The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Oneigenlijke Taak

8e12cee83e8e365efce99d375901387838f5563bd05cd9dac0854d8e61cfc281543b2ee4651da477deb8fab46a4ca7beb04d8cf42be3c3d90d5732eb2dbccd23Image (355)Image (590)Image (465)5a74e84fad22c8d542e5f099c4a822940fb0fd8bc156602e6cd2319af02f713bImage (534) In one of my Dutch dictionaries the translation is “improper use or task”. Some of the dictionairies do not even carry this translation.
When I was a young civil servant the “stone-wall politicians” (here on Saba that means politicians whose biggest achievements have been sitting on the walls criticzing the caravan of progress as it has moved along during the past fifty years), used to claim that my brother Eric had five jobs. So did a couple of other civil servants. Eric’s main job was head of the Finance department (fls.95.– yes NINETY FIVE guilders per month). His other jobs which I can remember were Court Recorder (Griffier) fls.10.– (ten guilders) per month, Conservator of Mortgages (fls.10.– per month), Island Secretary substitute, no compensation, as this was considered as an extension of his job as head of the finance department, Island Registrar no compensation as this was considered part of his regular job, and I could go on and on. Eugenius Johnson and Kenneth Peterson also had several functions under the same conditions. Major Osmar R. Simmons was also Fire Chief for which he received fls.10.– per month, besides that he had to deliver letters on behalf of the Lt. Governor, drive big shots around and so on, check on those who had to pay license fees for bars/restaurants (not many back then) and also license fees for motor vehicles.Police even fed the poor on the birthday of Her Majesty the Queen and so on. The police officers job was an HONOUR job for those who were privileged to join the force.
All of a sudden things started to change. The Police Unions on Curacao decided that the Police were being saddled with what they considered “improper use” of their function. And after that less and less was done. Now
I understand that checking on people who did not pay their car license fee is an “oneigenlijke taak” and does not fall under the Police Force any longer but under the Tax department. On Palm Sunday while parading to the church we were checking on a number of cars passing by with no stickers which also means that the cars are not insured. What a thing. The Tax Department certainly knows my address, so it seems strange that they don’t know who paid from who did not. And if one is driving along with no sticker and no insurance on the motorvehicle then that qualifies in my book as breaking the law. What then remains for the Police Department to do if even breaking the law is not considered something the police should be checking on??
Collecting taxes and supervising the functioning of the Police Force is a responsibility of the Dutch Government. I will send in a letter to the competent authority to send me a list for publication of those who have paid and who have not paid their car license fee and send it to the competent Minister to find out why no one seems to be bothered about this on the Police Force. And if it is an “oneigenlijke taak” contract it out to one of the complainers and give them 25% of the fee to collect.
Other things which have changed are the following. When I was a boy we boys were dead scared of especially Police Officer Lester Peterson when he was on patrol. If we were playing marbles, or “batting ball” one boy was on the lookout to see if Lester was on patrol. If he was we took to the hills. Lester did not fool around. His salary was probably fls.75.–(yes seventy five) guilders per month. In Windwardside you also had Austin, Harry and Harold Johnson. In The Bottom there were Jeremiah Leerdam, Clement Sorton and later Major Osmar R.Simmons, all of them dedicated police officers. Later on we had people like Police Officer Josepha who for years was a one man police force. Josepha would pick you up take you to The Bottom and put his belt on you after which you could try and walk it back to Windwardside. No abuse mind you. Just carrying out his job like the soldier in the United States who became chief of police and brought crime under control in his town with a baseball bat. For the small salary people were happy to even have a job, but when they did they did what they were supposed to do and did not let some Curacao union decide that they were being used improperly. When the British owned the world they would look for certain qualities in the people they governed and used those qualities in other countries. The people of Goa in India were considered very honest. You could entrust your money to them and come back ten years later and they could give account of every cent. So these people were used in all their colonies in Africa as Treasurers. The Sikh men are known to be excellent Police Officers and act impartial when having to do their jobs. If you deserve a fine you can bawl or plead but the Sikh police officer whether in Hong Kong, Durban or any part of the British Empire would write out your fine and tell you where to go and pay.
If Saba was independent it would be something to consider to hire a few Sikh police officers, people who like Lester Peterson and the old Saba police officers who were not afraid to carry out their duty. There were no motor vehicles back then, but I am sure if there were they would not be driving around without insurance or having paid their license fees. This is a once-a-year issue. I still feel that the Police Force should be checking on motor vehicles which have no stickers as that means they have no insurance and it is against the law to be on the road. That definitely is a task of the Police Force. Please get on the job and move this issue aside so that people can move on to other subjects. Amen.

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