Violations of integrity have been found on all three islands of the Caribbean Netherlands, not only in Bonaire, where two (former) politicians have been prosecuted, writes The Daily Herald.
This according to a recent report on security and crime of the National Police and Royal Marechaussee titled “Safety image Caribbean Netherlands 2013. Crime, violation of regulations and public nuisance on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba” that Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament last week.
The Caribbean is generally associated with a high degree of integrity violations. Nevertheless, violations of integrity cases on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are limited in number. This was mainly due to the fact that there is little willingness to report cases to the police, and that offenders are not always prosecuted, stated the report.
There are frequently indications of integrity violations in various forms on all three islands. They varied from misconduct during free-time to wastage or failure to perform, and to more serious forms such as fraud, money laundering and corruption.
There are three sorts of people who commit integrity violations: government officials, administrators/politicians and people in key positions – mostly service sector staff working at important facilities like the airport and harbour.
On St. Eustatius, no violations of integrity were recorded by police or the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Caribbean Netherlands during the report’s research period which covered 2008 to 2012. However, there were indications of integrity violations by government officials in respect of insufficient work ethic and improper use of violence while on duty. There are/were also administrators who seem to have conflicting interests.
Indications of integrity violations also exist in Saba, but no cases were recorded by police or the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Integrity violations of government officials mostly had to do with labour ethics, such as being easy with working hours and wastage. There were also signals of using force by officials in function. No specifics were given on these issues. Corruption was difficult to indicate and trace in Saba, according to the authors of the report. The same was the case in St. Eustatius where the latter matter was concerned.
On Saba, there had been allegations of favouritism when it came to choosing not to enforce unpopular measures, it was stated in the report. The good news was that the attention for democratic norms and values, and the importance of integrity has increased since Saba became a public entity per October 10, 2010.
In the period studied, there were two criminal investigations on Bonaire in connection with an integrity violation by a government official. A few investigations into the integrity of administrators or politicians were started or restarted. These investigations possibly indicated the illegal use of public money and waste of funds in economically interesting investments instead of spending them in provisions that improve the general quality of life of the Bonaire people.
According to the authors of the report, the small scale of the islands is “conducive to the development of relations of dependency between persons and the combination of interests.” The report said that the culture of conflicting interests is “characteristic of the entire Caribbean.” People in government sometimes also infringe on integrity laws for economic reasons. Due to the relatively low wages people take a second job which means that they combine interests. “These risks of objectionable combinations of interests are highest in government officials, administrators and politicians.” The problem was that people tend to tolerate this kind of behaviour in social relations. “Calling people to account in respect of integrity violations, or the risk of such violations, is not common practice.” According to the report, this can partly be explained by the fact that schools always focused on cognitive skills. “The majority of the population has not been trained or educated in developing a critical attitude towards administrative affairs and politics, due to which illegal conduct is not easily condemned, let alone reported to the police.”
It is expected that the reported number of integrity violations will increase in the coming years because the population will get more information about reporting violations to the police. People will also be able to make use of the internet to report integrity violations in the future. In addition, more attention in society to values and standards will contribute to an increase in the number of reports that are to the police. Integrity violations by government officials are expected to increase, the number of government officials has increased since the islands became part of the Netherlands.
Integrity violations by administrators and politicians are expected to decrease in the long run. Integrity violations by service sector employees remain a risk in the future. In professions of an autonomous or of a social nature, for example in the transport and logistics sector, but also in the financial or legal sector, people can make improper use of the opportunities provided by their daily activities. The differences in outlook on the theme of integrity between the European Netherlands and the Caribbean will not be easy to bridge.
In the context of the Caribbean, the question arises as to what a realistic objective could be. Changing the mentality will cost time and require investing in public education with government officials, politicians and everyone else setting a good example.