21 October 2011

Saba protests conditions of new political status


Daily Herald
Sint Maarten

Silent protesters strike thoughtful tone with Dutch parliamentarians

page13a129SABA--Some forty Sabans of all social backgrounds and ages turned out at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport early Saturday morning to greet in silent protest the visiting president and parliamentary group leaders of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament.
Participating parliamentary group leaders Stef Blok (VVD), Job Cohen (PvdA), Sybrand van Haersma Buma (CDA), Alexander Pechtold (D66), Jolande Sap (GroenLinks) and Kees van der Staaij (SGP) hold varied levels of local knowledge, with some visiting the islands for the first time and others having been closely involved in Kingdom relations over the years.

The silent protest, with a large number of placards carrying messages of frustration, was an unprecedented first action of its kind from the small island community known for its stoicism.
If Sabans had acknowledged themselves shy in representing their views and rights publicly in the past. Saturday's protest proved their ability to stand up.

Many European Dutch residents joined the silent protest, which sidelined thoughts of this being a clash of cultures. It reaffirmed the problems as being pressing, basic, tangible frustrations compounded by broken communication and perception of lacking trust or care.

Tense moments passed until the delegation, greeted by Governor Jonathan Johnson and Kingdom Representative Wilbert Stolte, entered the crowd of gathered protesters. President of Parliament and delegation leader Gerdi Verbeet led the way with parliamentary group leaders following on cue.

Instead of whizzing away from the unscheduled welcoming party, each member of the delegation approached the protestors and held conversations about their grievances, the very purpose of their visit achieved in a most direct interaction.

The delegates took the time to speak directly, in what appeared most natural and genuine concern for what people had to say.
The protesters' placards read "Show us that you really care" and "We demand respect," messages taken seriously by the visiting politicians. Many of them stopped to talk to locals about what they meant by their signs asking, "We do belong to Holland, right?" or "Sabans, second class citizens."

The politicians paid attention to the many protest signs related to healthcare problems, the issue of putting a price on the lives of Sabans, and playing cost-efficiency games endangering the lives of locals. The unscheduled moment was described on all sides as a thoughtful interaction.

PvdA leader Cohen said the current situation in which Sabans had to refer to various ministries in The Hague was "absurd."
Several ministers are keeping Sabans at an arm's length. D66 leader Pechtold said it was a "disgrace" that the Executive Council's efforts for consultations with the Health Minister had been in vain.

The visiting parliamentarians were confronted with emotional appeals during a meeting with some 200 Sabans later in the afternoon.

Kingdom Representative Wilbert Stolte also was criticised. He had been mainly in Bonaire and hardly ever had been seen in Saba, which was "worrisome," according to VVD fraction leader Blok.

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