THE HAGUE – After nearly ten years, there’s a member of Parliament with Caribbean heritage: Jorien Wuite, representing the D66. The congratulations are pouring in for the former diplomat from Sint Maarten. What can the voter expect from her?
“You know your party is doing well in the polls, but are those expectations realistic? Well, when the exit polls came in at 21:00, my mother and I started screaming. I was truly shocked!”, says Jorien Wuite (56). “This is a dream that’s coming true.”
Wuite grew up in The Hague. She is the daughter of a mother from Sint Maarten and a father from the European Netherlands. She says that her love for Sint Maarten began when she was a child. During her studies she completed research on ‘her’ island. After that Wuite worked as a high ranking civil servant at several ministries for 22 years and was the minister for Education for a short period of time. “That’s when you notice how important Dutch politics can be when it comes to the Caribbean members of the Kingdom.”
Right after the elections, she gets on a plane and heads back. She only has a few days to pack up her belongings and move back to The Hague. She was in The Hague in 2018 as the minister plenipotentiary for Sint Maarten, a role in which she negotiated with Dutch ministers. Now she has to be back on time for her swearing in as a member of Parliament. She also has to search for a house in The Hague: Ï want to bike to Parliament as often as possible.”
MP with Caribbean heritage
The number of MP’s with a Caribbean heritage can be counted on one hand. The last one in the chamber was in 2012: Cynthia Ortega-Martijn, representing the ChristenUnie.
A politician with a Caribbean heritage is not necessarily granted the Kingdom Relations dossier. In the past, former MP’s John Leerdam (PvdA) and Hubert Fermina (D66) experienced how suspicious their colleagues can be about this position.
“One of the D66 MP’s said: we would prefer for him not to handle Kingdom Relations. Because I could not be objective they thought”, Fermina said during an interview with OVT. “But there was an MP who came from an agriculture company who was allowed to handle the agriculture dossier.”
The times have changed. The party finds it ‘more than obvious’ that Wuite would handle Kingdom Relations given her heritage and experience. “It’s about time that someone who understands the Caribbean islands, makes an entry into Parliament”, she said during the campaign.
Wuite is annoyed by the ‘one-sided’ manner in which MP’s sometimes discuss the islands. “They pick up small bites in the media and use that for a debate. If this happens again, I hope that I can be the one who tells the other side of the story in Parliament.”
“It seems like no one cares that the six islands are all so different when it comes to culture, history, and their political realities. A lot of people don’t understand that. But as a child born to a mother from Sint Maarten and as a history teacher, I pay attention to these aspects.”
Will the Caribbean islands have an ally in Parliament?
Wuite has been receiving a lot of congratulations from the islands. A lot of MP’s and representatives in The Hague characterize the former diplomat as a ‘very sympathetic person’, that has ‘a feel for both the Caribbean and European mentality’.
“Congratulations, member of Parliament Wuite!”, writes the prime minister of Sint Maarten Silveria Jacobs. “If we ever needed representation at that level, it is now!” Sint Maarten is currently involved in a row with the Netherlands after its Parliament decided to file a claim against The Hague with the UN. ‘Racism’ and ‘colonialism’, that’s what Sint Maarten’s MP’s believe the conditions the Netherlands imposed in exchange for financial aid, amount to.
Will the islands have an ally in The Hague when it comes to Wuite? “Yes, and a representative of the Dutch people. Being a partner doesn’t mean that the government of the islands’ agenda will be determining the course I follow. As you know I’m a member of D66, a party with its own programs and views. And I have a lot of experience with and knowledge of Caribbean politics.”
“The advice of the Council of State on Coho (the implementation of the Dutch conditions, ed.), is a critical one. I had already shared my concerns about it, so the conclusions do not amaze me. I will be following what happens in this case very closely.”
Reluctant to tweet and participate in media appearances
Visibility is important in The Hague. Several politicians in The Hague gladly share their opinions on Twitter. And if a radio show or talk show calls, they are ready to participate. The amount of media attention determines how well liked a politician is within the fraction after all, so say former politicians.
But the D66’er is ‘reluctant to share her opinions in the upcoming months’ with Caribbean news outlets and in other media appearances. “I find it important to do my research and get acquainted with the dossiers”, says Wuite. “I won’t just be handling Kingdom Relations but also other big dossiers such as Culture and Media. That’s a lot.”
Kingdom Relations is a dossier which has seen several major problems during the past years. The aftermath of hurricane Irma, the Venezuela crisis, the corona crisis, and the growing levels of poverty on the islands.
“And when it comes to the special municipalities, I believe that the issues with the social minimum need to be prioritized. But before I go out looking for media attention and start making promises I can’t keep, I’d like to meet all the people involved. First within my own fraction but also the MP’s of other parties. How do they view these issues? Are there possibilities for collaboration?”
Getting in the vote
A total of 15,898 people voted for Wuite. She got 43 percent of the votes on Sint Maarten. “That is really great! But when I look at the voter turn-out under Caribbean people, I know one thing for sure: it has to be higher next time. What really stuck with me, is that someone told me that they were voting for the first time in twenty years. I found that truly shocking, even though I was glad to hear that that individual was filled with pride for having voted.”
“I understand that people say: I’d rather focus on local politics. Even I skipped the vote in one of the elections for the Dutch Parliament once. But The Hague still makes decisions which directly affects the people in the Dutch Caribbean. I don’t want people to think that their votes were wasted. I believe that we should always be paying attention to that, not just during the campaign.
Wuite has decided that she would like to meet as many inhabitants and social organizations as possible on Mondays and Fridays. “Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday is when it all happens in Parliament. But what do you do on those other days? You have to use them to be in direct contact with the people you serve.”
“I hope that in the future I will be able to help people connect with politics. That Caribbean individuals feel like their voices are being heard in The Hague, even if I’m no longer an MP.”
What does she hope voters will remember her for? “I want people to remember me as enthusiastic, passionate, and result driven when it comes to the dossiers which I’m representing in Parliament. We’re talking about equality and opportunities.”
Resume Jorien Wuite
|Born in The Hague, 1964|
|Alumni Erasmus Universiteit (Masters in Health Care Management), Open Universiteit (Masters in Public Management), Instituut Clingendael (International Politics).|