Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, in his capacity as Chairman of the Main and Central Voting Bureau, on Nomination Day Monday February 4 received the candidate lists of two political parties, the Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) and the Saba Labor Party (SLP), and a blanc list with Dave Levenstone as the sole candidate.
The eight candidates for the Island Council elections of Saba’s largest and ruling party WIPM accompanied by sizable number of supporters gathered in the court room of the administration building at 3:00pm to submit two list of candidates, one list for the Island Council elections and a second for the elections of the Electoral College. Both elections take place simultaneously on March 20.
Party leader Commissioner Rolando Wilson will head the WIPM slate. Number two on the list is Commissioner Bruce Zagers, who is also WIPM Party President. Number three is current Island Council Member Carl Buncamper, followed by Eviton Heyliger on number four and Vito Charles on number five, who are both a Member of the Island Council. Hemmie van Xanten runs as number six on the WIPM slate, Esmeralda Johnson as number seven and Jelle van der Velde number eight.
Having a strong track record for the past four years and leading a stable government since 1999 are two major attributions that the WIPM has in its favor. The orange party currently has three seats in the Island Council, but party leader Wilson said on Monday that he wanted to regain the one seat which the party lost four years ago so the WIPM will again have four seats.
The WIPM aims to achieve stability for another four years. The party has the experience and has built a relationship with all levels of the Dutch Government, based on trust and experience. The current WIPM-led government has integrity and strong financial management as its main principles, as a result of which Saba has been able to achieve a lot locally and in its dealings with the Dutch Government.
The WIPM will continue to fight for social economic development and to press for a realistic social minimum. Alleviating poverty is a priority and in that sense the party will continue fighting for policies that will reduce the cost of living and cost of doing business which will be beneficial for the Saba people.
Affordable transportation, energy and telecommunications are all objectives that the WIPM will continue to work on so the cost of living can go down. More autonomy especially in the area of granting work permits is an important issue, which according to the party will only be possible when there is a stable government in place, a government that recognizes the importance of good governance, integrity and financial management.
Under the WIPM leadership the harbor project and the ability to secure the funding has been a great accomplishment which will help to grow the island’s economy. The party mentioned the landfill as another positive project, serving as an example for the region how to go about waste management and recycling.
WIPM party leader Wilson during Monday’s gathering called on the eight candidates to work hard and run a clean campaign. “Go out there and campaign. Focus on the issues, highlight our party’s track record, campaign on a high level. Go from door to door, talk with the people, because that is who we work for and that is who we want to make things better for,” said Wilson. The WIPM will have its first rally on February 20 during which it will release the party program.
Blue party slate
After the WIPM, it was the turn of the SLP party to submit its two lists of candidates, one for the Island Council elections and one for the Electoral College. Party leader Ishmael Levenstone, flanked by number one on the SLP list Monique Wilson, number three Thaddeus Nicholson, number four Charles Hassell and number five Sislene Matthew, handed over the lists to Island Governor Johnson in the hall of the administration building.
Levenstone announced that this would be his last election. “This is the last time that I am going to run, God spare life. I have done my best in the opposition benches to achieve something for the people of Saba. I want to live and die for the people. I ask people to vote for this old man one more time,” said Levenstone.
Monique Wilson said that the blue party might not be the biggest in terms of numbers, but that these elections are not about popularity. “The WIPM might be the biggest, but for us it is about being there for the people. The SLP candidates have a hands-on approach. They are in close contact with the people,” she said.
The social domain, people’s wellbeing is number one for the SLP, explained Wilson. “Establishing a social minimum, decent social allowances and wages, a level playing field in social affairs with a justification and transparency in allowances, and support for single parents. We need equal opportunities for everyone. We need to empower the people, provide them with the educational tools so that they have a fair chance, and together we can bring Saba to a next level of development.”
As for eradicating poverty, Wilson said that “it is nice to have paperwork and numbers,” but that “in the end it is important to help people who have it very hard, people who work double jobs and families with multiple generations are living in one house.” The opposition has an important role in the democratic process. “You need balance, you need that voice,” she said.
The people and the government need to work together. “It is a team effort. It has to be a collaboration between the two. Government has a job to do and must do so in an unbiased, transparent manner, creating trust among the people that it works on their behalf. Our mission as SLP hasn’t changed. Our drive is still the same and so is the dedication to the people. We have an even bigger fire in us to move forward to the next level,” said Monique Wilson.
Dave Levenstone handed in the first candidate list on Monday morning. He has a blanc list, meaning that the name of his party, the United People Movement, will not appear on the ballot on March 20. The deadline to register a political party for the 2019 Island Council elections was on December 24, and Levenstone said he only found out about this deadline too late. “So, I made the choice to go with a blanc list.”
Levenstone, who is the sole candidate on the list, said he wants to get into the Island Council because he is not happy with the current performance in the Council. “The Island Council could have achieved much more. I miss a solid debate. There is too much grandstanding and not enough results for the people. The Island Council goes to The Hague every year for meetings, but we are not briefed on the results,” he said.
According to Levenstone, the WolBES law provides the opportunity to install committees on several topics, yet there is not one in place. He said the Island Council has the task to supervise the Executive Council and deal with serious issues such as the budget. “In my opinion, there has never been a real debate about the budget. The budget is your bible and you need a real debate with content.”
Levenstone said he wanted one term in the Island Council. “In that term, I will train the younger generation so they can take over. I look forward to a healthy campaign with strict focus on the issues, without mudslinging.” Levenstone will only participate in the Island Council election, not in the Electoral College election.