The Dutch government in Holland has been accused of engaging in a system of apartheid on the small island of Bonaire which it administers from the mainland.
Two human rights activists from Bonaire who was in Grenada last week launched a scathing attack on the manner in which Holland was seeking to enforce its rule on the island which is referred to as part of the ABC islands in the Caribbean.
President of the “We Want Bonaire Back Foundation”, James Finies and head of the We Dare to Care Foundation, Davika Bissessar-Shaw visited Grenada last week to take part in a United Nations (UN) Convention at the Radisson Beach Resort in Grand Anse, St. George with the hope of getting signed onto its non-self government territory list.
The two concerned citizens charged that the world was witnessing a reintroduction of colonialism taking place in Bonaire under the Dutch and that in the coming years it will be difficult to find a native Bonairian on their tiny island.
Holland was accused of using high taxes, high cost of living, and an unfair education and healthcare system to help dwindle the local population.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, Finies said the locals are engaged in a struggle to regain their autonomy which they said was taken away by Holland but they are running out of time.
“Our people are out of business, the local business sector is taken over by the Dutch because they tax them on their property. There is no property tax for new businesses, so all the new businesses coming from Europe, from the Dutch – they don’t have to pay tax”, he said.
“We paying tax on our properties but they (the foreigners) don’t have to pay tax. So, our jobs are being wiped out now, everybody is losing everything…families losing their land, people losing their lands and houses”, he added.
According to Finies, the Dutch government in Holland is also tinkering with the education system in Bonaire by changing their native language of Papiamento that is used by locals to Dutch.
He also said that the healthcare system cannot be afforded by the average Bonairian and as such people are dying and the already small population is being further depleted.
He spoke of locals now having to fly to Colombia to receive medical treatment instead of the much closer and cheaper Curacao.
“So, our people are now sent to Colombia and Colombia is three to four hours away. So, almost all our emergency patients die because they wouldn’t make it…and what it cost…a flight to Curacao is about $500 now a flight to Colombia cost $14,000…”, he said.
Finies also accused the Dutch government of introducing new laws against the beliefs of the people of Bonaire such as the law of Euthanasia in which a person who is sick and old now “have the right to take your life”.
“… Our people are Christian believers. So, what they do now they … are asking our people to sign…(to kill themselves) so they are passing away, they are dying. We cannot do nothing about it because … we have no power to decide nothing, to change nothing,” he said.
Noting that the population of Bonaire has increased by 400% in recent years mainly by Dutch Immigrants, the human rights activist told THE NEW TODAY that the greatest fear of locals is that their small island will be a “white” territory in the next five to six years.
He said that Holland has opened up the Immigration Policy to allow anyone who is Dutch to come and stay on the island at anytime they wish to do so.
“Before, when we had our autonomy, we regulated the immigration by allowing some people (to) come to the island but they (Holland) open it to Dutch, European … and they coming in now as they wish – meaning they don’t need any of those regulations anymore.
“So, they come in the island … meaning our population is doubled with immigrants. Immigrants from the Dutch have come in, they’ve taken our jobs over because they have power, and they decide what you are capable of.
“So, we’re not capable of anything anymore, so they put anybody on top of you and take your jobs.
According to Finies, it is his intention to get the international community like the United Nations, CARICOM and other world bodies to be aware of what Holland is doing to Bonaire and to place pressure on the Dutch government to abide with international laws on autonomy for small island states.
“We have no autonomy now…we lost our power, democratic power because there’s no laws, no stipulation, nothing that we have the right to change (anything) Holland has the ultimate power and … so we don’t have any representation (at any) level”, he said.
Like Finies, Bissessar-Shaw is accusing Holland of being hypocritical on the situation in Bonaire as they have just signed onto the United Nations Security Council decree to protect human rights but is doing the complete opposite to the small island.
She said Holland is “committing human rights violation” on the tiny island of Bonaire.
She noted that pension and wages in Bonaire is half of what it is in Holland, there is no social benefits for the local population and that “the only thing that we get from Holland is all the laws, the taxes.”
She expressed fears that if the international community does not come to their assistance soon and help Bonairian to regain their autonomy then the locals will be no more soon.
Bissessar-Shaw said: “What we figure out is that sooner or later, the Bonairian will cease to exist and it will become a white island. They are already practicing apartheid on our island because all the shops and all the businesses are pro-Dutch.
“They demoted all our local Bonairian and they put the Dutch (in charge) but not only that part ….regular Bonairian like a painter or a gardener, a fisherman whatever, now the Dutch are also coming in on that level too (to take the work),” she added.
According to Bissessar-Shaw, Holland is making it very difficult for local Bonairian to maintain any semblance of independence from the mother country.
She explained: “There are three things a Bonairian do to survive because they are very simple, quiet people and very typical small Island (people). They fish, they eat goat, and they have a lot of donkey. Everything that the Bonairian can survive on without being dependent on Holland like they did a 100 years ago or 60 years ago, Holland take away the Goats, they make a law, no goats must be in the street.
“Their excuse is that they (the goats) eating out the vegetation…If people hungry, they would just go catch a goat, they stopped that – there are some people that will still rare the goat – they eat fish, the common fish, now the Dutch decided to implement a law to protect those fish.
The female human rights activist indicated that the plan of her organisation is not to break ties off completely from Holland but to have Bonaire’s autonomy back.
“The people don’t want to break off ties completely from Holland. We had our autonomy before 2010, our own Parliament could make their own laws and own rules. Holland outsmarted the politicians … so we want to reverse back where we were before 2010, not independence, because if we are a part of the Kingdom (of The Netherlands) we still have all the benefits – they have an obligation (under) Article 73 of the United Nations Convention on Human Rights to take care of us, build schools, build roads, develop our place and not to control and take over the island,” she said.
Time is running out, Bissessar-Shaw said, and they have decided to seek all the help they can get to regain their autonomy from the Dutch government on the mainland.