Outgoing Dutch Government Representative Wilbert Stolte, who will be resigning as per May 1, said goodbye to Saba during a farewell reception Monday evening at the office of Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN in The Bottom. He described his job as a “big experiment” and as “pioneer work.” A similar reception was held on St. Eustatius on Wednesday. A farewell reception on Bonaire is planned for Thursday, April 24.
Stolte said these three years were a “big experiment,” which brought about “tremendous change,” a challenge for the national and local governments alike, involving discussions on an array of issues. He advised Sabans to keep the island’s friendly culture alive while working together with the national government. “To design a construction on paper is one thing, but to enforce it is completely different. In the big design we don’t see the special circumstances that should be considered. We enforced a new tax system, social security, health care, education systems, and all this was too much for three small populations in relation to that of the European Netherlands,” Stolte said after the reception.
“Beginnings are always difficult and we had no examples. It was all pioneer work in which you can make mistakes,” he added. Asked about the challenges in integrating administratively remote territories with diverse cultures and the predictable tensions this creates, Stolte said he believed that Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk will comply with major parties’ push for giving greater autonomy and a wider mandate to the Government Representative.
Acting Government Representative Julian Woodley attended the reception on Saba as did Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Commissioner Bruce Zagers, Island Councilman Ishmael Levenston and local Chief of Police Coenraad Swormink. Governor Johnson thanked Stolte for his service on the three islands, adding that “Sometimes people fail to acknowledge all that has been done behind the scenes for the islands.” He presented Stolte with appreciation gifts crafted on Saba.
Stolte thanked the Governor for his remarks and for the cooperation with the Executive Council during the past three years. Levenston spoke about his friendship with Stolte and the constant contact they had on numerous issues. Somalia Levenston presented Stolte with appreciation gifts from RCN workers.
Stolte thanked all wellwishers for their remarks and called on all to treat his successor Woodley as well as he was treated. He was pleased that Woodley will continue to reside on Statia, thus bridging the current gap between the Government Representative on Bonaire and the Windward Islands.
Woodley spoke about his long political career, his reluctant leadership over decades and attempts to distance himself from politics of personal attacks and to instil politics based on party platforms. He served as Commissioner on Statia for 18 years, as councilman for almost 28 years and in the parliament of the former Netherlands Antilles for more than five years. Woodley recalled his shocking radio speech in which he announced his decision to step down from political leadership in 2011. He reluctantly accepted the interim position of Government Representative, stressing that the Representative’s cabinet on Bonaire has a capable team of specialists, which he will assist.