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Island Council training on Bonaire was very valuable.

SABA--The three-day training on Bonaire on April 11, 12, and 13 provided valuable insights for the new Island Council.

“The training brought more insight into the role and responsibilities that you have as an Island Council member,” said Elsa Peterson of the Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM). “For me, it was a bit more empowering, coming from the government’s executive branch. As an Island Council member, it is important to realize that you are in fact the highest legislative body of government and the responsibility and authority that comes with that,” she said.

Vito Charles (WIPM) reiterated it was good that the training was held very soon after the installation of the new Island Council. “It shows that we are proactive. The training gave focus and clarity on what is important for the Island Council. It is always good to reinforce what you heard during earlier training and to discuss it with your colleagues, especially the more recent members who have come on board so we can continue to develop knowledge and find ways to do new things,” said Charles.

Greater understanding

Saskia Matthew of the Party for Progress, Equality, and Prosperity (PEP) said she was glad to have done this training at this specific point in time. “It's been three weeks since we were sworn in and it was important for us to start with the basics. This training has given me a greater understanding of how much knowledge is lacking on Saba and within our governing system. As such, we have made a collective decision to have a fully functioning Island Council before the end of this term because we all deem it necessary. It's important that we are fully equipped to uphold the office of the Island Council and represent the island to the best of our abilities,” she said. 

“As I mentioned before we left, our last training was 3.5 years too late. So, I made it my point that as soon as the new Island Council was sworn in, an introduction training should take place. Especially for the newly-elected members it is important to understand the structure of the organization and what your role is within. The fact that the training was held off-island allowed the different members to get to know each other in a different setting,” said Hemmie van Xanten (PEP).

Day 1 of the introductory training on Bonaire focused on the responsibilities, instruments, and expectations of the Island Council and its members, the interaction between the parties in the Island Council, and the interaction with the Executive Council, the Dutch Government, and citizens. The Island Council has seven tools in total to do its work of which the right to ask questions, the right to make amendments, and the right to submit motions are among the most important.

Day 2 focused on the Rules of Order as well as the proposed changes to the WolBES, the general law that regulates the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba, and the FinBES, the general law that regulates the finances of the three islands.

Rules of Order

“We also discussed the new Rules of Order for the Island Council,” said Peterson. Charles pointed out that the last time the Rules of Order were updated was in 2011. The discussion to update the Rules of Order started in 2019 at an earlier training for the Island Council and again during a subsequent training in 2022. According to Charles, an update is needed. “Certain processes have changed or have been updated and are no longer in line with other municipalities in The Netherlands.,” he said. “The new Rules of the order will give the Island Council tools to operate more effectively,” added Peterson.

“It is good to know that the Rules of Order and Code of Conduct should be updated every four years. Just learning this makes me feel more confident in saying that policies and processes are something that we really need to investigate. We have been really falling behind and it's about time that we catch up,” said Matthew. 

While on Bonaire, the Island Council members met with Island Governor Edison Rijna, who shortly after took up his new job as Caribbean Netherlands Special Envoy for EU funds, United Nations (UN) funds, and economic relations with Latin America. Rijna explained his new role and how this could bring benefits for Saba and the other islands.

Healthcare

The Island Council delegation also had a meeting with the management of Care and Youth Caribbean Netherlands (ZJCN) to discuss general developments and pressing issues. “This meeting was mainly a result of the previous meeting we had in December with State Secretary of Public Health Maarten van Ooijen. The Island Council was introduced to all ZJCN staff members and got an insight into the daily operation,” said Van Xanten.

“Meeting with ZJCN was very important to us because the community has expressed a lot of concern in this area. Having those vital conversations gave me a different perspective on how the processes work. We met everyone working in the department and now have direct contact with persons responsible for all departments. They also asked us to help them help the Saba community and we intend to do just that,” said Matthew. The Island Council returned to Saba on Friday, April 14.

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