Gilbert Isabella took office on September 1, 2014 as the new Kingdom Representative of the Caribbean Netherlands. Below article is a short review on his first year in office.
Not enough time. I was forced to come to that conclusion early on in my first month as Kingdom Representative. That period was especially marked by getting to know the three islands, their authorities, new colleagues and of course also the inhabitants. There was not enough time to speak to everyone and to visit everywhere. Fortunately I had ample opportunity to do so in the following months. I still have a vivid recollection of the warm welcome and the many conversations; the islands showcased themselves in the best light. It immediately became clear, in that first month, that each of the three islands had its own character, concerns and issues but undoubtedly also opportunities, strengths and sufficient challenges.
A month later in The Hague I was immediately able to relay all that information during my first ‘CN table’. The Caribbean Netherlands-table is the joint administrative consultation in The Hague. There, all the departments involved speak with each other, exchange experiences and look ahead to the agenda for the government officials concerned. To me as Kingdom Representative it is a gateway where I can submit up to date information of the Caribbean Netherlands from the perspective of the islanders and bring back information from The Hague.
Topics I mentioned on that first occasion were: the so urgently desired tackling of poverty on the islands; the growing ‘us-them sentiment’ I noticed as an undercurrent; the joint further development of multi-year policy plan; issues behind the scenes and the optimistic outlook of the youth on the islands. It was pleasant to observe how involved the different departments are with the Caribbean Netherlands.
Together with the island governments this should, in the coming years, lead to the resolution of a few well-known bottlenecks. Actually too much to mention has happened the past year. Referenda and local elections were held. The Island Council elections, an important moment for the inhabitants to let their voices be heard, have resulted in new members in the Island and Executive Councils. The independent evaluation committee, led by Mrs. Spies, looking into the impact of the constitutional reform of 10-10-10 on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will present its final report mid-October 2015. I am also eagerly awaiting its findings.
Of course it is not all rosy. At the moment the situation of enhanced administrative supervision in St Eustatius is giving me cause for concern. I believe that the Central Government and the Public Entity of St Eustatius ultimately have a common goal that is good governance, transparency and financial stability. These are necessary for the wellbeing and development of the inhabitants of St. Eustatius.
I was also able to participate in Statia Day and Saba Day; important days firmly rooted in the community and significant for their own identity. Just like language: on St Eustatius, thanks to a great deal of work by The Ministry of Education Science and Culture (OCQ) and , schools and educational specialists, the educational system made the move to English as the instruction language. On Bonaire it was possible to publish a Papiamentu spellcheck for PC with the assistance of RCN.
And then of course there was the festive royal visit to Dia di Rincon. King Willem-alexander and Queen Maxima participated wholeheartedly in a great celebration.
Sometimes there is friction in the relationship between the Caribbean Netherlands and European Netherlands. But even the best marriages sometimes have issues. It is my experience that as long as you continue to communicate with each other and sincerely think something needs to be resolved, you can always reach a solution together.
Steps in that direction have already been taken, for example by signing the multi-year plans for Saba and Bonaire during the CN week in June. Poverty reduction, children’s rights and the promotion of economic development on the islands are clear priorities for the Central Government in the Caribbean Netherlands. And so it was that my first year as a Kingdom Representative for Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius glided into the second like a little sailboat in the Caribbean Sea.
Press release RCN.