Bati Bleki, Weekly Recap, August 7th, 2016


One of my acquaintances, he is in education, called me Friday, he wanted to run something by me he said. We connected on Saturday and right from the start he asked me if I notice discrimination in Aruba. I thought about it for a while, and said, no.

I am aware there is such a thing, where people treat their peers differently because of the color of their skin, their religion, gender, age, education or nationality, but I never allow it to affect my life.

I never acknowledge its existence, or get mad about it.

Basically God gave me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thus I allow people their prejudices, I forgive them their pettiness and stupidity, I cannot change them, and I fight as hard as I can to make sure that discrimination against me and my friends and what we stand for, never contaminates our universe.

That said, I do demand the protection of the law. While as an individual you are allowed to label GEREGISTREERD PARTNERSCHAP immoral, sinful, or depraved, the law of this country, the government, owes its citizens protection. If I live with a partner, man, woman or goat, over an extended period of time, and we’re known as a couple, if an accident takes him away to a better world, I should be allowed to benefit from his pension, as ALREADY stated by law in the Netherlands. And if as added value that piece of legislation also facilitates gay marriage, the more the merrier. It’s time this island joined the rest of the enlightened world.

Back to my friend’s story: What my educator told me broke my heart. He said he got married two years ago to a man from another lovely island, an educated, classy dude, an MBA by profession, which is a Master of Business Administration, however once he landed on the island, he couldn’t find work anywhere. As soon as ‘they’ hear married to an Aruban, they smile. What a bonus. No need to pursue a work permit. But when they hear it is a man, the lights go out, the tone becomes indifferent and polite. Thanks, but no thanks is the answer.

Wow, that is so unfortunate, and painful. What would you do, said the educator, after all, it is so important for my partner to find his way here, and work, it will be good for his self-esteem and great for our relationship, what would you do, Rona?

I told him. I would use my resources, I would mobilize my village, courageously change the things I can, and not wait for the world to fix itself. I would call everyone and their mother, connect with my entire little black address book, and reverse that unemployment verdict. There must be just one open minded and love-based business on the island that needs an MBA, and it would be my mission to uncover it.

I recently read this story about a gay couple who sued their florist for refusing to provide their wedding with flowers, for religious reasons. I my case, I wouldn’t want that bible-thumping hag to provide flowers for my most important day, I would go to a florist who loves me, but as I said the law in the USA provides gay couples protection, and grants them equal rights, the bigoted florist was fined, and that is how it should on Aruba.

P.S. does anyone know what happened to the petition we signed, that was launched Monday, July 11th, 2016.

One of my better suggestions:

We heard that the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association is having problems identifying 6 candidates for board positions at the Aruba Tourism Authority. None of their members want to occupy that hot seat, and they will be looking for suitable candidates outside of their circle and out of the box.

As you know, the Aruba Tourism Authority went from a government agency to a unique independent legal entity within the public sphere, five years ago, governed by a public/private board of seven. That was a good idea, in principle. In reality, while the funds are generated in the private sector, most of the spending decisions are made by the public sector, i.e. the MinTour.

Consequently, three board members representing the private sector, Javier, Joe and Jim, recently resigned over irreconcilable differences. The resignation of 50% of the board somewhat crippled its ability to spend buckets of tourism funds, so to remedy that AHATA was asked to suggest six other fresh candidates out of which the MinTour will have the pleasure of picking three he can work with.

The search for the elusive six has been frustrating, because most of the branded hotel executives are prohibited by their company’s code of conduct to serve on a government policy-making board which may affect their own operation, and how they do business here.

So, what to do??

Where do these three perfect candidates come from?

Search no more; I have just what you need.

The Pica girls, the trio hosting the popular Pica 96.5% of 96.5FM.

The radio girls are the perfect candidates, with impeccable qualifications.

Jacky, Pica 1, a publisher and news personality, knows all about communication, having worked at ATV channel 15 as an investigative reporter. She can smell a rat a mile away, she is fearless, sharp tongued and perceptive, a sledgehammer when she perceives injustice, or if you do not agree with her particular point of view. Perfect.

Tabitha, Pica 2, is a peace-maker, big on etiquette and careful grooming. Having worked at Air Aruba as an airline hostess she has what it takes to serve as an aviation consultant. She will make sure the MinTour’s socks match his necktie, and that he regularly eats the correct number or servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Perfect.

Rona, Pica 3, is a know-it-all, by profession.  You really want to have an expert on practically anything on your team, just like a portable Wikipedia, and she speaks fluent Hebrew which is a great asset when tourism is concerned. Perfect.

What did I tell you? The Sledgehammer, the Peace-Maker and the Know-it-All, a super-combo for the ATA board.

Where can we find an aspirin on a Sunday??

Headache. A common complaint, right?

But Sunday, one of my friends needed an aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, an over the counter anything, and I had nothing at home.

She tried two Chinese markets, and asked in Papiamento, English and Spanish, for a common pain relief medication. The fresh-off-the-boat cashier just looked perplexed and didn’t say anything. Obviously they did not carry any gel caps, caplets, liquid gels, tablets, nothing.

We didn’t quite understand it, because your regular run of the mill Chinese market breaks the law all the time, not ringing the register, repackaging, selling expired goods, selling single servings, individual cigarettes, home roasted cashews and bagged cookies, rice and flour, and employing undocumented people, so how come they are unwilling to break the law for an aspirin??

Is the botica lobby organization spying and reporting all infractions to the inspectie?

I called my favorite, now retire previous MinHealth, Dr. Richard Visser, and he said it has always been like that. Just drive to any hotel Mini Market, he said.

True, hotel Mini Markets sell all of the above, so why does the MinHealth DISCRIMINATE against locals?? Why can’t locals find a pain-pill at their neighborhood Mini Market?

Why do we have to drive to the Botica na Warda for a simple fix for a skinned knee or a nasal allergy??

I really want an answer.

How does this legislation benefit the community?

This is Third World protectionism, at its worse.

That said: If I put the shoe on the other foot, I could say kudos to the Boticas for retaining such strong control over the over-the-counter drug market.

The retailers for example, lost control totally, with all the kiosks and flea markets which were introduced in recent years.

Had the retailers established a strong lobby organization, they would today be doing better. Chasing competitors away.

But I still want to be able to buy an aspirin at Unicasa or Ting Wei on a Sunday.

Students, are they well-prepared for studies overseas

We were all told that the number of students going to study in the Netherlands has risen and that in principle that is a cause for celebration. But I called some of my friends in Colegio Arubano circles and they immediately rained on our parade. It was the consensus that the kids leaving their cushy-comfy island home are not prepared at all for the realities of living on their own and caring for their basic needs, besides the major academic requirements of a university degree.

The consensus was that island kids are spoiled. Pampered. They are sweet and street-stupid, or whatever the opposite of street-smart is. Besides their sub-par housekeeping competence and low grade coping skills, their Dutch is an abomination. That was a quote. They do not have proficient Dutch reading & writing expertise, to handle total immersion, basically studying in Dutch.

My sources say that many of the students will not be successful, and will return to Aruba disillusioned, and that it is not completely their fault, the fact that they are unprepared. The school suffered quite some turbulence and instability this year, and hopefully with the imminent nomination of the new headmaster, things will boil down to a comfortable simmer, and the pressure to produce will be on, on the students and on their teachers.

In regards to total immersion in Dutch, the Netherlands has over 90,000 international students enrolled in its universities and while it is a good source of income for the country, the Dutch educators decided to raise their own academic bar, and make it difficult across the board for international and Dutch speaking students. They now require all basic courses to be successfully completed in the first probationary university year. Can’t split the basics over two years anymore.

I understand that in view of a low ratio of study success our MinEdu has recently announced that a new program will be made available, a prep-year, a pre-university course, teaching students how to study and in general coaching them for the challenges ahead. Eighty students signed up. There was room for just forty, but then somehow water was added to the soup and the pot initially thought to feed forty, will have to handle eighty. As far as I know, the details have not been worked out yet. But it’s a welcome initiative, an extra year in the incubator, waiting for the chicks to hatch, at their own pace.

I went shopping yesterday, and the owner of the store in conversation offered: “We were the good generation; we couldn’t wait to get out of the house, leave our parents behind, fend for ourselves, be independent, study AND earn our own money, stand on our own feet. I was 18 when I left to Europe to study and I never looked back.  My son still lives home, and now that he has a baby, I don’t see him moving out any day soon, nor going to school.”

I didn’t know what to say, I guess our parents did a better job in preparing us for life. In any case, I always want to take the optimistic highroad, which assures me that things work out at the end.

In conversation with Mito Martis

I was heading into Price Smart when I ran into Mito Martis. He looked fabulous, dynamic and purposeful. I have been meaning to talk to him for a long time, about land development in Aruba. After all, he was Acting Director and later Director of the Government’s Land Administration with the Government of Aruba from 1980 to 1987. He must know a lot about the original designation of terrain and the plans for infrastructure.

When Martis left his government position in 1987, he went into the private sector and became Vice President Development and Construction for Sun Development Company N.V., “where he was actively involved in the design, development and construction of Tierra del Sol, a master planned community with a Robert Trent Jones II designed championship golf course, the Casa del Mar Beach Resort, Playa Linda and Costa Linda Beach Resorts.” I am quoting a press release from 2008.

He was also a very helpful friend and consultant to Divi Resorts during its expansion period. He had a lot of insight into the island’s land administration department and he became a much in demand, conciliary, a well-respected adviser. I am not saying it sarcastically. I am stating facts.

Martis went back to the public sector to become a government adviser, a grey eminence,  a powerful decision-maker who operates “behind the scenes,” during two terms of Minister Marisol Lopez Tromp as Minister of Education, Social Affairs and Infrastructure, after the 2001 and 2005 elections, where the MEP government took charge. He was picked as adviser to the young minister, because he was an old and trusted family friend, and he remained influential until 2008, when they parted ways and he went on to work in Cuba.

My point is that during those years, 2001-2008, he was closely involved with the development of Palm Beach, and when AVP came into power in 2009, Martis was no longer welcome.  He explains that he fell out of favor when the political scene shifted, but they must have loved him in Cuba because he became Senior Vice-President Development and Construction, of Leisure Canada Inc’s wholly-owned subsidiary Wilton Properties Limited, in Havana.

As soon as I saw him at the entrance to Price Mart, remember I have been meaning to talk to him for a long time, I asked: So, are you responsible for the congestion of Palm Beach? It was during your years in the office of Infrastructure that the center of gravity was diverted from Oranjestad to Palm Beach, don’t you think it should have stayed in town?

Martis refuted my allegations all together. They had a good vision, he said. They knew that every wrong move would kill town. They encouraged development but stipulated conditions in order not to hurt commerce in Oranjestad.

He told me the land across from the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino was originally designated for the construction of a convention center. A kind of joint venture, with all hotels in participation. But the good folks in town, at the Renaissance Aruba Resort rejected the idea, and then Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino said no, the Wyndham Aruba declined, they all decided to expand their own ballrooms, and made the idea of a central conference center on Palm Beach obsolete.

In search of plan B, a number of merchants showed up with commitment letter. One of them had a letter from Minister Watty Vos, committing terrain on Palm Beach. Vos was the minister of Public Works from 1994, so the letter might have been from that time. PS Minister Vos has been dead since 2001, yet a letter of commitment from a late minister was still binding after his departure.

Another merchant who regularly speak to spirit – I once spoke to princess D through that medium – showed up with a letter from Minister Tico Croes, who abandoned government in favor of academia in 2001.

Another old family friend with a history of development showed up and was granted a piece of the pie, but virtue of familiarity.

Thus the terrain across the high rise hotel was parceled to special few, with certain stipulations and restrictions, which were I understand ignored, and the result is what we see today. And I am not saying it is all bad!

Martis assured me that his department put in all restrictions and stipulations, for fear of killing town. The shopping malls on Palm Beach, Paseo Herencia for example, were prohibited from offering retail space, just dining and entertainment, but later the minister granted exceptions, and what you see is what you get.

If you check closely, Martis said before we parted, and read the terms of the land exploitation, you will see that none of the developers is following the original master plan conceived by the infrastructure team.

In Aruba it’s never what you know, it’s always who you know. That’s my spin, not his. in retrospect I should have also been standing in line at the time, but I was too busy having a great time, and had no time for business development.

About Aura Casino’s prospective operator and some Bucuti news

We understand that a likely operator recently said he is prepared to pick up the abandoned operation of Aura Casino at the Occidental Grand.

That casino’s last post on FB, under previous management, is from early December. It has been closed for eight months now, its employees idle at home, waiting to be rescued by a future casino operator.

What sunk the boat after years of mismanagement was a law suit.

On December 7th, Barcelo Hotels & Resort, the owners the resort, went to court to try catch up on the delinquent rent, but to no avail. The so-called former casino operators disappeared. Then it turned out that they ran the casino without bank accounts for four years, on a borrowed identity, go figure. How did they get away with that?

For more information, please read my column from January 5th.

So this prospective operator materializes and immediately, the political echelon and the workers’ union, start threatening him with law suits and posturing for the media, defending employees’ right to be re-hired.

Wait a minute that is hardly a warm welcome for a potential investor, willing to take over a failing business.

It seems no good deed ever goes unpunished.

What they are all taking about it the following: The union and the politicians are attempting to exercise pressure on the prospective operator to assume the payroll of all forty-four former Aura casino employees who lost their jobs when the casino folded.

That is indeed sad. That they lost their jobs.

But it is disturbing that the probable operator didn’t even open the business, and he is already embroiled in a fight?!

The union and the politician should wake up. Encourage employees to get off their butts and look for alternative employment. Nothing is going to save them, but themselves. They will never be paid retroactively for the Christmas bonus and salaries they lost, unless they go after the former casino operator, successfully. The politicians and union leaders could use some of their bravado to pursue the group that dumped them.

Didn’t they all allow them to get away with murder?

How is that the new guy’s responsibility?

And we’re talking about a tiny space, because the resort annexed some of the casino real estate making it smaller, with just about twenty-five jobs available. How could a smaller casino sustain all forty-four former employees?

What the union and the politicians are so called demanding is a retroactive $800.000 payroll, salaries and bonus since December. Keep dreaming. Who in his right mind thinks that this is a successful strategy?

The future operator might as well declare bankruptcy on opening day.

Question: Why aren’t employees looking at Barcelo Hotel & Resorts for their lost bonus and salaries? Doesn’t that group hold the casino operating license?

Welcome Niels resort manager at Bucuti Beach Resort

After 17 years at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts, it is with a heavy heart that the resorts bid Manager Deborah Dintelman farewell. “We will certainly miss her dedication to ensuring our guest satisfaction and wish her the best in her retirement,” says the resort newsletter. As the same time, staff and management welcome the new Resort Manager, Niels Stuedemann. Niels comes to Aruba from prestigious 4- and 5-star properties throughout the Caribbean and has more than 20 years of experience in the hotel industry. “He looks forward to welcoming guests and extending the warm Bucuti hospitality for which we are known,” continues the newsletter, and we’re looking forward to meeting him, we hear he is good-looking!

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August 07, 2016
Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster