Update Island Council visit to the Netherlands

The Island Council of Saba has provided an update on its recent working visit to the Netherlands where the delegation, consisting of Island Council Members Eviton Heyliger, Vito Charles, Hemmie van Xanten, Carl Buncamper and Esmeralda Johnson, and Island Registrar Akilah Levenstone attended a number of meetings and a large conference.

From left: Island Council Members Hemmie van Xanten, Carl Buncamper, Esmeralda Johnson, Vito Charles and Eviton Heyliger in The Hague during their working visit.

On June 4 and 5, the Island Council attended the two-day annual conference of the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) in Barneveld. This conference served as a professional development training for the Island Council Members. By means of workshops and training sessions various topics related to the work of an Island Council Member were discussed and explained. The conference provided an excellent possibility to make connections and has resulted in some useful contacts for Saba.

On June 6, the Saba delegation met with the Council of State in The Hague. The discussion was centered on how to strengthen the relationship between the Caribbean Netherlands and the Netherlands, and the manner in which The Hague interacts with the islands can be restructured and improved.
The importance of acceptance and trust in the relations between the islands and The Hague were returning words in the meeting with the Council of State. The position of the National Government Representative (“Rijksvertegenwoordiger”) also came up and whether or not this function is needed or even necessary. The Caribbean Netherlands National Government Department RCN should be decentralized, which would fit in the policy to making government smaller and not bigger.

The Health Insurance Office ZVK in Bonaire, poverty alleviation and the RCN structure were main topics in the meeting with the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament alleviation on June 6.
All parties agreed that the bureaucracy at the ministries needs to be minimized to a strictly necessary level. Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) expressed support for Saba’s wish to do more on its own and execute more tasks. Van Raak said the hold-up was clearly at the level of the ministries and that the regulations-based governing method in the Netherlands was not the same system as in the Dutch Caribbean.

In a meeting with the National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen on June 6. The Island Council delegation pointed out that the Dutch Government often looked at and dealt with Saba as a foreign entity and not a part of the Kingdom or the Netherlands.
The National Ombudsman explained that he is conducting an investigation into poverty in the Caribbean Netherlands in order to provide a better picture of what poverty looks like and how it affects people in their daily lives. The National Ombudsman is hoping to get a clear message across with this different approach.

On June 7, the Island Council Members met with the Council of Human Rights. The Council of Human Rights explained its role and responsibilities on Saba. Discussed were the exploitation of immigrants, the way elderly people are being cared for and the need for an independent body where people can file a complaint in the area of human rights. The Council of Human Rights confirmed that it was there to also work for Saba.

Also, on June 7 the Saba delegation attended a workshop highlighting the role of the Island Council facilitated by the VNG. The Island Council found the workshop to be an eye opener. The workshop will continue on Saba at the end of August.

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