The Daily Herald reports that all proposals on the public Island Council (IC) meeting agenda were adopted unanimously Wednesday morning. The session commenced in the absence of Councilman Eviton Heyliger with the three other Windward Island People’s Movement (WIPM) council members present, as well as Saba Labour Party (SLP) Councilman Ishmael Levenstone. IC Chairman Lt. Governor Jonathan Johnson requested and obtained the members’ approval on actions to be taken on the incoming correspondence and the minutes of several previous meetings.
The first IC Proposal adopted was the Island Ordinance Administrative Assistance, which formalizes the procedure for council members to obtain information only via the Island Registrar (IR). The given reason for the need of such an ordinance was that some council members requested desired information directly from civil servants. Both fraction groups can use the support and facilities of the IR, as their office and the need for separate support for fraction groups has not been requested and does not require separate budget allocation. The elected members are assured access to public government information with access via the IR. Only the IR could request the services of civil servants for “substantive knowledge.” WIPM council members approved the proposal, as did Levenston (SLP), who motivated his reservation stating, “We need to know what is going on and the Island Council is here to do the people’s business.” He expressed his concerns that Island Secretary Menno van der Velde “should know what [information – ED.)] he should or shouldn’t give” and requested that the council “bring this man to order about what he is supposed to do.” The Chairman interrupted the motivation, reminding Levenston this was discussed in the presidium and noting that the councilman can receive written responses, if he submits written questions. Levenstone retorted that his call is for “common sense.”
In a follow-up interview, Levenstone was asked to elucidate on challenges he experienced. He explained that the Island Secretary refused to release certain documents he had requested, “withholding information” and that when he asked the IR to discuss the matter, the secretary “started playing hardball.” Levenstone requested that the procedure regulates “what he can and cannot give us,” to avoid refusals for sharing information the opposition feels “entitled to receive.”
The IC Proposal on Public Participation passed without difficulty, allowing ample time for Commissioner Chris Johnson’s presentation of the history leading up to the vote on the draft statues of Saba Electric Company also adopted in unanimity. The no-objection formality led Levenstone to remark that the commissioner’s talk was like that of a preacher to his “Amen Charlies.” Commissioner Bruce Zager’s argumentation for the Buffer capital proposal included the amendments requested by Councilman Carl Buncamper to incorporate public housing and social aspects, as well as the public health risks into the funds to be allocated.
The vote on the “Joint Audit Chamber BES” proposal reiterated that Saba’s IC still requires a better option. The WIPM fraction council members expect that this be reviewed in the 2015 evaluation process. Buncamper even noted that ignoring Saba’s IC reservations would nullify this vote. The SLP leader explained why he supports the proposal as is, giving the central government what it requests, warning WIPM members about the potential spectrum of being put under higher supervision. “You have to take an eye specialist to Holland to read the fine print the Dutch write,” Levenstone said. He pointed to issues of greater strategic importance for the island in negotiations with the central government.