The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Another Service to our people removed.

It hs been made known that the service of the Cadastre has been taken away from the people and moved to Bonaire.

In former times Saba provided its own surveyors, people like Marcus Hassell and Josephus Lambert Hasell both from the village of the Windward Side would survey land when needed.

Saba had its own Notaries, people like Charles Winfield, Hercules Hassell, William Henry Hassell, Engle Heyliger all of these were natives of Saba and would prepare all legal documents whch people required. Saba functioned as an independent Island Community. Our traditional laws now are being cast aside or ignored by the local and the National Government. The highest body in the island namely the Island Council seems to question nothing and goes along with everything and does not question change. This attitude carries with it a heavy penalty for our people now and in the future. When I started The Saba Islander I tried as much as possible to keep political issues out of my blog and to post article of interest on people and the history of our beloved islands in the Leewards. Now however the time has come to post my personal and political views on issues which believe are important to our people.

One of these issues I would like to address is the Cadastre. A service which we provided with locals in former times. When the Netherlands Antilles existed the Cadastre was headquartered on St. Maarten for the three Dutch Windward Islands. There were a number of complaints as to mistakes they were making which people like Lambert would have never made. Mistakes like measuring land with only one landowner present who would point out the bounds in his favour and mistakes were made which only years later came about. Like passing over a historic government road to one private owner along the road, and which road the government had recently widened and hard surfaced. The losing parties, the other owners along the former government road are being denied access to the road. The other problem is that lawyers for the most part have compromised themselves by being on the boards of government owned companies and viewing government as a more lucrative customer than the common man. And so we must seek Justice in the form of this kind of advice from bush lawyers, obeah men if you will, and put your hope in God that things will turn out allright in the end.

And so it was that even before the islands went their seperate ways the Government of Sint Maarten decided that they wanted to take over the Cadastre. Then Commissioner William Marlin called me one day. I was Commissioner of Saba at the time. Although the three slands had been seperated since April 1st, 1983 Mr. Marlin thought that it would be important to include Saba and Sint Eustatius in certain areas of Government which would be providing service to all three islands. He said that the St. Maartn government was setting up a Foundation to take over the Cadastre from the Government of the Netherlands Antilles. At the same time he asked me to be a Member of the Board as Holland was on the lookout already to see where they could undermine the move, and so he wanted people with character that could serve on the board to give it a headstart. Also on the board was the Hon. Max Pandt former Lt. Governor of the three Dutch Windward Islands, and Mr. Vic Henriquez Manager of the Windward Islands Bank Ltd.

As a member of the board of the new Foundation I was able to point out many of the mistakes which needed to be corrected like when measuring land to have all of the owners or a representative present when doing that to avoid conflicts later on. And other issues as well, like checking on the qualifications of certain surveyors and the corruption value of staff dealing with the public.

After the islands went their own way in 2010 I did not hear of anything being done to safeguard Saba’s position on the board of the Foundation and if things were being done in keeping with the law.

Now thati t seems there had been no discussion by our local politicians on what the consequences will be for Saba of leaving Sint Maarten Cadastre behind and taking a walk between the cactusses with Bonaire.

There are certain things people in politics on Saba need to understand and should not go along with each and everything without debate. The people of Saba and Sint Maarten together have had a special relationsship which I personally would like to see contiunued. Many families have intermarried over the centuries and produced offspring who have held important positions on Sint Maarten. Many Sabans are living and working there or have done so including me. I was warmly received by the then people of Sint Maarten. Even though with all the development of the past thirty years or so and with the St. Maarten people being lost among the crowd we enjoy good relations.

The Cadstre on Sint Maarten improved their service to Saba and when there was demand for the surveying of land they would come over and do that.

Saba has a long history of good governance as a semi independent Island Community. The Dutch are known for their red tape and for not recgonizing local history, traditional law, mother tonogue language. With all that is going on already with people’s private land we fear the worst with this move which I was assumed must have been approved by the present Island Council. Already private land rights are being ignored with mercenary sharp shooters having been brough in to shoot people’s goats on their private land. Already so called “experts” being brought in from hither thither and yon seem to be the ones who are deciding whether or not Sabans have ever owned land. Let me be clear. Ever since the early settlement by Irish indenttured servants from Palmetto Point and Middle Island on St. Kitts accompanied by Scottish prisoners of war settled Saba in 1629 they and their descendants had private property. THe Government which came about when pirates from Jamaica took Saba in 1665 and appointed Saba’s first Aministrator Thomas Morgan (uncle of Sir Henry Morgan), increased the population and allowed all and sundy to claim the island and its limited land. Gradually the Island developed its own Administration with local Judges, Local Councilors and Local Governors, even doctors like Dr. Dinzey.

Nowadays people are coming in and telling us what our history should be, even claiming that we never had a history and disputing history handed down to us by our forebears as “folk lore” while bringing nothing to the table to prove us wrong. AS time goes on and with God’s help I will address more of these issues and will remain active on the political stage to educate people to be careful when voting that they do not elect people who will sell us out. With the removal of Cadaster from St. Maarten, not only are we being sold out, but we may isolate ourselves from other services provided by various government departments on St. Maarten. Qo Vadis Saba?

Will Johnson

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