Sunday , October 1 2023

Work-visit to Bonaire bolsters coordination of interests

The initial and main reason for the Island Council to visit Bonaire was for them to attend the Bonaire Day celebrations on September 6, said Acting Island Council Registrar Akilah Levenstone during an interview with the Daily Herald concerning the goals and outcomes of the recent work visit.
At council members’ request, the visit included talks with Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN and National Government Representative Wilbert Stolte and visits to several organizations. The Island Council of St. Eustatius joined Saba’s initiative. For the first time since the establishment of the dualistic system Council Members of the “public entities” Bonaire, Statia and Saba had a chance to meet and initiate discussions. The meeting was a “steppingstone” with each delegation asked to reduce the agenda to core concerns for joint consultations.
Saba’s priorities were the joint Audit Chamber, the 2015 evaluation process, development plans and health care. Statia added sharing of information between the Island Council and Executive Council and proposed a Caribbean Netherlands national holiday for July 1.
All agreed on the 2015 evaluation process as the first core priority and each delegation was asked to develop a strategy, a focus proposal and a vision. The second joint priority is the national government’s remittance level. Also discussed was a proposed joint Caribbean Netherlands’ lobbyist in The Hague and an annual meeting between island registrars as the three already closely consult with each other.
The islands agreed to a follow-up videoconference meeting on Monday, September 30, in preparation for the Caribbean Netherlands Week of meetings between the Executive Councils and the national government in The Hague.
Asked if Saba’s Executive Council had met with the Saba Island Council during their official, overlapping visits on Bonaire, Levenstone confirmed they had not.
On Tuesday, the delegates visited secondary school vocational track facilities, after they were welcomed by Education Ministry representative Nolly Oleana. Currently, two Saba students attend vocational school on Bonaire. The delegation was informed of the language barrier with regard to the courses being held in Dutch. The students also expressed concerns with their study financing stipend of US $650 not covering living expenses. The councilmen expressed interest in re-instating an island government study grant for students with no scholarship.
They visited a vocationalstream restaurant facility similar to one being finalized on Saba. They also toured Pelikaan primary school where director Joost Latiers received them explaining that despite the international makeup of the student population, teaching there remains in Dutch, a heavy challenge that vindicates Saba’s choice for the home-spoken English as the language of instruction.
Tuesday afternoon the delegation visited the joint hospital, old age home, day care for the elderly and nursing school facilities of Foundation Mariadal. Director Giovanni Frans presented these as well as the adult home health care service provided. This inspired delegates to seek an elderly day care programme for Saba, which is considered financially preferable over early residency in the old age home, and cost-saving in rotating staff among the various special-care units.
The delegation met Wednesday with RCN Director Sybren van Dam, who tried to combat perceptions that decisions are being taken exclusively from Bonaire. He stressed that specialists are deployed on the three islands despite the councilmen not being aware of any stationed on Saba.
ZVK health insurance office did not give the delegates an audience leading them to ask Van Dam about payment of daily allowances for medical travel. He claimed that the persistent problem lies with the banking system.
The delegation also visited the prison in Bonaire, managed by Acting Director Patricia Hassell. Cell capacity is being extended with cells made from cargo containers. Some of these units are to be transferred to Statia. They were informed that ZVK medical insurance ceases once inmates are incarcerated. Once released, they need to register again. A teleconferencing facility exists at the prison, allowing family members to communicate with a detainee by visiting the RCN Office.
Bonaire’s largest social housing project, coordinated by Glenda Sint Jago and Rupert Arrindel of Fundashon Cas Boneriano, was also part of the itinerary. Some 100 houses will be ready for use in October. Saba identified a joint challenge in the taxation of these social homes. They seek a lobby on alleviating this.
The agenda for September 6 was fully dedicated to attending the official Bonaire Day celebrations.

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