PHILIPSBURG--New Representative of the Netherlands in Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten Henk Brons was welcomed with pledges of cooperation and communication during an informal brunch at Sheer Restaurant in Philipsburg on Tuesday morning.
Hosted by acting Dutch Representative in Philipsburg Gert Versluis, the gathering also served to bid farewell to Dutch Representative Gerard van der Wulp, who served the Dutch Government in this capacity during the past three years and six months. He is now going into retirement.
Many dignitaries and government officials sat in on the brunch. Among those to welcome and bid farewell to the two Dutch Representatives, whose functions could be described as similar to those of ambassadors, were Governor Eugene Holiday, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs, Minister of Finance Martin Hassink, Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson, Minister of Economic Affairs, Tourism, Traffic and Communication Claret Connor, Member of Parliament and former Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams.
Also present were a number of other officials, such as President of the Social Economic Council Oldine Bryson-Pantophlet, Vice-Chairperson of the Council of Advice Mavis Brooks-Salmon, Police Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte and Vice-President of the Court of First Instance Koen Luijks.
Van der Wulp said the Dutch Representative primarily serves the interests of the government in The Hague. "But in a very special way, as we [the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean islands, Ed.] are all part of the kingdom and share a lot of the same interests."
"Sometimes this makes the talks and negotiations easy, but there are a lot of moments when this was very difficult," Van der Wulp stated. However, also during the current visit of his political "boss" Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba, Van der Wulp had experienced "good talks in the interest of the people."
Van der Wulp said it was important to explain the necessity of these talks and visits, and why the job of the Government Representative is also of significance to the people in the Netherlands. "Political bosses also need to show results to their people, to their voters, so we also have to work on understanding among the people in my country," he said.
Van der Wulp thanked everyone for their "warm" cooperation and the "very small" staff at the Dutch Representative's office at the Convent Building for their support. The Dutch Government Representative has his office in Curacao, but visits Aruba and St. Maarten regularly.
Van der Wulp and his successor both have the same background as former directors-general at Dutch Government Information Service RVD. Until January 1, 2015, Henk Brons not only served Prime Minister Mark Rutte in this capacity, but also King Willem-Alexander and Princess Beatrix.
Before joining the RVD in 2002, Brons worked at the Information Department of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. In this capacity he visited the islands at least 10 times, but always for a short period of one to three days. Now he will be residing in the Dutch Caribbean for "at least three years," he said.
Prime Minister Gumbs directed a few words to the coming and going man. Being Prime Minister for a month, Gumbs only met with both government officials on Monday. He thanked Van der Wulp for his input and welcomed Brons to the island.
Gumbs said Brons had a "very interesting background" and expressed his hope that Brons would use this background to express the reality of the islands directly to Dutch Prime Minister Rutte "to form a different view and understanding of the islands."
Gumbs also said Rutte should visit the islands more often to obtain first-hand information. "As I told Minister Plasterk: "Don't come for a few days, but come for a whole week and relax for a little bit and get to know the islands"," he said.
Gumbs said St. Maarten has a unique and different place in the kingdom, as it is the only island bordering with France, and therefore, with a European country, putting it in a different category than Curaçao and Aruba. "Too often we oversee that and not understand that," said Gumbs.
The Prime Minister presented a farewell gift to Van der Wulp in the form of a CD with steel band music and two bottles of Guavaberry.
Similar to Minister Plasterk on Monday, Brons was also presented with a copy of The Diary of a St. Maarten Salt Checker by Will Johnson.