THE BOTTOM, SABA – The Saban political veteran Dave Levenstone says that his fellow-Sabans do not speak up enough, because the evaluation report about constitutional reform states that Saba does better than the other islands, Hazel Durand reports on Caribisch Netwerk.
“But I do not think that we have to see this as a setback,” he says. “The Island Council must establish an independent committee to study the evaluation and to arrive that way at solutions that are in the best interest of the island.” Levenstone is the former leader of the Saba Democratic Party and the presenter of the poplar political radio program Good Day Saba. He discusses several issues concerning Saba in this program.
“The Island Council first has to tackle the high cost of living,” says Levenstone. The Covenant of Cooperation the three supermarkets on the island signed in February and that established maximum prices for fifteen products is a good start according to Levenstone. “But we should not forget that a supermarket wants to make a profit.”
Two years ago representatives of the island proposed during a conference in Statia to combine their purchases of supermarket products. “That way the supermarkets are not that dependent on St. Maarten. This could help lower transport and import costs, because that is according to the owners the reason for the high prices in their supermarkets.”
The islands should work much closer together and with surrounding islands, Levenstone says. “For years we have been saying that we have to provide our own food, but what did we undertake? The cargo ships with food still arrive every week in Saba. There are nearby islands from whom we could learn and with whom we could negotiate the import of fresh produce.”
The retired politician is also of the opinion that the Island Council has to start working full time. “The council must become more active. We are a small island but there are enough problems to tackle. The evaluation report blames the Dutch and the Saban government for the current problems. The council should have involved the population more with the evaluation to break through the laid back culture. The islands could assume more responsibilities and ask their communities for input. “Otherwise it is always and only the fault of the politicians and they are the ones who agrees with our current status as a special municipality of the Netherlands.”
Levenstone proposes the establishment of a Saba Desk, where Sabans who have been living in the Netherlands for years and who know how The Hague functions, can function as liaison between the Netherlands and Saba. “They could also be contacts for Saban students and strengthen the ties between Sabans in the Netherlands. There are Sabans living scattered across the Netherlands with a high enough education to handle this task. If the Desk grows it becomes the Saba House in the Netherlands.”
While the other BES-islands, Statia and Bonaire, are looking towards a referendum, Levenstone says that Saba should organize a poll to gauge the kind of constitutional status they want. “Between 2006 and 2010 the islands have spoken with the Netherlands about the BES-status, so all the islands were fully aware of what was coming. You could plead for a referendum but if you are not sure what you want to achieve with it, then it is useless.”
The political crisis in St. Maarten shows why the islands still have to work together after 10-10-10, says Levenstone. “Saba, Statia and St. Maarten have to strengthen their ties.”