By Harald Linkels
Saba- Former politician and ‘uncrowned king’ of the island of Saba, Will Johnson, continues his fight for an equal general old-age pension on the island. Johnson, in his fight for an AOV equal to the Dutch AOW, is being assisted by lawyer and former politician Michiel Bijkerk.
Johnson’s fight is not new. The former politician, along with Bijkerk, has been working on the case for a number of years. Until now the plight of Johnson – especially at Dutch Courts – has not yielded any success. That however, does not deter the former politician. The case is now being presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Johnson is, as he always said, very much against the unequal treatment on this specific point.
“I am highly respected by many in the Kingdom,” says Johnson. “In their system they respect when you challenge their decisions. They claim that our relationship with the Dutch is of such a nature that we (as residents of the BES islands, editor.) are not entitled to the same benefits as those in the Netherlands “, according to the former politician.
Johnson also complains that the Netherlands sometimes take decisions without consulting the local population on the islands, such as the declaration of the potentially economical valuable Saba Bank into a National Park. As a result, the Saba Bank cannot be exploited economically, potentially depriving the islands of potential economic progress in Johnson’s view.
The Netherlands takes the view that the distinction in the general old-age pension between the Dutch and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom is not discriminatory. In a letter sent by the Dutch State to the UN Committee, the position taken by The Netherlands is repeated that ‘the equalization of the Caribbean old age pension with the Dutch state pension (AOW) would damage the economy of the islands’.
“Disruption of the economic system (of the islands, editor) would have disastrous consequences for both the Caribbean and the Dutch part of the Kingdom” writes Babette Koopman, who signs the letter as ‘agent of the Government of the Netherlands’.
“It is therefore”, Koopman concludes her argument to the UN-committee, “that the distinction between the provision between the Dutch and the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom does not constitute discrimination”.
It is not yet clear when the case will be dealt with by the UN Commission on Human Rights.