Bonaire, ongoing leadership crisis, and political instability

This is my third column on Bonaire. We had a great time there on a short vacation, but paradise apparently is not sustainable because the day I posted my second column, an interview with a Bonarian politician, the island-council coalition there, collapsed.

I called around for explanations.

So, Bonaire has had 18 different governments, since 10/10/10, most of them held on for a short time, the current one, for six months since the last elections, in March.

The new government, put together by Clark Abraham, will probably not last long either, since it doesn’t have a clear plan or platform — you could just say same circus, different clowns.

Abraham comes from a political family, founders of PDB, a democratic party, whatever that means, he is charismatic but controversial, tall and good-looking too. I heard whispers about doubtful invoices that were paid yet the goods never delivered, and some rumors about excessive use, of just about anything.

From what I gathered, Bonaire’s Island Council members, 9 in total, work parttime as deputies, and make less than $1,000 each, for managing the country.

They usually work full time, elsewhere, mostly in the public sector, and go to Island Council meetings late in the afternoon or early evening. They have to hassle to make ends meet, as politicians, in Bonaire.

Why did the government fall?

For no good reasons.

One council-members felt unloved the pulled the plug. Burdened by a personal health crisis, he must have felt disposable.

And that’s all it took. When the coalition leans on 5 of 9 seats, it is always shaky.

The core of the political unrest in Bonaire is the relationship with the Netherlands. Bonaire went back into the fold, 10/10/10, and became a special municipality in the Dutch Kingdom. Bonarians didn’t know what to expect, neither did the Dutch. Opportunities were grabbed by 10.000 Dutch newcomers, and the Bonarians, less entrepreneurial, slower on their feet, now feel marginalized, dispensable, and that sentiment is exploited by populist leaders, who are banking on the so-called anti-Dutch, discontent.

While in reality the island should go on its collective knees and thank the Dutch for assuming the responsibility for Education, Health-Care and Justice, something the Bonarians are taking for granted, as their God-given right.

Abraham will probably try to make Bonaire more autonomous, attempting administrational and financial changes, milking that platform as long as he can, though we are doubtful that his coalition can run that country successfully.

A Thode commission, spearheaded by Glenn Thode, recommended raising the  minimum allowance from $1,400 to $1,700, as early as next year, which according to the report is the minimum subsistence level, so more money will be coming into the Bonarian economy.

The Dutch secretary of State, Van Huffelen, has her work cut out for her on four misguidedly rebellious islands.


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October 22, 2023
Rona Coster