BHRO objected in a letter to State Secretary van Huffelen on the recent media publication regarding meetings in Holland on the development of civil society infrastructure in Bonaire

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BHRO holds Consultative Status with United Nations ECOSOC and is an Associate Member of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and has represented Civil Society in Bonaire for the past 18 years. Our voice has resonated on numerous occasions at civil society platforms within the UN Headquarters in New York/Geneva/Vienna and in international platforms. However, it is disheartening that we are neither accepted nor formally invited by the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations, RCN Slavery-past Caribbean Netherlands and Bonaire government to similar events in Netherlands, Curacao, Aruba, St Maarten and our own island Bonaire.

We are often treated as unwanted guests, where in Bonaire we were asked to leave the room by Jan Helmond Head of RCN and not allowed to attend the meeting when Minister van Gennip on 19 December 2022 came to apologize for the Dutch slavery crimes. When we decided to attend on our own as in St Maarten last September, and as we cover our own expenses, where we were nearly kicked out of the meeting as evidenced by our experience at the “Reflection of our Slave Past” event hosted by State Secretary van Huffelen.

Unlike some organizations on Bonaire that enjoy funding and support, BHRO operates independently and without such privileges. We do not benefit from free trips around the world to repeat the narratives dictated by Dutch institutions and government agendas. Such example as ex-governor Rijna as a Dutch appointed Special Envoy. Instead, we speak truthfully about the harsh realities of poverty, discrimination, and the displacement faced by the natives of Bonaire, drawing from our firsthand experiences on the ground.

Our intent is not to criticize our fellow colleagues who attend these events but plead to them to consider the valuable perspectives of longstanding organizations like ours, which have contributed significantly to the discourse on Bonaire, the Kingdom, the Caribbean and Globally.

Lack of Inclusivity: In order to truly represent the voices of the people of Bonaire, it is essential to involve a wide array of stakeholders in the development process. Without clear mechanisms for Transparency, Accountability, and Inclusivity there is a risk that the development of civil society infrastructure will not adequately serve the needs of the community. Any efforts to strengthen civil society in Bonaire must acknowledge and address the ongoing impacts of colonialism on the island. It is essential that the development process is inclusive and representative of all segments of Bonaire’s population including Bonaire Human Rights Organization board members that have over 20 years experience.

We hope that the newly Holland appointed program manager to start put the comma after the “Apology” of the Dutch slavery-past and crimes of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations and State Secretary van Huffelen would strive to real inclusivity and invite Bonaire Human Rights Organization and not keep repeating the colonial history of divide and rule.

We urge the organizers to address these concerns and ensure that all voices are heard and represented in the process.