Former Island Council Registrar Els Boers says she has found that making the necessary “change in behaviour is the most difficult thing” to accomplish in the
wake of the recent institutional changes accompanying the introduction of the dualistic governance system in Saba.
She noted that while phasing out Netherlands Antilles laws or making them relevant to local needs, various ministries in Holland are simultaneously pressing for the adoption of a number of municipality laws developed over the decades in European municipalities. Boers’ remarks were made in an extensive interview with The Daily Herald about her year-long service on Saba.
She talked about her attempts to provide models for the Executive Council to use in order to ease their drafting of law proposals. Boers gave the example of
the protracted process of drafting the Municipal By- Law (APV) which has not yet been adopted. “The document has a lot of rules and you have to ask yourself: ‘is it useful for Saba to have everything in it?’” she said, adding that having decades of legislation discussed at once can lead to frustrating delays and in people losing focus. She said the islands should try to keep the local legislation simple. She said the laws needed to be made accessible in English. “People need to know what every law is about and everything needs to be in English” Boers said adding that while the older generation understands Dutch for the most part people under 40, Dutch is a challenge. Even for those who command Dutch, laws can be confusing.
Asked about her initial expectations about the position, she said she did not expect it to be as demanding a year as it was during the transition to dualism. On her arrival she expected the Executive Council and the Island Secretary to be accustomed to the dualistic system. She found the Island Council members were
well-aware of the implications, but there was “a little bit of struggle” which she recognized as typical of similar “power plays” in Dutch municipalities.
She believes that whatever tension existed was based on “a lack of confidence.” She said she saw her role as advising both the Central Committee and Executive Council members because it was a new process for both. “If you have self-confidence in what you do, you are more relaxed, open and transparent
and things go better than if you are insecure. This was the reason why I organized the trip to Holland for the Central Committee members. I wanted to show them that small Dutch municipalities are not much different,” she said.
“The WOLBES is only slightly different to the laws of the Dutch municipalities,” she said. And, contending that Saba is not much different to small Dutch municipalities, she encouraged Saba’s Executive Council to learn from such instead of interacting exclusively with big city peers.
She said there were varying degrees of acceptance of her advisory role, based on the various mindsets. And, noting that she was surprised that before the Central Committee meetings were held behind closed doors, she said some may not have seen the need for structure and consistency in the decision-making procedures as a means of easing communication and fostering transparency. “I never had such model meetings [in The Netherlands, ed. Daily Herald], with people in the community coming in the beginning with written presentations. Everybody was prepared, sticking to the rules. I was surprised,” Boers said.
She was surprised that the Executive Council had chosen not to organize their own regular press conferences and used the Central Committee and Island
Council public meetings as occasions to inform the community. For expediency in proceedings she believes it would be preferable for the Executive Council to
use its own public communication means and not to limit itself to press releases.
Source: The Daily Herald October 24, 2012