The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Island Council Meeting Friday June 28, 2013 at 9am.

View from "Hell's Gate Lodge"

View from future hotel the “Hell’s Gate Lodge”.


The agenda for the meeting on Friday is as follows:

1. Opening and announcements

2. Approval of the Agenda

3. Incoming correspondence

4. Approval of the Minutes of the Public Island Council Meeting on October 24th, 2012.

5. Island Council Proposal 2013″ 1st Budget Amendment 2013

6. Ditto: New Investments for the year 2013

7. Ditto: Code of Corporate Governance

8. Ditto: Code of conduct of Executive Council/Island Council members and Island Governor.

9. Ditto: Year report 2012.

10. Ditto: Acquisition of land for parking in Windwardside

11. Ditto: Division of the shares N.V. GEBE

12. Ditto: Dog Ordinance

13. Closing.

I would suggest that more people go to these meetings and hear for themselves what is going on. A certain group of our people depend on their news from a Dutch newspaper calling itself the “Saba Newspaper”. The ones reporting the news from the Island Council meetings give it their own interpretation and some of our leading business people are GULLIBLE enough to swallow this misinformation which is deliberately misleading them and our own local people. I suggest that if you want to judge the Island Council and the Executive Council to take the time and pass and listen to the Island Council meetings. All of these points are important to your future. The government does not need another parking lot in Windwardside. It is you the hotel owners and other business people who will be served by having this parking lot. Go and listen to which council members are supporting the idea or opposing it. That way you will know how to Judge them when election time comes around. Are they representing the whole island or only the village they live in?

For the better part of my life I served Saba. I did not allow petty village politics or the desire to serve my family members only determine my agenda. I always felt that if a dollar came to Saba if not me then my children and grandchildren would benefit from that dollar. Even now I am planning to get investors to join me in building a large hotel (50 rooms) at land I own called “Behind” to be called “Hell’s Gate Lodge” with wonderful views of the surrounding islands, the airport and so on, and with enough parking to accommodate everyone. I would like to hear from the “Saba” business association if they will protest this plan of mine as it will be competition to them. Enough said for now, but please go and attend the Island Council Meeting.

Positive Budget Balance 2012 for Saba

Can you imagine, the USA has budgetary problems, Holland and the European Union  has budgetary problems. Only China and Saba have positive balances on their budgets. Both places have two thirds of their population employed by government yet the private sector is blooming. So much so that people can come from all over the world and make a living here. On her last visit to Saba, then Her Majesty Queen Beatrix at the lunch asked me what were the biggest changes I had seen on Saba in the last years. I told her “Your Majesty, I will give you one example. We have a taxi driver from Ireland who speaks fluent Dutch and looks like his family is from the “Promised Land”. Perhaps not the answer she was expecting but she did see the humor in it. If you would see the unwarranted, unjustified and jealousy driven comments on Facebook about Saba and its government you would think that everything here is a disaster and the Commissioners do not even know what it is all about. One of the Island council members whose first and last honest days work was when he made mud pies as a baby, has the gall to question other members of the Island Council about community work they are doing while his own record is a dismal one which will be dealt with as time goes along. People with business interests here on Saba who will be the first losers in the event of a change in government seem anxious to support any unwarranted criticism of our government. I am at a loss when I hear about statements certain people have made or read unwarranted criticism they levy against government, in some cases even against their own family. I went on Facebook because a number of friends on St.Maarten asked me if there was any intelligent life left on Saba as what they were reading did not reflect the Saba people and their history which I have been promoting throughout my political career. Therefore I went on Facebook to try and bring balance to the information going abroad. I started The Saba Islander which I will use to defend my party the WIPM party which has brought Saba to the level of prosperity that people living here from all parts of the world can also enjoy. I appeal to our people to try and not bring another hurricane or other natural disasters on us by all the unfair statements being sent out to the world. Reflect before you write untruths about our local government or else the dogs will eat your supper. This is the first time in Saba’s history that we have three College educated Members of the Executive Council. I recently had a breakfast meet with the CFT (The Dutch instituted Committee on Financial Supervision). They had nothing but praise for the job the Saba Government is doing, supported by the WIPM members of the Island Council. Everyone is working in the interest of the Island. The members of the Island Council are paid only a pittance for their services so they must do other things in order to survive. The Dutch took away most of the autonomy we had enjoyed with their unfair electoral laws and other laws. These laws have destabilized the Dutch West Indies. Even those with so called “country” status have had so many changes of government that people have stopped counting and only fear that it will get worse. The islands also made history in that the first paid political killing since the death of William of Orange, which took place recently on Curacao. The legal system which falls under the Dutch is not functioning as it should. High profile public cases in which politicians were involved seem to have died a natural death. Holland’s only interest is that the islands should not cost them any more money. The so-called “countries” within the Kingdom have some autonomy but they are not independent. They have to try and solve their own internal problems. The three direct colonies Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are being dealt with as if they were a part of The Netherlands, while at the same time denying us the benefits the European part of the Kingdom get. Someone told me the other day “better we had voted to join France as they give the same benefits to their people, whether they live in Marseille or on St. Martin”. It is true that Saba gets budgetary support. However the ones most affected are the people on Old Age pension many of whom are below the poverty level. Even the churches are under attack. Holland’s keystone of foreign affairs is to support homosexuality and that is for their account, but at the same time they are allowing a substantial number of old people in their colonies to suffer unnecessary hardships.

Government Administration Building

Government Administration Building

These items I am pointing out now will be dealt with one by one as time permits. Also for those from Saba who left our shores and went to seek fortune and fame in other places. The WIPM policy has always been, that you have to pay your passage if you want a post in government. In other words you must be a candidate on the list. It is irritating to those who paid their passage, paid their taxes and remained here with the people through good times and bad times, to read comments from those people who left us behind,on how the island should be run. There might be one or two exceptions of people who though living abroad still invest on Saba and I will give them the benefit of the doubt, but when and where I see unwarranted criticism of our government and by extension those living here paying their taxes and so on, I will respond. There is enough room for criticism in the countries where you live. Saba does not play any role on the world stage and even with our neighbours to warrant the time of those who left us to be occupied with the affairs of our island. In the olden days when large schooners were built here on Saba the owners when registering them would sign a declaration that the schooner was not on “a war footing”. In other words that they did not carry any cannons on board. A throwback to the days of piracy. The Saba Islander has not been put on a war footing as yet, but that will come.

For now I will suffice with quoting an article from The Daily Herald of Saturday, June 22, 2013.


Positive balance of US$58.000.–

SABA– Commissioner Bruce Zagers presented the audit on the Year Report 2012 and plans for public acquisition of land for a parking lot in Windwardside during Friday’s public Central Committee meeting.

The Commissioner told the committee that the Year Report 2012 had met all deadlines set by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom relations and Committee for Financial Supervision CFT, and is to be submitted before July 15, pending approval in next week’s Island Council meeting.

The result is a positive balance of some US $58.000, a surplus that is proposed to go into the general reserve, increasing it to approximately $2.9 million, based on appreciation of various investments.

Zagers recalled that last year, during the indexation for 2012, the Island Council decided to have $435,000 made available as a buffer reserve, which has been implemented and is available for contingencies.

Zagers highlighted the impact of the good working relationship with the national government, pointing out that only 6.22 per cent of the island budget comes as local revenue, with the vast majority coming from The Netherlands.

The total revenue collected locally was $627,000 out of the $8 million budget. (Health Care and Education are financed by the Dutch Government as well).

The audit carried out by Ernst and Young had found NO FRAULENT ACTIVITY, Zagers said. The auditor mentioned ” a true and fair view on the financial statements,” a first for Saba, stated the Commissioner “probably the first on any of the Dutch islands.”

In 2011, the audit had mentioned 15 areas of concern, two of which were cleared in 2012, with one new concern area registered recently regarding improvement in the closing of monthly accounts. Four of these areas now received a lower risk assessment, it was said.

Congratulating the Commissioner on building up the reserve Carl Buncamper of Windward Islands People’s Movement (WIPM) asked about the basis for the newly-flagged area and the setting up of norms for the reserve.

Zagers explained that the Finance Department experienced internal instability with the department’s head. He believes with the new Head of Finance, this concern will disappear.

A proposal on the use of the reserve is to be submitted to the Island Council, based on consultations with the auditor.,

Regarding the acquisition of land for parking in Windwardside, the Island Government obtained four appraisals on the property from independent consultants, leading to an estimated cost of $320,650.–

Central Committee Chairman Rolando Wilson (WIPM) stressed support for the investment, based on the assessed public need and Zagers bolstered the argument in favour of the purchase, stating it would enhance accessibility for emergency-response vehicles and be a potential site for public cisterns, while keeping some of the greenery.

The proposal will need to be approved by CFT, said Zagers, adding that the owner showed flexibility in price and in payment options, with a second tranche payable in 2014.

Approval of purchase will be submitted to the Island Council, with the prospective construction beginning next year.

Buncamper used the opportunity to inquire into the purchase, based on means coming available through the sale of the former Captain’s Quarters property.

Zagers informed that various purchase options are available with appraisals being reviewed by CFT, and said there are two interested buyers in Captain’s Quarters.

Now happening on Saba

1006125_10201448569716731_1415369232_n0f376801c6487e1631736ba66ebe677f37886d1c1ffbf1c347a5b2bf0cf5cd96   There are those who want to pretend as if nothing is happening on Saba. All over the island there is construction going on. The GEBE underground cabling is finally underway connecting the old power plant on St. John’s with Windwardside and Hell’s Gate. The airport had already been connected to Hell’s Gate. When this is all completed most of the island will have underground cabling. The poles can then be removed. A number of private buildings are in progress, and also work continues on the upgrading of the hospital. There are also plans to upgrade the airport runway.

What is also interesting are the two large murals being painted unde05d026cbbf7d006916e458d01ec047b391afc86da0387e683759851038469a0er the guidance of the artist Joan Bourque. I put my two cents in by suggesting the people who should be honoured on these murals. So at the harbor we have people like William Rudolph “Chila” Dinzey who used to be the boat captain bringing goods and people safely to shore in former times. Before him through the centuries there were other boat captains but we only went back as far as “Chila”. He was followed by William James “Jimma” Heyliger (and his two sons Nederville and Carlton) so in effect “Jimma” represents three boat captains of the Heyliger family. Also Marion Every who “manned” the signal station from her home on St. John’s. Mr. Alva Hassell who grew up around Miss Marion travelled with me to Curacao last week. I realized that he would be able to tell me what the balls represented. When they were all horizontal it meant there was no vessel in sight. When in the distance a vessel was sighted one ball was displayed vertically. This alerted the boatmen and porters in The Bottom to be ready if the boat was coming to Saba. As it got closer to the island a second ball was raised and a third one as it became clear that the vessel was indeed coming to Saba. When it went out of sight behind the hill the fourth one was raised so it was time to then rush down to the Fort Bay. If the vessel came in sight from behind “Old Booby Hill” three balls were raised immediately and then the fourth ball when the vessel went behind the hill above the Fort Bay. If it appeared that the vessel was not coming in to Saba then all four balls were immediately dropped into their permanent horizontal position. The mural at the Fort Bay also honours Mrs. Rebecca Levenston-Jones who for many years brought up the mail from the Fort Bay a0nd Ladder Bay and who also was a porter carrying large trunks and other goods all over the island. The Leo Chance pier was opened on his birthday November 8th, 1972 and made a vast difference in how passengers and goods were brought to the island. Over the years because of destructive hurricanes several times the harbor had to be repaired and expanded. The mural makes a good statement to arriving tourists to Saba.

The other mural is at the Juancho Irausquin airport. This year on September 18th will be FIFTY years since the airport was officially opened. This airport made a great difference in the lives of Sabans. A number of people will be honoured by having photo’s of these people posted over the door and over the mural. This project is being financed by the Saba Enhancement Fund. We want to congratulate Joan on her fine work and also people, like Malachy MacGee, Glenn Holm and his staff at the Tourist Bureau and others who helped her in this undertaking. These murals are now there for all to enjoy so even if you are not travelling take a drive down to either the Fort Bay or the Airport and enjoy the murals.13229

Fifty years of air service to Saba

By: Will Johnson

Very few airports in the world have been written about and photographed as much as the “Juancho Irausquin” Airport on Saba.

Flat Point before the airport was built

Flat Point being cleared as seen from the church on Hell’s Gate (1959).

One night I was listening to a Rabbi on the BBC explaining his belief in God. One of the things he pointed out that God gave special gifts to certain peoples and that they should look around and they would recognize what is that special gift given to them. For the Mediterranean countries he said that the olive tree was God’s gift to the peoples who lived around that great historic inland sea.

On Saba it turns out that the liquid lava flow which projected itself out into the sea and made a solid foundation was God’s gift to our people. Cristina M.R. Norcross, of Saban Descent, in her poem “The Lava Story Teller” reminds us of how the island came to pass. “Island of clay, sand and earth, liquid lava now silent. You are the land of trees dripping mangoes, and goats clinging to cliffs.” etc.

Minister Juancho Irausquin after whom the airport is named

Minister Juancho Irausquin after whom the airport is named

Whereas all the surrounding islands had airports it was claimed that it was impossible to build any kind of airport on Saba. Thanks to Mr. Remi de Haenen who liked to make records as far as being the first to fly into different islands in this part of the Eastern Caribbean and decided to take a look around. He was also a friend of Jacques Deldevert a contractor who was building on all three of the islands claimed by the Dutch. The idea was brought to the attention of the Saba Executive Council which consisted of Mr. Carol Labega, Administrator and Commissioners Mr. Matthew Levenston and Mr. Arthur Anslyn.

As with The Road, Sabans worked together to clear what would become the airport

Clearing of Daniel Johnson’s land at Flat Point for a landing strip.

With the exception of the Administrator the two local members of the council were enthusiastic about it. The Administrator of course was concerned about the risks and the potential that he would be the one to be held responsible if anything went wrong. Mr. de Haenen made several passes around the island and chose Flat Point as the only place to land. This part of the island was privately owned. I still have my grandfather’s original bill-of-sale which states that it ran from sea to sea. This was the only bill-of-sale on Saba which could make such a claim. My father used to farm this land and also that of his cousins the Ten Brink family who had moved to Bermuda and the United States. Eugenius Johnson who knew how to mobilize people for a good cause approached my father as well as his first three sons Freddie, Eric and Guy and my father gave the go-ahead to clear the land. I guess my father must have thought that if it did not succeed at least his land would be cleared of all the rocks and he could then plant more sweet potatoes, small corn and pumpkins. Again it was Eugenius Johnson who mobilized the people of Hell’s Gate as well as some from the other villages to help to clear the land. Everyone was quite enthusiastic and within a matter of a couple of weeks with only one or two wheelbarrows available the land was cleared. At that time all the way from Hell’s Gate to where the airport is there was no road, just a goat track. So you had to walk down there and after hours of hard work you had to walk back all the way to the Roman Catholic Church on Hell’s Gate which was as far as motor vehicles could then reach.

Remy de Hannen landed on Saba

Feb. 9th, 1959 First landing on Saba: Commissioner Arthur Anslyn, pilot Remy F. de Haenen, mechanic, and Commissioner Matthew Levenston.

Mr. Remi de Haenen made a few passes with his plane to inspect the ongoing work. He then visited Saba by boat and gave some more instructions for grading and so on and decided that it would be suitable enough to make a try at it.

A thank you note for the flowers

Note on a bouquet of flowers presented to Pilot Remy F. de Haenen on his historic landing at Flat Point

The historic day was February 9th, 1959 and practically the whole of Saba was gathered at Flat Point to experience what they hoped would be the first plane landing on our island. We were in the Boys town in Brakkeput on Curacao and had not heard anything about all that was taking place on Saba. Matthew Levenston’s son Harold was with us and out of the blue he got a telegram which read:”Plane landed safe. Pilot O.K.” and that was it. It took another week before our mail reached and our families back on Saba let us know what had taken place.

It was a good thing that by 1959 several people on Saba owned camera’s and so a number of photo’s of this historic event were taken which photo’s we can still enjoy today.

Helicopters landed too

Carl Anslyn observing three helicopters at Flat Point March 22nd, 1962

After this event things went dead. Mr. de Haenen was prohibited from landing on Saba again and nobody seemed interested in pursuing the matter further. Many people still ask why the Saba government named the airport after the Aruban politician Juancho Irausquin. His is a complicated name and even spelled wrong on the plaque at the airport with a Y instead of I. A name of Basque origin I am told which came to Aruba via Venezuela. Juancho was leader of the then all powerful P.P.A. party on Aruba and had people with him like Leo Chance and Carl Anslyn from Saba. Along with Wim Lampe he paid a visit to Saba in 1960 and together they nearly got lost on the sloop the “Gloria” along with captain and Commissioner Matthew Levenston. Mr. Irausquin later told friends that he promised that if his life was spared the first thing he would do when he returned to Curacao would be to look for funds to build an airport on Saba. At the time he was the Minister of Finance for the Netherlands Antilles.

Airport after construction as seen from the air.

Airport after construction as seen from the air.

As pressure started to mount for the elections for Parliament in 1962 the lack of an airport became a big issue on Saba. The then popular Administrator Henry Every had pushed through a motor vehicle road to Flat Point for which he was reprimanded by the authorities at the time as they considered it a waste of money and even decided to transfer Mr. Every to Curacao. Results were that Mr. Ernest Voges, Mr. Hugh Lopes and Henry Every joined forces to oppose the D.P. and Claude asked me to go to Saba and help him out. I did as told and I don’t want to claim anything but in conversation with Claude I told him that he should get involved with an airport for Saba as then I could tell voters there that he had a deciding hand in it. And he did. He personally came to Saba to witness the equipment being landed at the Cove Bay. His brother Chester and Jacques Deldevert owned the construction company and got the contract to build the airport. The Dutch government at the request of Juancho made funds available for a three year plan for the Windward Islands and one of those plans was a fls.600.000.- (six hundred thousand) guilders to build the airport.

While the airport was under construction I was so-called working in the Post office but out campaigning for Van Hugh Hassell who was from Saba and was the number two candidate on the D.P. list. I was working with Miss Marguerite Hassell in the Windwardside when three helicopters from the Dutch aircraft carrier the “Karel Doorman” decided to land at the airport. I told her I could run the office if she wanted to go see the helicopters which was much appreciated by her. It was March 22nd, 1962 and this was the first time an aircraft had landed at Flat point after Mr. de Haenen’s famous landing on February 9th, 1959. Claude won the elections of 1962 and a week after the elections Minister Irausquin died quite suddenly on Curacao. He did not get to see the completion of the airport named in his honour.

Sabans show their appreciation and great interest in twin-engine Apache's first landing on Saba's newly constructed airfield - Feb 1 1963

Apache piloted by George Greaux in 1963 – Feb 1 1963

In 1963 the construction had reached that far that On February 1st 1963 a twin engine Apache airplane, piloted by George Greaux, landed at Flat Point to try out the newly asphalted runway. Many people came down to see this landing as well as this was the first time a fixed wing air plane had landed since the landing by Pilot Remy de Haenen on February 9th, 1959.

The airport service started on July 24th, 1963 with flights to St. Maarten and St. Eustatius. All was not ready yet for an official opening but the runway was good enough to allow flights though.

Mrs. Irausquin doing the opening, looking on Claude Wathey, Daniel Johnson, and Administrator L.M. Overberg, September 18th, 1963

Finally the airport was completed and the date of September 18th, 1963 was chosen as the official opening date, and yes Claude Wathey was among the guests at the opening and many other dignitaries from the other islands including the widow of Mr. Juancho Irausqin who cut the ribbon. My father Daniel was also there and who in the meantime at my request to Chester Wathey had been appointed as the agent for Windward Islands Airways. The airline was a risky investment of George Greaux, Hipployte Ledee and Chester Wathey, Louis Richardson and a handful of others. One has to admire these people who at the time risked their money to start the airline. Then and even now airlines are risky investments and with the high costs of fuel and so on they sometimes make a profit but they operate mostly on losses.

Among the guests from other islands - Mayor Dr. Hubert Petit of French St. Martin, Commissioner Milton Peters, Lt. Governor and Mrs. Beaujon, and also pilot Remy de Haenen then Mayor of St. Barths. Sept. 18th. 1963

Among the guests from other islands – Mayor Dr. Hubert Petit of French St. Martin, Commissioner Milton Peters, Lt. Governor and Mrs. Beaujon, and also pilot Remy de Haenen then Mayor of St. Barths. Sept. 18th. 1963

It took a while to get a STOL aircraft which could land in relative safety on Saba. I have some photographs with Father Leeuwenberg blessing the Dornier six seater plane which used to fly to Saba. On the back the date it was printed on Curacao was 2.1.1964 so I assume it was purchased before that date and put into service. In the beginning the plane only flew two or three days in the week and twice a day. Not much traffic back then as very few people could afford to buy a ticket. It was mostly government passengers and hardly any tourists came by plane to Saba, as there were few of them visiting St. Maarten at the time as well. There was also a big uproar on Saba after the airport was built. In 1965 because there was no suitable plane which was deemed fit to land the airport remained unused for some six months. People here became so frustrated that a group of young men one night raised a French flag on the Police Station in Windwardside. Then Administrator Reinier van Delden treated the matter seriously but so far as we know the French flag had raised itself though half of Saba knew who had done it.

People checking out de Haenen's plane.

People checking out de Haenen’s plane.

After that the problem was quickly resolved and the airport finally took off. With the acquisition of De Haviland Twin Otters which could carry more passenger traffic picked up and was also helped out when in 1965 the Captains Quarters Hotel was built.When the first Twin Otter landed there were also many people at Flat Point to welcome it.

People awaiting historic landing on improvised landing strip Feb. 9th, 1959

People awaiting historic landing on improvised landing strip Feb. 9th, 1959

Over the years at least two hundred and fifty thousand passengers have landed on Saba. There have been a couple of incidents with planes. One of them was that on the last flight of the Dornier after landing it ran off the side of the runway. It was too damaged to remove her except the engines were salvaged and the remains of the Dornier were spread among different people on the island. The propeller from the first plane to land here was given by Mr. de Haenen and is on display in the new airport terminal building which was dedicated to Mr. de Haenen on Saba Day in 2003 I believe. Many people on Saba felt that he had been shortchanged and was not even allowed to fly to Saba after his first historic flight which opened up Saba to air traffic with the other islands. He did run for Mayor of St. Barths several times and was elected to that post, and served with distinction even though he had no roots on that island.

Freddie Johnson (Winair agent) and Jose Dormoy "Monsieur Le Pipe" most famous Winair pilot

Freddie Johnson (Winair agent) and Jose Dormoy “Monsieur Le Pipe” most famous Winair pilot

Over the years several private planes have landed here some with and others without permission until the airport was restricted. In the last years Windward Express has been landing here regularly. The airport manager Mr. Vincent Hassell tells me that over the years as many as fifteen different Twin Otter aircraft have landed here. Also there are now plans to upgrade the area surrounding the runway soon. I asked the ABC Foundation at one time to make a plan for me to extend the runway with pillars on the take-off side. This would have added another two hundred and fifty feet to the runway. Also after many years of not being built the Twin Otters are again being manufactured and we hope that some kind of loan can be arranged by the Dutch and French Governments for a few new Twin Otters so that Windward Islands Airways can continue giving service to Saba and St. Barths. Wishful thinking on my part but you can never tell. Over the years I have landed on this runway over 800 times and have had quite a few adventures with the famous and no so famous pilots who regularly fly to Saba. I must admit though that I have not yet got accustomed to the landing. We congratulate the people of Saba who together with Mr. Remy de Haenen made the airport on Saba possible.

1946 Remi F. de Haenen lands off Fort Bay in Vought Sikorsky type O.S. 2 U seaplane..jpg

Remi de Haeven at Fort Bay 1946.

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