The Daily Herald writes again about the fact that the Dutch Government supports the recommendation of the Small Evaluation Committee Caribbean Netherlands of a policy that caters more to the specific needs of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, with more attention for the differences between the islands. “The individuality and culture of the islands is relevant. That means that a differentiated approach between the islands is possible, where warranted,” stated Minister of Home and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk in a letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Friday that the working relation with the Caribbean Netherlands will change on several points. The so-called Caribbean Netherlands Table, a forum consisting of top civil servants of the various Dutch ministries, will be given a more important role, a long-term policy programme will be drawn up, and the National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) is to arrange for a better coordination. The Daily Herald already reported on these recommendations in its Saturday edition.
The Council of Ministers on Friday decided that it would implement the recommendations of the Small Evaluation Committee, chaired by former top civil servant and consultant of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK Marcel van Gastel with Inspector-general at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Jenny Thunissen and Saba Island Governor Jonathan Johnson as members. In their talks with the committee, the Executive Councils requested attention for the specific differences between the three islands, which they pointed out, required a different approach in some cases. “One often forgets that a policy may be logical and workable on one island but not on the other,” stated the committee in its report. According to the committee, the Dutch Government’s excessive focus on Bonaire is partly caused by the relatively strong complement of the National Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN on Bonaire.
The committee recommended to give more attention to the specific circumstances of the individual islands and to give St. Eustatius a more prominent spot. “Arrange more presence and know-how on the Windward islands and differentiate where needed in the policy and legislation per island,” stated the committee. “It is important not to compare the islands with a municipality, but to see them separate from the European context and to look at each island individually. More confidence can be given and the islands can be helped to strengthen the local governments,”
The committee further remarked that the islands are still viewed too much from a Netherlands’ point of view. “In a Caribbean Netherlands culture one often starts with consultation rounds to build up confidence. In European Netherlands notes are taken, followed by deliberation based on these notes.” Plasterk stated in his letter that the Dutch Government is willing to take into account the characteristics of the islands, but that legal security, equality before the law, quality of service and efficiency are dominant factors. “The cabinet is prepared at all times to seek the optimum mix between individuality and these key elements together with the islands,” stated Plasterk. “The recommendation to solve problems practically in consultation with the public entities, and where necessary separate from the existing methods in the European Netherlands, is a very valuable one in the opinion of this cabinet. I conclude that the status of a public body also offersroom to form policy at one’s own discretion without the municipal structure,” the minister stated. The Dutch Government pledged to invest more in the bridging of cultural differences between The Hague and the Caribbean Netherlands. The Small Evaluation Committee stated in its report that the presence of multiple (governmental) cultures in one environment creates additional challenges. “It is important to have specific attention for the cultural differences and to go about this in a conscious manner,” the committee stated. The committee proposed several measures to improve the cooperation between the people from the Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands that work on and on behalf of the islands. The committee recommended joint cultural sensitivity courses which will increase the comprehension for each other’s method of thinking and functioning. The Dutch Government should also consider whether a Dutch civil servant is suitable to work in a different cultural environment before he or she is dispatched to the islands. Aspects like seniority, life experience in a non-Western environment, social intelligence and integrity should be taken into account. More key positions at RCN should be occupied by local people. This will improve efficiency because the expertise in carrying out the policy will be more tailored on the local specific circumstances. This will strengthen the confidence that people of the islands have in the Dutch Government.