by Curlan Campbell
- In 2010, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius became public entities, integrated in Netherlands without equal rights
- Bonaire to be re-enlisted as a Non-Self-Governing Territory taken to UN
- Activists made Grenada their last stop in August 2022 and met with PM Mitchell
Following what was deemed a successive awareness mission throughout to garner support in the fight against human rights violations against the peoples of Bonaire, human rights defender James Finies accompanied by Davika Bissessar-Shaw, President of the Bonaire Human Rights Organisation, are taking their plight to the United Nations headquarters in New York City to have Bonaire re-enlisted as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.
Both activists made Grenada their last stop in August 2022 on their island tour of Latin America and the Caribbean territories before travelling to the US. The team met with Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell on 26 August 2022 at the Ministerial Complex.
Finies, who is also the President of the human rights foundation “Nos Ke Boneiru Bèk” has led a one-man campaign against human rights violations in Bonaire since the dissolution of The Netherlands Antilles in 2010, which resulted in Bonaire, together with the islands Saba and Sint Eustatius, became public entities, integrated in the Netherlands without equal rights.
From 1954 until 2010, Bonaire, located in the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, 80 km off the coast of Venezuela, was part of the Netherlands Antilles, a country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Since then, the national government of Bonaire has been the Dutch government in the Hague.
For people like Finies, this shift in political power has and continues to represent the re-emergence of neo-colonial take over which he believes violates the territorial status of Bonaire as a sovereign nation.
The Netherlands’ political regime is now being blamed for violating the human rights of the people, destroying their culture, identity, and language and seizing their natural resources.
“The first law they pass even before annexation in 2010 was the mining law. In essence, the mining law says that all natural resources, both terrestrial and subterranean, are theirs (Netherlands) and all the land belongs to them if they need it. Another thing that they did — and I want to warn the Caribbean about — is that they first seized our airport, which is now managed by Holland and they expanded it not for commercial or international standards but to military standards,” Finies said.
This reality prompted Finies to leave his career as an investment banker, to petition for Bonaire to have a referendum of which he collected 4,000 signatures representing 25% of the population. Despite having received written confirmation from the Netherlands Minister Dr Ronald Plasterk to hold such a referendum in 2014, it took 222 days of non-stop protest in front of the Bonaire government building even resorting to sleeping in his car, until the government eventually granted the request on 18 December 2015. This referendum resulted in over 60% of the electorate voting against the current constitutional status of Bonaire being part of the Dutch Constitution. However, Finies said the Netherlands Government refuses to respect the voice of the people.
Bissessar-Shaw said garnering support from Latin America and Caribbean governments has been quite fruitful having met with several leaders, ambassadors, lawmakers and human rights lawyers, and even met had an important private meeting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organisation (UN), Antonio Guterres in Suriname. While opting not to divulge the nature of the conversations with regional leaders, Bissessar-Shaw said it helped to renew their faith in this struggle for the people of Bonaire. “Every single leader told us to keep doing what we are doing because in this fight our approach was very humble and respectful and I think they all admire our persistence for justice,” she said.
Both activists hope that their case will be heard at the level of the United Nations, where Bonaire can once again be enlisted as a Non-Self-Governing Territory.