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Bonaire protesters want mismanagement tackled


THE HAGUE–A small group of persons from Bonaire living in the Netherlands took to The Hague on Monday to protest against corruption and nepotism in Kralendijk, and to demand justice and good health care for the people of the island.

The protesters, eight in total, on the square in front of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament might have been limited in number, but that didn’t diminish the seriousness of their message.

Their targets were multiple: politicians of the governing UPB party, National Government Representative Wilbert Stolte and the health care insurance bureau ZKV. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was also targeted, because as head of the Dutch government he is responsible for the wellbeing of Bonaire, which is a Dutch public entity, just like St. Eustatius and Saba.

“Prime Minister Mark Rutte is co-responsible for mismanagement in Bonaire,” one of the signs said. The others signs said: “We want justice for the people of Bonaire/Caribbean Netherlands,” “National Government Representative Wilbert Stolte took part in corrupt nepotism,” “We are for integrity and against corruption” and “ZVK Bonaire has to stop suppressing the people of Bonaire.”

Chairman of the Foundation ‘A Step for Bonaire’ Ebert Saragoza lamented the low turn-out which he said was caused by a general fear of intimidation. “People are afraid to speak out and to take part in manifestations. They fear that their family in Bonaire will be victimised if they take part. But our message is clear and that is important,” he said.

Saragoza would like to see an integer and corruption-free Bonaire. He wants Dutch Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten to initiate an investigation into the wrongdoings in Bonaire’s political arena. Also, Dutch politicians like Mark Rutte and Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk should stop covering for Bonaire’s coalition parties like the UPB.

Saragoza and the protesters have faith in justice and the upcoming case against UPB politicians Commissioner Burney Elhage and retired UPB Leader Ramonsito Booi who will stand trial on November 25 on fraud, corruption and money laundering charges. “They have to appear before the Judge and that is justice,” said Saragoza.

The protesters support Island Governor Lydia Emerencia, whose functioning they say has been obstructed by the UPB. “Emerencia is the first woman, who has dared to fight against corruption and nepotism. She hasn’t buckled under the pressure of the corrupt politicians of the UPB. She is a good Island Governor,” said Betty Engelhardt, one of the protesters.

“I am happy that she is fighting corruption. Corruption is the source of all evil. It destroys communities, creates fear and intimidation; it divides people, increases the gap between rich and poor and instigates bad management by governments,” said Engelhardt, who has been successful in gathering some 2,500 signatures to organise a referendum in Bonaire. She works together with Xiomara Balentina to get a referendum for St. Eustatius as well.

Rosemarie Winklaar took part in Monday’s manifestation to voice her objections to the ZVK bureau and to fight for better health care in the Caribbean Netherlands. “ZVK says everything has gotten better after October 10, 2010, but that is far from the truth.”

According to Winklaar, the people on the three islands are suffering because of ZVK’s policy, which she considers bureaucratic and unfair. “We have ended up in hell. People are not getting the care they need, while the ZVK is wasting our money,” she said. Winklaar protested together with Mamita Fox, who sat in front of the ZVK office for eight days in April this year to demand better health care for the people of Bonaire.

The protesters were highly critical of National Government Representative Stolte, who late last week announced his resignation per May 1, 2014. Engelhardt: “Stolte doesn’t work for our people. He is not impartial and sides with the UPB.” The next National Government Representative should be a person who has good ties with the islands and understands them, she said. She applauded the earlier decision to appoint Julian Woodley from St. Eustatius as acting National Government Representative. She would like to see former Member of the Second Chamber Cynthia Ortega-Martijn appointed as Stolte’s successor. “She has always defended our interests and knows our islands well.”

On September 24, the group will present a couple of hundred signatures to Chairman of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Jeroen Recourt, announced Saragoza, who made headlines in 1991 when he engaged in a hunger strike together with lawyer Michiel Bijkerk against police brutality.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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