alleviate poverty is obviously a priority for this upcoming term. And, we will continue lobbying for more autonomy as we continue to prove that our administration is capable of taking on additional responsibilities,” he said.
Chairman Johnson said he was happy to see a large turn-out at the installation of the new Island Council and the appointment of the two new Commissioners. To the new Island Council Members and the Commissioners, he said: “There is a lot of work at hand and many issues to deal with.”
At 4:00pm, there was a fourth meeting, this time to officially install the Electoral Committee. This Committee comprises of five members: Zagers, Van Xanten, Rolando Wilson, Buncamper and Monique Wilson. After their credentials were reviewed, the five members took the oath. On May 27, the Electoral Committee will gather for a second and last time to cast their vote for a Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.