Per September 1 he exchanged his job as director of National Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN for a new challenge, writes The Daily Herald. After five years Sybren Van Dam’s term in office is over, one year longer than initially intended. Jan Helmon, until recently Secretary of the Public Body St. Eustatius, will succeed Sybren per September 1. Sybren will set to work as project director of several projects.
Many rumours are circulating about his departure as RCN-director. The Hague is supposedly recalling him due to dissatisfaction with his achievements. He supposedly had gone too far as director and is the cause of discontentment, especially among the personnel recruited locally. There’s even a conspiracy theory that he was the brains behind the premature departure of Government Representative Wilbert Stolte. Another argument for his departure is that he had to return to the Netherlands because his daughter is seriously ill.
It’s all untrue, said Van Dam, seated at the conference table in the office that once belonged to Stolte. He’s not leaving for the Netherlands at all, but will continue to work from his station on Bonaire, where he feels very comfortable with his family and where he will stay for the time being. He will also remain in the employment of RCN.
He was director for five years, originally four, but that was extended later on with another 12 months. He says this was a wonderful period and spoke of terrific years. “Let there be no mistake about it. In the beginning period before 10-10-10 we were mainly busy with the very first principles of building up the organisation. RCN was founded after 10-10-10 and we all worked very hard to make sure the work would be done right. “It was a lot of work but it was fun. With approximately 100 people from RCN Central and 600 to 700 over the entire organisation we realised a reliable and wellfunctioning government. It was fun to do, although not always easy. Many things hadn’t worked out well immediately, but I always got a great deal of enjoyment out of it,” he said with a satisfied smile on his face.
The rumour that he had tripped-up Stolte is nonsense, Van Dam said. His term of office ending has to do with a decision of The Hague to appoint a new government representative. In the past year there was an inquiry into the role and position of the government representative. The reports on such can be found on the website of the Second Chamber of Dutch Parliament. The latter decided to choose for a slightly different interpretation of the position of government representative and consequently a different interpretation of the role of the secretary. With the arrival of the new government representative the position of secretary will be combined with the position of RCN-director. “One is not to believe everything reported in the newspaper, it’s linked to the decision of government. This has nothing to do with me or my opinion on such. “There was an entire procedure for the recruitment of a new government representative and in the slipstream of this, there was the decision to seek a new director. To my knowledge, no vacancy advertisement was placed in the newspaper, but that is the reason, nothing else.
” There was quite a bit of commotion in the past period about the terms of employment policy for the RCN-personnel and much criticism on Van Dam’s position in the negotiations to reach a new agreement that was acceptable for everyone. His relation with the labour unions was supposedly not good. According to Van Dam, it had been a difficult process because the RCN-organisation faces various salary scales. For the police the results turned out to be unfavourable or less, while others were better off. In that ambiance of tension, the departing director had to negotiate with the unions based on a mandate from the department in The Hague. “At times it seemed a fight to the finish, but in my opinion, I have an excellent working relation with the unions. If they don’t think the offer is good enough they could be angry with me, but I’m merely the negotiator attempting to reach agreement based on that mandate. “I pled as none other, considering the current situation of the purchasing power and the income level, to see if there’s more room from the Netherlands for better terms of employment. We succeeded to a certain extent, but at one point there is a limit. If the unions don’t agree with this immediately then it’s not because of discord with me.” Fortunately, also this last hurdle was taken at the last moment. All unions have meanwhile agreed with the current proposal and the parties were supposed to sign the new terms of the employment agreement. “It was completed from an administrative point of view so we could all sign this before I left.”
Looking back, Van Dam thinks much has been accomplished by RCN in the past period. “If you compare how we do it as national government in our supportive tasks to how this is done in the Netherlands, then we are well-matched. I think we’ve accomplished much.” “Of course, I’m not satisfied 100 per cent. One of the reasons I like this work is because every day is another day to do it better. There’s always room for improvement.” In the past years he did the work with much enjoyment and is convinced that he made a serious contribution toward the quality of government and always treated people honestly and transparently, without giving preferential treatment. He’s aware that one can’t please everyone.
Van Dam: “It only takes one enemy in the organisation that can fill two newspapers with falsehoods. We often see that people who are happy with you state this less explicitly than those who oppose you.” He has another important message. He’d gladly see that persons, especially on Bonaire – even more than on Saba – voice their opinion. The people of Bonaire are a quiet people; if they tell you what’s bothering them they will do so in a very calm and peaceful way. Van Dam: “They are always satisfied and very modest. However, this is not helpful in all situations. Sometimes it helps to give your serious opinion,” he said.