It’s not easy to navigate the system

Dear Rona,

I trust you can post the following under your anonymous section because the subject is delicate.

Regularly, our ministers go public when challenged, and accuse NGOs and individuals to have been passive on many topics during a former cabinet, while they express criticism during the current term of government.

To be more specific: The current MinInfra is accusing NGOs and other individuals of playing politics with the mega 900-room development in San Nicolas. According to him they were quiet while his colleague the former MinInfra played Santa Claus handing out every available piece of government land lease for more hotel and condo development.

Why did you not speak out then, is his point? ….and why are you speaking out now, condemning my project for SN?

These accusations are generally accompanied by claims of purportedly foul-play and/or an accusation that those who are now critical are just part of the opposition party, without addressing the real issue(s).

The fierce counter-attack – ignoring the issue – becomes personal, insults fly and the NGO or individual that was courageous enough to come forward with an issue is told by his support system he’d better shut up. The “bon mucha” attitude prevails and ensures that the majority conforms while GOA in general ta “manda” as it pleases.

Once I remarked to the late columnist Rene van Nie that I admired his wit as his pen was sharp and he used it frequently to air whatever came to his mind, and no minister or government entity was safe. Rene was retired and did not ask for anything more than a quality cappuccino at the patio of Delifrance, and an ashtray for his hand-rolled cigarette ash, as he sat in the breeze writing his critiques.

For those who do have a day-job, a business or who are part of a board of an association it is not easy to navigate the system. A former CEO of AHATA was even declared persona-non-grata years ago, when he expressed himself too critically of GOA’s actions.

The result of such a death-sentence for his business, was a sweeter tune, a toned-down discourse, inevitably.

When permits and jobs are used as carrots to silence critics, and positive comments are rewarded by fat contracts, those who have businesses, and wish to stay afloat prefer to remain silent, and thus become accomplices to bad government.

We are paying the price for that today! Those who despite the risks involved repeatedly expressed their opinions are confronted with more than usual audits, inspections, and delays in whatever permit needed, so that with time they also opt to remain passive.

We can’t speak of a dictatorship in Aruba, however, censorship is a common practice within GOA. So, when the MinInfra recently received critical feedback regarding the SN hotel development, he showed his anger and became personal: Everybody was wrong, and had politically motivated reasons for the project to die. All linked to the former GOA.

The former MinInfra was ALSO known to be quite vengeful. His public policy towards Palm Beach included the demolition of several select structures in the area of Paseo Herencia and South Beach Centre. The draconic policy was later abandoned, resulting in kiosks, signs and restaurants as close of 50cm from the road, in that area.

So, are we still surprised when the majority of business owners elect to remain silent?

“Let others take the beating,” is safe while one awaits a permit, asphalt, a job, a favor, while in reality, those in office should know better.

With a new energized MinPres at the helm and a much-needed Integrity Chamber we can only hope that our ministers will be subject to Integrity checks, not just our civil servants, so we could finally see some light at the end of that tunnel.

Rona, the article ends, after Rene, who rests in peace, you are the next person I admire because you are one of the few that either has or can relate to an opinion.

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March 07, 2019
Rona Coster