Opinion: Meet and greet

POSTED: 10/14/11 11:29 AM

Lol, sometimes opportunity knocks so loud, it is hard to believe it is really there. We’ll be honest here: we missed it, but an attentive reader brought the following to our attention. Not only that, he also sent his information to the Dutch TV-program De Wereld Draait Door (The World Keeps Turning) to see if there is any interest in doing something with it. We guess the program won’t let go of this opportunity to make members of the Dutch parliament look like a bunch of fools.
Let’s have a look at how out attentive reader informed the producers of the TV-program. It sends a message of despair about the situation in the BES-islands, that’s for sure.
Our reader states that expectations were high when the constitutional change came about. “Released from the disinterested government of the former Netherlands Antilles in Curacao, the people on the islands would be much better off under the Dutch umbrella.”
But the reality is rather disappointing, he wrote. There are complaints about the Dutch civil servants that were sent to the islands. They are arrogant and they don’t understand one iota of the local culture. Abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage, matters that go against the grain for many Caribbean Dutch citizens, are pushed forcefully.
This is where we split with our attentive reader, because the people in the BES-islands knew a long time ago that this was part of the package. As long as nobody established an abortion clinic in, say, Saba, no abortions will be performed there. So what’s the problem? The islanders may continue with illegal abortions as they have done for decades.
There is more, of course: many people are financially worse off to the point that the new tax regime is already in need of a revision.
And then there is the education system. This has to meet Dutch standards, but the reality is, our reader claims, “that children that have been brought up in the English language now have to speak Dutch in school and that parents who come to complain about this are also received by Dutch-speakers. And most parents hardly speak any Dutch.”
Is that all? Nope. There is more, and here it comes. Healthcare was supposed to be brought to Dutch standards as well, but our reader notes that patients are flown to exotic places like Guadeloupe or Colombia where the Netherlands has bought surgery capacity and specialist care. The patients are left with doctors and nurses who don’t speak their language and the system does not allow family members to accompany them.
One could easily argue that not all is well in the BES-islands. This weekend a delegation from the Dutch Second Chamber pays the islands a visit. That visit is advertised with a meet and greet announcement; part of the ad is depicted on this page.
Our reader noted with some glee (okay, with a lot of glee) that the handshake in the picture – designed to express the wish of the Dutch MPs to get to know the people in the islands better – is all wrong.
Yep, the contested handshake indeed depicts two white males who are neatly dressed in a suit. At least, this is what one may conclude from their arms. Our reader points out that fifty percent of Saba’s population, and 90 percent of Statia’s population is black. Showing two white guys shaking hands does therefore not show understanding for the local culture.
We’d like to add something here. We don’t know the percentages, but we’re pretty sure that at least some percentage of the population on both islands is female and that a good percentage of these women are also black. Also, some percentage of the good men and women in Saba and Statia are gay, so one is almost tempted to think that the male shake in the ad is a not to subtle hint at gay-emancipation.
Our reader did not go there, however. He noted with an additional measure of glee that the gentlemen are using their left hands for the shake. And that’s where our reader found his ultimate satisfaction, or, that’s also possible, his ultimate level of irritation. The ad, he wrote, is symbolic for the way the Netherlands is going about its business in the BES-islands – with two left hands.

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