Governor of Aruba, Fredis Jose Refunjol, escorted by the director of his cabinet and his personal security, ended an official visit to Saba Friday morning following similar stops on St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. His trip to the Windward Islands is meant to foster closer ties, but also to nurture a mutual deeper understanding of the paths chosen by the islands and their developing relationships with the Dutch central government. This is Governor Refunjol’s third visit to Saba and he assured it will not be the last. The main purpose of his visit was “related to talks about government issues in their totality, but in particular governing after the 10-10-10 transition. My last visit was five years ago before the introduction of the new system. We are part of the Dutch Kingdom, and we still need contact to see developments in the different countries.”
Refunjol mentioned the need to compare the changes and look into the positive and challenging aspects of governance in the two islands. Immigration, residency issues, education and justice were among the topics of official discussions and consultations. He described his visit as “very fruitful because we confront the same problems, maybe at a larger scale since we have about 100,000 inhabitants, but we have the same issues and it is good to hear from our friends within the Kingdom how they handle those issues. At the same time we share the ways we handle those issues and we keep in close contact.” He said the governors of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten meet twice a year with the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, while the Governors of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba hold such meetings separately.
Governor Refunjol was given an island tour by Governor Jonathan Johnson on Thursday, which included Fort Bay Harbour, the new social housing facilities under development, as well as the school compounds in St. John’s. Governor Johnson explained that because of the time-lapse since Refunjol’s last visit, he could compare and reflect on the changes and the actual impact of transition.
Johnson also spoke of the “impressive development” of Aruba since its independence and the “lessons we can all learn from Aruba about how to manage the change as the populations face similar challenges though at a different scale.” The personal friendship between the governors is partly due to their similar backgrounds in education.
The visiting delegation showed particular interest in how Saba works together with the Dutch Ministry of Education, which is now directly involved in the implementation of standards on Saba. They noticed particular improvements in the classrooms and vocational training facilities, complemented by work in developing a new curriculum. The Aruba delegation also met with principals Michiel
Boeken and Diane Wilson. Similar meetings were held with the Education Expertise Centre in Statia.