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Saba Youth Council visits Utrecht, meets state secretary

SABA/UTRECHT—The Saba Youth Council is on a working visit in Netherlands and on Tuesday, July 5, the delegation went to the Utrecht City Hall to meet their colleagues of the Utrecht Youth Panel, Young Minds Utrecht, Members of the Municipal Council and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Alexandra van Huffelen.

In the company of their mothers and coaches Lauren Risley and Gerald Simmons-de Jong, the six members of the Saba Youth Council, Billie Jean Rodriguez, Jade Every, Amanda Clarke, Zakiya Lake, Vernisha Robinson and Bernardo Baker gathered at Utrecht’s City Hall in the afternoon, eager to meet their peers from Utrecht, the Municipal Council Members and the State Secretary.

Six members of Young Minds Utrecht Anissa, Abe, Tom, Barteld, Serge and Adna, their coach Jennifer Lekkerkerker and Mieke Tiwon of the Municipality Utrecht, were there to receive the Sabans, and the group went straight into a get acquainted exercise. The youngsters concluded that even though they were from different parts of the world, they shared more similarities than differences. “We talked about what we both do. We both organize events for the youth, but Saba works more with projects, while we work more with policies,” said Anissa of Young Minds Utrecht.

Split up in small groups, the youngsters brainstormed on ways how to increase youth participation.

Taken seriously

After a tour of the City Hall, the groups gave a short presentation. The youngsters agreed that they should be taken more seriously, and genuinely listened to. “We all have the same issue, namely adults who give us false confidence, who just include us for the picture moment, to mark off checkboxes.

When we speak out, for example about issues in education, people feel that it’s complaining,” said Jade. “I am the future and you need to also listen to me,” said Abe of Young Minds Utrecht.

Billie Jean, Amanda and Vernisha gave a short speech in the Municipal Council Hall, in the presence of State Secretary Van Huffelen Council Member Stevie Jane Nolten of the BIJ1 party and Committee Member Ruud Penders of the CDA party.

Annual tradition

Billie Jean proposed to make the visit of Saba Youth Council and possibly the youth councils of the other islands to the Netherlands an annual tradition, and to also organize a yearly inter-island debate competition. “This would be an exciting opportunity to interact more often with other youths in the regions. To sustainably achieve this dream, will require a mindset change, structural budget and commitment. I would love the legacy of Saba’s first youth council to lead to meaningful change, diversity and inclusion for all future Saba youth councils,” said Billie Jean.

Vernisha spoke about the issue of racism and discrimination on Saba. “This varies from the remnants of our colonial past and slave history on both a local and national level. There is a lot of systemic and institutional racism that needs more awareness. Based on the color of your skin or the last name you carry, you get special privileges or access. Sadly, this means that my access is less. This translates into home ownership, business ownership, money and jobs. This needs to change. We need a more inclusive government on a local and national level,” said Vernisha, who also brought up the extremely high cost of living on Saba and the suffering of families because of that.

Diversity, inclusion

Amanda talked about diversity and inclusion on a national level from an education perspective. She said that she believed every child should have the same educational access, but that this was not easy for her because she has no Dutch passport which excludes her from studying with Dutch study financing.

“I want to be a lawyer and I would like to be accepted in Tilburg University for their International Law School program. Sadly, because I still only have my Jamaican passport, this is not an option for me. Even though I have lived on Saba for almost 10 years, and even though I grew up with all my peers, my access to higher education is not the same,” said Amanda, who will now stay another two years on Saba to finish a pre-law school program that the high school is offering her. She asked the State Secretary to seek attention for this matter and to end this discrimination.

State Secretary Van Huffelen encouraged the youngsters to stand up for what they found important and to speak their mind. She said she was happy to receive the Saba youngsters on her “home turf” Utrecht where she has been living for more than 20 years. She referred to Saba as a “beautiful place, green with luscious nature, a paradise.” But she also recognized that it was a paradise with troubles such as equal rights for everyone, as citizens of the Kingdom, and the challenges of the high cost of living.

Amazing talent

Coach Simmons-de Jong took the lectern to personally address Jade, Vernisha and Zakiya. “These three fabulous young high potentials have been a part of the Saba Youth Council from its inception and they are leaving us and our home Saba to study in the Netherlands. Even though it hurts my heart to watch you young amazing talent fly out into the world, I am incredibly proud of you for doing so,” said Simmons-de Jong. He thanked the three for being part of the Youth Council and for what they do for Saba. “Thank you for being such beautiful individuals. I have learned so much from you these last two years. Always remember what Saba gave you. Be strong, be proud,” said Simmons-de Jong who thanked the State Secretary and the city of Utrecht for facilitating the visit.

After the official part, there was time for mingling, whereby the State Secretary took ample time to talk with the youngsters. The State Secretary then took the Saba Youth Council to Tivoli where they received backstage tickets and went to three different concerts. “It was a very memorable night, one that I will never forget in my life,” said Zakiya.

Saba Youth Council Utrecht 01The Saba Youth Council with State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen.

Saba Youth Council Utrecht 4

 

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Care agreement in place between Eye Care Optical Saba and ZJCN

SABA - The care agreement between Eye Care Optical Saba and Care and Youth Caribbean Netherlands (ZJCN) is in full force under the same conditions and will remain in force until the 31st of December, 2022.

After consultation with ZJCN it is agreed that Eye Care Optical Saba remains the number 1 and only optician and optometrist for ZJCN insured individuals on Saba. Eye Care Optical Saba has identified bottlenecks for operations which ZJCN will analyze and present pragmatic solutions if available.

Firstly, Eye Care Optical Saba has permission from ZJCN to adjust its opening hours as long as this does not lead to adverse health effects to ZJCN insured individuals. The opening times are: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. until 31st of August 2022. After that the opening days and hours will be adjusted according to the need. The office of Eye Care Optical Saba will continue to be located at Breadline Plaza, Windwardside, Saba.

ZJCN is pleased to continue its working relations with the staff of Eye Care optical Saba, in order to provide efficient and necessary care to the Saba community.

(RCN Caribbean Netherlands)

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Long-spined sea urchins: not trouble but in trouble

SINT MAARTEN/BONAIRE - Since February 2022 there have been reports of Long-spined sea urchin (Diadema) die off from a number of islands in the Caribbean, including St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Saba and Curaçao.  

Marine Protected Area authorities within the Dutch Caribbean region are concerned these events could be echoing the massive die-off of sea urchins that occurred in the 1980s which almost completely wiped out the Caribbean long-spined sea urchin populations.

A new edition of the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) free digital newsletter Bionews draws attention to the current state of the die-off, what is being done to restore these populations and what you can do to help.  

Importance for coral reefs 

Long-spined sea urchins play a critical role in maintaining healthy coral reefs, which are essential for coastal protection and a crucial source of income for people in the Dutch Caribbean as they are a magnet for tourism. Long-spined sea urchins help sustain the delicate balance within the reef by grazing on algae, an overabundance of which can damage coral.   

Caribbean-wide disease 

In the mid-1980s, a disease swept through the Caribbean wiping out nearly the entire sea urchin population. In mid-February 2022, reports started emerging about new extensive die-off events in the Caribbean region. Reports from within the Dutch Caribbean first came in on March 14th from the island of St. Eustatius.  Follow on reports from the remaining Dutch leeward islands of Saba and St. Maarten soon followed. In Curaçao, the first sightings of diseased sea urchins were reported in early June. Two weeks later, more than 90% of the surveyed populations had disappeared.  

Diadema Workshop 

In April, DCNA, together with the  University of Applied Sciences Van Hall Larenstein (VHL), hosted a Diadema Restoration Workshop. This workshop gave researchers and park authority managers a comprehensive view of the overall situation of the Diadema sea urchin in the Caribbean, including the current die-off events and restoration techniques.   

You can help 

Citizens and tourists can also help track sea urchin health in the Caribbean by adding their observations of healthy, sick or dead urchins. These reports will help park authority managers to determine the causes and work on restoration approaches. You can report your sightings by visiting the AGRRA website (https://www.agrra.org/sea-urchin-die-off/) or contact your local Park Management Organization. 

Other advice to prevent spreading the disease: 

  • Wash dive gear in lots of fresh water and let sun-dry 
  • Dive on uninfected sites before (known) infected sites 
  • Do not step on them or (re)move them: Alive or dead 

Learn more 

learn more about current state, what is being done to restore these populations and what you can do to help by reading DCNA’s latest edition of its free digital newsletter Bionews available at https://dcnanature.org/news/

DCNA’s newsletter BioNews is kindly funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and DCNA’s activities by the Dutch Postcode Lottery. 

DCNA 4. dying long spined sea urchins Photo credit Alwin Hylkema all rights reserved

Sick long-spined sea urchins. Photo credit: Alwin Hylkema- all rights reserved.

DCNA 2.ReportYourSightingsReport your sightings. 

DCNA 1 Infographic Diadema

Infographic: Long-spined sea urchins: not trouble but in trouble. 

 

 

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Island Council concludes successful visit to the Netherlands

THE HAGUE/SABA—The visit of the Saba Island Council to the Netherlands was generally perceived by the delegation members as very positive and conducive to the relations with the Netherlands, especially in terms of bringing forward Saba’s issues and discussing solutions in the interest of the people.

On Friday, July 1, the Island Council closed off its yearly working visit to the Netherlands. The delegation, consisting of Chairman Jonathan Johnson, Island Council Members Carl Buncamper, Vito Charles, Eviton Heyliger, Esmeralda Johnson and Hemmie van Xanten and Island Registrar Akilah Levenstone, had a busy schedule with many meetings and location visits.

“During these visits, we can highlight our issues, explain why we need solutions and how to go about that. It is a yearly opportunity to express our concerns and to discuss solutions,” said Esmeralda Johnson. “The main goal of our travels to the Netherlands is to continue to raise awareness for the Saba issues. The physical distance between Saba and the Netherlands is big and we are not always on the mind of The Hague. When we are here, we can address our issues. Often after our visit, we see increased attention and solutions,” said Vito Charles.

Networking

“It is absolutely important to be here for the connections, the networking and to build a relation of trust. By being here and discussing Saba’s issues, we can help removing obstacles before decisions are taken. For years, Saba has been speaking with one voice, jointly bringing forward the issues that are important for Saba. That contributes to the good relations with The Hague,” said Hemmie van Xanten.

“It is always important to make your presence known. Let your counterparts know that you are working on behalf of your constituency and to make their voices be heard. The visits open doors. Over the years we see that they are more open to listen to us. This is especially important in the relations with the Dutch Parliament,” said Eviton Heyliger.

Added value

“The visits of Dutch delegations to Saba are important, but equally important are our visits as Island Council to the Netherlands. These visits definitely have an added value and lead to a better understanding of how things work, contribute to more comprehension for each other’s positions, and teaches us how to prepare for talks,” said Carl Buncamper.

“In general, we talked a lot about the basic services that Saba should have. Having these services in place is difficult because of our small size and secluded location. It is important to seek attention for these issues, because our citizens should not have to suffer for that,” said Johnson.

Pillars

The delegation’s visit was based on several pillars, explained Buncamper: healthcare, representation in The Hague, changes to the WolBES and FinBES laws, developing of people with a distance to the labor market, housing, and the banking/notary issue. The lack of notary services has been a constant source of concern and has been pointed out by the Island Council time upon time. “I find it is taking too long to get us a notary. It needs to be addressed badly, not from today, but yesterday. People have died without having their last will notarized,” said Heyliger.

Housing

The delegation visited Bazalt Wonen, the housing cooperation that is already active on Saba, to talk about the Housing Vision. The Island Council wants the people to have better access to affordable housing and, rental and social housing.

“It is extremely hard to build, buy a house on Saba, and it is getting more and more expensive. We have a shortage of affordable housing due to the very expensive mortgages, and there is a lack of affordable social and rental housing. We need to see this addressed. There is a role for the Dutch Government and the Public Entity Saba to solve this,” said Charles. The Housing Vision can help to pinpoint the problems and solutions, and indicate the roles of the national and local government.

“The 18 social housing units that become available hopefully at the end of the year won’t solve the shortage, because we have about 70 families on the waiting list,” said Heyliger. He said it was also important for people to be able to build their own home. “We talked about how we can solve that, for example with soft loans, and assistance of the Netherlands with the construction of the home’s foundation and cistern,” said Heyliger.

Fuel prices

At the Authority Consumer and Market ACM, the delegation talked about the rising energy prices, in particular the large increase in the electricity bill, and how to reduce these costs. “We talked about ways to bring down the cost for example by introducing more solar power,” said Van Xanten. “We are very concerned about the rising fuel prices, and we believe there should be a structural solution for this. We need this addressed in the short term,” said Charles. He said he was in favor of a system with a certain range for electricity prices with a high and low threshold, in combination with subsidies. 

VNG congress

The delegation spent two days in Hoorn where the members attended the Year Congress of the Association of Dutch Municipalities VNG. The VNG can also help to be Saba’s voice in The Hague and in the relations with other municipalities, said Buncamper. “The VNG will lobby more for us, and that will surely be beneficial for us because the VNG lobby is very powerful,” said Johnson. She said at the VNG congress, the delegation learned a lot about services and programs on a municipal level.

Attending the VNG congress is not only good for networking, but it also allowed the delegation to reflect on areas where Saba struggles and to see that for many challenges, there are solutions. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Buncamper said.

Momentum

Johnson spoke of a “momentum.” “I see change happening, slowly but surely. The agreement on the Saba Package is a very positive development. We were well-received in the Netherlands. We had a listening ear and a lot of understanding for our issues,” she said. Heyliger said that “overall” he was very pleased with the visit. “You keep carrying out the duty on behalf of the people and give content to the cooperation with the Netherlands,” he said. The Saba delegation during its visit to the Netherlands did so unified, with one voice.

Visit Weener XL Social Workplace Den BoschTo get an insight of how a social workplace functions and how it can contribute to social development, the Island Council visited the Weener XL Social Workplace in Den Bosch on June 22.

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UPDATED - Stabbing and shooting near the Jocelyn Arndell Festival village on Sunday morning

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Sunday July 3rd, 2022, at approximately 03:15 am several police patrols were dispatched to the Jocelyn Arndell Festival village, after receiving several calls that a serious incident had taken place there, shortly after the Cooler Fete event, which was held there, and which was well attended. According to reports at least two persons had sustained injuries.

On arrival the investigating officers learnt that one male was stabbed and shortly after another male was shot. It is not yet clear as to what actually led to both victims being injured.

Both victims were treated on the scene by paramedics and then transported to the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) due to the seriousness of their injuries. Both victims are presently undergoing treatment at the SMMC and their conditions are serious but stable. (UPDATE: The victim that was shot early Sunday morning was flown out at 12.30pm for further medical treatment, according to a police spokesman.)

Officers from both the Detective department and Forensic department were at the scene of the crime collecting evidence and gathering information in order to determine what actually transpired.

The police are urging the general public or anyone who was present at the Cooler Fete event and may have information, to kindly come forward and assist by providing information that can help in this investigation.

Information can be provided through the following numbers or email:

Emergency number: 911

Non- emergency number: +1721-5422222

Anonymous Tip line: 9300

The investigation continues. (KPSM)

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Head on Collision Accident on the A. Th. Illidge Road

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Sunday July 03rd, 2022 approximately 05:20 am a traffic accident was reported to the police dispatch that had taken place on the A. Th. Illidge Road.

On arrival at the scene the patrol discovered an accident which turned out to be a head on collision between a white Hyundai and a black Kia.

Indications are that the cause of the accident is because the driver of the white Hyundai

crossed over to the lane of oncoming traffic, which ended in the head on collision.

Both drivers and passengers were injured and taken to the St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) for further treatment. They are all listed in stable condition.

The investigation will be conducted by the traffic department.

The Police is once again urging and encouraging all drivers to practice caution when operating any type of vehicle while on the public road. Be responsible and adhere to the local traffic ordinance. (KPSM)

police black car side pix Picture11

police white jeep hyundai Picture10

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Island Council discusses healthcare issues with State Secretary

THE HAGUE/SABA—A delegation of the Saba Island Council and Commissioner of Public Health Rolando Wilson met with Dutch State Secretary of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sport Maarten van Ooijen in The Hague on Thursday, June 30.

The meeting focused on the challenges that Saba as a small island faces in providing its residents the healthcare that is needed. Aside from the State Secretary and an advisor, officials of the Care and Youth Caribbean Netherlands (ZJCN) Department in Bonaire attended the meeting with the Saba delegation in a virtual manner.

Island Council Member Vito Charles said it was an informative meeting where the Island Council and Commissioner Wilson were able to bring forward a number of healthcare issues and talk about the importance of the wellbeing of the Saba people.

Island Council Member Carl Buncamper said it was “good to hear” from the State Secretary that there are ambitions to solve Saba’s issues in healthcare. “The ambition is to do better by the people on the Caribbean Netherlands islands.” Buncamper said it was important to address this, also considering the “erosion of trust” with the healthcare provider and insurer.

Pilot

The Island Council Members have noted with content that a pilot will soon start whereby the medical referral process of Saba patients to St. Maarten should become less cumbersome and bureaucratic. The Island Council conveyed to the State Secretary that it wants to see this pilot implemented as soon as possible.

“I am looking forward to the pilot with referrals and also to solutions for the small plane that is now used to transport our patients,” said Councilman Heyliger. He pointed out that the small plane was not comfortable for especially senior patients and patients with physical impairments.

The mode of transport was brought up in the meeting with State Secretary Van Ooijen. In Heyliger’s opinion, Winair should be used to transport the Saba patients, because the aircrafts are more suitable. Besides, it made more sense because the Dutch government owned shares in the airline.

Dignified way

Councilman Charles said a key matter for the Island Council was that the medical care in St. Maarten catered to the needs of the Saba people. “Care should be provided close to home in a respectful and dignified way. We emphasized that in the meeting, as we have done many times before,” said Charles.

Councilwoman Johnson said that aside from the curative care, the Island Council also pointed out that it was important to invest in preventive care. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that we have many restrictions in healthcare on Saba, and that people’s health and the prevention of sickness is key,” she said. During Thursday’s meeting she and Charles mentioned the need for recreational facilities on Saba, while Buncamper said Saba was lacking a public swimming pool.

Councilman Hemmie van Xanten said he was not entirely satisfied with the meeting with Van Ooijen. “Though we were able to express our concerns about healthcare, I have a feeling that there is insufficient understanding for the things that are not going as they should and the role of the ZVK office plays in that.”

Van Xanten said he told the State Secretary that because of various incidents, the Saba people had little confidence in the service delivered by the ZVK office in Bonaire. He said the State Secretary and the ZJCN officials took note of this complaints and promised to work on restoring that trust through, among other things, an independent complaints bureau and better communication.

Proper care

Van Xanten said that at these types of meetings, which in his opinion were of a more general nature, there was not enough opportunity to go into details. He said that he would like to have one-on-one meetings with for example a ZVK office in Bonaire to tell them in details what the problems with providing proper care for Saba patients.

According to Commissioner Wilson, quality, procedures, communication and logistics in medical referrals were all re-emphasized. “The discussion and the points that we had previously were once again made very clear. We want the best healthcare system for our people, and nothing less,” he stated. He said that the points brought forward during Thursday’s meeting will be looked into. Every two months ZVK and ZJCN will meet with the Executive Council. New policies and procedures will have to be discussed first with all stakeholders before they are implemented.

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Roald Lapperre Director-General of Kingdom Relations at BZK

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - Ir. R.P. (Roald) Lapperre will become Director-General for Kingdom Relations at the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). The Council of Ministers has approved the proposal of Minister Bruins Slot of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The appointment will take effect on the 1st of September, 2022.

The Director-General of Kingdom Relations (DGKR) is responsible for the realization of an integrated agenda for Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and for Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and all temporary tasks, assignments, programs and projects that arise from this. Where other ministries bear responsibility, a directing and coordinating role will be fulfilled in partnership.

The DGKR will also pay attention to the further development of the Directorate-General. The DGKR also plays a role in the field of security on the islands and is chairman of the administrative crisis team. In conclusion, the DGKR is in charge of transcending portfolios in the Board of Directors of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

Roald Lapperre: ”I am very honored with my appointment. In recent years I have already worked intensively with the Caribbean Netherlands and in my new role I will give substance to the broad cooperation agenda with the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom with great pleasure and conviction in the coming years. I look forward to working with colleagues in The Hague and on the islands to further broaden and deepen our relationships on the multitude of themes that connect us.”

“With Roald, we have an experienced director-general for the DGKR's declarations. Roald has a lot of policy experience and also knows how it works in implementation. He has extensive experience in departmental cooperation and cooperation with the Caribbean part of the Netherlands.

Roald has knowledge and skills that enable him to build bridges with the other departments between the political-administrative ambitions of The Hague and the interests of the countries and the Caribbean Netherlands. I look forward to the arrival of Roald," said Maarten Schurink, Secretary General of the Interior and Kingdom Relations.

Roald Lapperre has been Director-General for Environment and International at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management since August 2017.

Before that he was, among other things, director of General Water Policy and Security, also deputy director-general of Spatial Planning and Water, at the then Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and director of European Agricultural Policy and Food Security, also deputy director-general Agro, at the then ministry of Economic Affairs.

Roald Lapperre studied Cultural Engineering at Wageningen University.

This appointment was made on the basis of the procedure for the top management group of the ‘Algemeen Bestuursdienst’. The recruitment and selection for this appointment was done by Bureau ABD and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The vacancy was widely advertised, as usual, so that anyone could apply.

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The Godet Burial Site

SINT EUSTATIUS (ORANJESTAD) - The St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance is proud of the fact that Emancipation Day is formally a national holiday in St. Eustatius and Saba. This is still being fought for in the European Netherlands.

Yet, Emancipation Day 2022 is a day of great worries as well. The day after the visit of the president of Unesco Netherlands, Ms. Kathleen Ferrier, to the burial ground Godet, access to the site was closed. Big rocks have been dumped in front of the graves with bulldozers and filled with sand. “To protect the Godet burial site”, as the government Facebook page claims. But the rocks were placed without the necessary measures to protect the graves, such as protective shielding in between. 

Another worrisome fact was that archaeologist Ruud Stelten, found guilty in the SHRC report of malpractice in handling the remains of our ancestors at the Golden Rock site, was putting pressure on members of the Central Committee to convince them to conduct further scientific research on the excavated human remains of our ancestors. How can the government's representatives allow that to happen? Besides the inappropriateness, it is not just for the Committee to decide on this. 

Ms. Kathleen Ferrier visited the burial grounds on June 2 on invitation of the St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance. The Alliance wants to enroll the Godet Burial Ground and the Golden Rock Burial Ground in the famous Unesco's Routes of Enslaved People https://en.unesco.org/themes/fostering-rights-inclusion/slave-route 

The St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance emphasizes that we, all Afrikans in the diaspora, and especially in St. Eustatius, are the descendant authority, not the government representatives, not the Island Council, not the Central Committee alone, but all of us. This is our heritage.

The Alliance will soon present an interim report on these shocking developments that will be presented to the relevant cultural heritage organizations in the Netherlands and internationally. 

The St. Eustatius Afrikan Burial Ground Alliance wishes everyone on St. Eustatius and all other islands and countries involved a memorable and meaningful Emancipation Day 2022. We are now a free people and we have the right to decide what will happen to the remains and resting places of our ancestors. Everyone who is upset as we are with the above mentioned developments, we welcome you to contact us. Together we have a stronger voice.

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