Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, October 23rd, 2016

What the opposition calls an Infantile Fight

By Sunday, midday, my story about our newly appointed governor Alfonso Boekhoudt reached almost 5,500 people on FB, and was shared 15 times; 955 people reacted and had something to say about it. That is definitely an interactive news item.

What did all these people have in common?

They all praised Boekhoudt and his stellar qualities as a public and private figure.

One of the calls I got from the Netherlands, reassured me I had the story wrong. Alfonso said the caller, did not strike a deal with the MinPres, to go to the Netherlands. He was going anyway; he resigned his post at the Aruba Port Authority, packed his suitcases, and was heading to the Continent to seek medical treatment for one of his kids, when the call came, that by the way, Aruba needs a Minister Plenipotenciario, are you available, you could fit.

And that’s how it went, Alfonso was heading north, when the MinPres made him an offer, and I am happy to set the record straight on his behalf.

As expected, he did an excellent job as Aruba’s representative in the Netherlands, and apparently also enjoyed a great relationship with the Dutch kingdom.

As you know, on a recent Tuesday, King Willem-Alexander, asked Boekhoudt to become Aruba’s new governor, then when he responded positively, the king made it official, by signing a decree to that effect, on Friday, making Alfonso Boekhoudt his new representative on the island.

We agree and admit that this was a bit unusual. While legal, it wasn’t gentlemanly, because Aruba wasn’t officially consulted/warned/involved. After all the man is about to become our governor, aren’t we entitled to a formal heads-up?

Yes, and for some reasons it did not happen. The Dutch head of state Mark Rutte, or the Minister in charge of Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, must be fed up and/or impatient with the former colonies, and took matters into their hand, seeing that Aruba wasn’t coming forth with more governor-candidate suggestions.

Aruba’s MinPres doesn’t like having things shoved down his throat and he assumed a radio-silence. For almost a week we did not hear anything, but there were signs of deep dissatisfaction: His conspicuous absence from the opening of the CITGO refinery, for example.

Then he threw a bomb on Friday, by issuing a vote of no confidence, against his own Plenipotenciario Minister, signing legal documents preparing to retired Boekhoudt from his current post as Aruba’s representative in the Netherlands. He just fired the man; a very severe punishment for saying “I Do,” to the kingdom.

Another stink bomb went by mail, accusing Rutte of an illegal nomination that should be pulled back, and saying that the kingdom had no right to nominate a governor on its own.

While the local opposition calls it an “infantile fight,” the MinPres is digging his heels, calling for the reversal of the royal decree.

How about that for a start of a great relationship between a new Governor and his MinPres?

We were all shocked and saddened over the weekend because Alfonso Boekhoudt is an excellent candidate, he was a good minister and can become a great governor, he is the right person for the job, and only the nomination process was botched.

What can we do about it?

Wait and see.

This unilateral nomination offended the MinPres’ patriotic feelings and his much-cherished sense of self-determination. The fact that the kingdom rejected the list of candidates served by Aruba, Angel Bermudez, Ike Posner and/or Glenda Margaretha and decided to exercise its own wisdom, was too much for the MinPres to handle. It was a sign of unbearable disrespect.

The local media is predicting a big fight.

Celebrity chef Seamus Mullen at Windows on Aruba

The chef was invited by Divi Resorts on the occasion of Eat Fresh restaurant week, and while on the island he orchestrated an event at Windows on Aruba showcasing his culinary gifts.

As an advocate of healthy living and an active lifestyle the chef presented a light menu loaded with veggies and sensible cooking alternatives, to about 90 guests. As it turns out the chef has an Aruba connection, via his mother, whose partner owns a house on Malmok!

The menu presented took off with a Cucumber and Melon Gazpacho, flavored with basil, olive oil, and espelette pepper, a dark, slightly smoky pepper from France. It’s a summer soup served at room temperature. The soup was paired with a nicely chilled Aix Rose Cotes de Provence, France. The Shaved summer squash salad with radishes, chile and lime vinaigrette propelled me to decide to invest in a mandolin vegetable cutter. The radish, cauliflower and cucumber were cut paper thin and delicious. The salad was paired by an excellent Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand, my new favorite.

For main course a Coconut Seafood Curry, with mushroom, squash and lemongrass was a crowd-pleaser, it was paired with Pilliteri Estate Gewürztraminer/Riesling Canada. I know the Gewürztraminer is making a comeback, I still have to get used to its sugar content.

For dessert, the Dark Chocolate and Olive Oil Mousse, with Candied Hazelnuts pleased me totally especially when paired with Charles Smith the Velvet Devil, Merlot Columbia Valley, Washington State, for an awesome finish.

Executive Chef Matt Boland helped introduce chef Mullen to the kitchen brigade, and assisted with preparations; Mullen presented Hero Food, his first cookbook as a gift to Divi’s Managing Director Alex Nieuwmeyer, and reported seeing a large sea turtle as he snorkeled off Eagle beach.

From his website: “Hero Food is Chef Seamus Mullen’s first cookbook. More than just a collection of 130 recipes, it is also an intimate portrait of his own journey with food, from his upbringing in rural Vermont to his formative years in Spain, to his present-day battle with rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disease. Hero Food is Chef Mullen’s personal philosophy of well-being, illustrating how he believes delicious food and wellness can go hand in hand.”

 

The award is probably two years late

We should congratulate Jim Hepple on a recent award he received, the 2016 Caribbean Hotel Association Executive of the Year. Jim collected his plaque at CHTA, the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association meeting in Puerto Rico. Jim has been at the helm of AHATA since 2009, and has been on the board of CHTA since 2012.

In the old days, AHATA enjoyed the leadership of local executives, Raphael Estrada, Rory Arends, Adwina Arends & Ed Malone, listed here at random. It was a grass roots organization, and it did very well for the island. Then for a while, in order to lobby with foreign airlines and government entities AHATA hired international big guns, Horace Hord, Jorge Pesquerra, to run its business. Big names cost big bucks.

Later on in order to increase group business for the hotels, AHATA transformed itself into an efficient marketing organization, with an army of group sales people. To finance that hoopla, a 2% charge was added to the existing 9.5% room tax, and thus AHATA created a substantial budget for cooperative advertising and marketing.

Eventually, the marketing organization was disbanded when the Aruba Tourism Authority took marketing over and it was decided to merge all sources of income, and control spending via a joint board consisting of ATA and AHATA members, chaired by a seventh neutral board member. That did not work very well, and three of these board members on the AHATA side, just recently resigned.

I am not trying to give you an accurate historical rundown, I am just attempting to say that AHATA over the years, was smart to change and go with the flow, reacting to market conditions and government aptitude, supporting the MinTour when government lost its way, and of course generating all the cash, from collected room tax.

With ATA handling marketing, AHATA became a lobbying instrument. Lobby with Labor. Lobby with Justice, Lobby with Infrastructure. We still remember the Social Dialogue, so promising at first, which became a Social Monologue, as the government did not keep its commitments, and that was the end of that.

As stated in a previous column, there are signs of deep dissatisfaction within the organization as lobbying falls on deaf ears, and two major hotels, 1,000 rooms, that’s 50% of the EP hotels on Palm Beach, just announced their exit.

P.S. Jurgen Van Schaijk just reminded me that his hotel, the Amsterdam Manor was the first to take its leave, 4 years ago.

There are calls for a change in direction. Many of my friends mentioned to me they would like a significant overhaul, because Hepple who has the patience of a saint, has been going to all those government meetings on behalf of AHATA, with no significant results. The industry is changing rapidly, especially with the introduction of shared economy opportunities, and AHATA instead of embracing that worldwide phenomenon, is slow to respond, which makes the division even greater.

So the award is ironic, it came at a year in which AHATA has difficulties retaining its membership, a year of record disputes with the government and a year of record dissatisfaction.

The award is probably two years late.

 

The Dump

This piece, written on October 20th, 2016, was viewed by more than 45,000 and was shared more than 450 times, with more than 470 comments, I think it is time to organize, and do something about it!

One of my friends wrote to me yesterday: I live in the area of Parkietenbos / Bucuti and I have been diagnosed with cancer 4 months ago. It is a one in a million per year in the US type of cancer; called dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans which is a soft tissue cancer caused by toxins.
I have been living for 37 years near the dump. I always eat healthy, do sports, I never smoked, drank any alcohol or did any drugs, I was treated in Cali Colombia recently because in Aruba they did not have a positive outlook for me for that type of cancer. I am 37 years old..so all my life in this toxic air I have two small children 6 and 8 years both have asthma I am also asthmatic. We all are on inhalers…..yesterday I got an asthma attack because of the toxic smoke, last night was a nightmare again the wind turned, we couldn’t breathe. We have a group of people living in the neighborhood we can all come together so you can hear what we all have to say, we are all suffering and no one seems to care.

Bad behavior
Aruba Dushi Tera, a glossy magazine printed by the Arubahuis in The Hague, is a blatant propaganda vehicle, touting the wisdom and the greatness of our fearless leader, as he sings his own praises, with the help of a few contributors such as René Zwart, on the payroll of the MinPres propaganda machine. That same writer had questioned the integrity and impartiality of the newly appointed Aruba governor from the pages of Antilliaans Dagblad published in Curacao. We are sure that the editors of that venerated publication will not be pleased when they find out their Dutch correspondent in The Hague is Mike’s man…paid by the taxpayers of Aruba. The Curaçao based Antilliaans Dagblad is usually a real newspaper with real journalists, unlike the Aruba media outlets who only publish regurgitated press releases generated by PR agencies. This is especially poignant in view of the fact that we were recently lectured by Senator André Bosman about the fact that impartial press is one of the crucial foundations of democracy…

On Sunday you might be inconvenienced for a good cause
On Sunday October 23rd 2016 there will be a Triathlon in the low and high rise hotel areas. From 02:00AM police will begin closing off most of the intersections and roundabouts leading in and out of this area. Exceptions will be made for tour buses, taxis and tourists who are staying at a property or driving out of the area.
This inconvenience will be in effect until at the latest 14:00PM on said date. Please advise all concerned to make sure they have extra time in case they need to be at the airport or other appointments. Allow enough time for some delays.