By Adnan Hassan
In a world of globalisation, no island is an island. Bonaire is no different. We are being impacted by events around the world. And this impact will only increase.
I see the changes daily. When I pick up my kids after school from SGB/LISEO, it is rather interesting to hear the language that their friends and them use to casually talk among themselves. They are not speaking to each other in Dutch, or Papiamento, or in Spanish. What language are they speaking? Yes, English.
In choosing their language of casual conversation, Bonairean kids don’t care about politics or making an “us” versus “them” statement. They don’t see their choice of language as disrespecting heritage. They speak in the language that is already the language of the world. And this trend will grow. Overtime, every child on Bonaire, who has any interaction with the world, will be speaking English.
I am a supporter of retaining the language, history, culture, and identity of Bonaire. It shows respect for local culture and it is mindful about the past. One option is to have a process of “inburgering,” as is required for citizenship in The Netherlands. That is, before any one is given a “sedula” they are required to pass a test in Papiamento and on Bonairean history. Another option is to offer basic lessons on Papiamento and a course on Bonairean history to everyone who gets a “sedula.” This course could be even be made free. I am sure we will find great interest.
Regarding the question “Who should determine the future of Bonaire?” I would say a more interesting question is “Who does determine our future?”
Most decisions regarding Bonaire are being made via a combination of factors, not all are local. These decisions are being made by politicians; by long time Bonairean “locals;” by recently arrived “locals;” by the ministries, national tax payer and their representatives in The Hague; and also, by the rest of the world.
As we saw in the COVID pandemic, our very movements on a small island like Bonaire were restricted because of events half way around the world. Local experts werebeing advised by RIVM in The Hague, who kept an eye on the advice from WHO, etc. They all were responding to a virus that originated on the other side of the planet.
My point: it is a complex world out there. No single group – and certainly not just locals — will have a monopoly on determining our future, including something as simple as when and how we can step out of our houses on Bonaire. The earlier we prepare for this world of globalisation, the better.
In European Netherlands, the “face” of politicians is still mostly straight, white and male. But this is changing. Slowly we are seeing all sorts of people showing up as leaders there: women, people of colour, those with different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and LGBTQ etc. This trend will grow. Of course, there is bigotry and racism and anxiety from this change, since power shifts. But this change will happen there, as it will on Bonaire.
Regarding hunger, homelessness, crime, suffering etc., this is a real tragedy on Bonaire. This should not be brushed aside, or ignored. As a Bonairean community, it is our responsibility to do something about it. It is a shame that in a rich country like the Netherlands, there are children going to school hungry on its “Special Municipality,” Bonaire. This is unacceptable. Our Mindful Spirit Foundation is doing something about it directly and via the national government. (see our letter to the Tweede Kamer posted on the Bonaire Future Forum, and keep an eye out for our “Mindful Bario Program”).
I do believe that Bonaireans who are in the diaspora have a responsibility. We want them to be involved while away but also come back home and do something. The Talent Ontwikkel Programma (TOP) program is an excellent example of what is possible if people make an effort. Through such efforts, Bonaire’s brain drain will end up in a brain gain.
Promising Bonairean will come home. But for this to happen, we must make Bonaire a place where their talents and aspirations will be welcome. For this, Bonaire too must change.
In this world of globalisation, our island will not remain an island. We cannot block out events of the world. The better we prepare our people, the more they can cope with this reality.
The future is full of opportunity. And this pandemic crisis is a great moment to reset our direction to seize these opportunities.
I believe together we can make a difference for all Bonaireans.
* Adnan Hassan is an advisor, investor, entrepreneur and author. He has served on the Board of Directors of the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C (USA). He is Founder & Co- CEO, Mindful Enterprises, B.V. (Bonaire); Vice Chairman, Mindful Spirits Foundation (Bonaire); Founder, Bonaire Future Forum (Bonaire): Founder, BIG Ideas Foundation (Bonaire).