The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson




Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Today is a proud moment for our beloved Saba and for the Saba Day celebrations which were established in 1975 on the proposal of then Commissioner Will Johnson.

   Over the years Saba Day and the Saba flag have become beloved symbols of our identity as a small island in the West Indies, even though we are part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands.

    This year especially our people have shown their maturity and their pride in the fact that WE are proving that small is beautiful and also sustainable. With two major hurricanes hitting our island our people worked hard to bring the island back as much as possible after each hurricane. The Dutch marines who were sent here to help were amazed to see how our local people pitched in from the first hours after the winds abated to do what had to be done. This has not been from this year alone but with all the natural disasters which have afflicted us in the years past.

  To quote from Renan a French philosopher: “ To have common glories in the past, a common will in the present; to have done great things together; to wish to do greater; these are the essential conditions which make up a people…. And as small as Saba is we are a distinct people, with a glorious history and a unique culture. SABA PROUD was and is the slogan among the people.

    Saba has been highly praised over the years not only for its natural beauty, but for the way in which our people have kept the island clean and our buildings well maintained.

   All the way back in 1702 when the French pirate priest Father Labat visited Saba he reported how well kept the houses were and were all well painted. He described a way of life which still exists today where for example when an animal is to be butchered shares are sold in the animal for the distribution of the meat after it is slaughtered.

     The island for most of its history of pirates and slaves has been governed by local people. Governor Thomas Dinzey back two hundred years ago was not only Governor during Dutch rule but was asked to stay on and govern during both French and British occupation. There are those on Saba who still can claim descent from Governor Dinzey.

   Even today Saba enjoys being governed by its own people.

    Saba has a good reputation of balancing its books and managing its resources. A local historian claims that it is passed down from the days of piracy. The money stolen from the Spanish and other victims when brought home had to be carefully managed as there might not be another opportunity. When the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles was established Saba was the only island which turned in a horde of golden doubloons to be converted into guilders. And so it is with Dutch funds given to us in holy trust. Sabans realize that these funds have to be managed carefully as they could come to an end.

   Today Saba is extremely proud to have with us for the first time on Saba Day our beloved King and Queen. While praising our English language heritage it would be remiss of us if we did not express our enormous gratitude for the past and present help given to us by the people of Holland. We do have our differences of course in a relationship where we do not have equal rights to social benefits and we constantly remind Dutch politicians that they should do something to help those who have to live off their old age pension. But that and other matters are for local politicians to settle with the politicians on the far away continent of Europe.

    Let us all celebrate this Saba Day with a special sense of history and pride. Let us enjoy the fact that we have our beloved King and Queen in our midst. His mother, grandmother and other members of the House of Orange have always been beloved by our people. I can think of many Sabans of the past generation who would have been so proud to be here today to witness and be a part of our own island celebrations and remembrance of things past. We wish all of those present and our people at large, but especially our King and Queen a Happy Saba Day and May God continue to bless you and the rest of the Royal family.

     Thanks again for being here with us, and HAPPY SABA DAY TO ALL.

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