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Published On: Mon, Nov 16th, 2020

Jorien Wuite: with a bold move on her way to the Dutch Parliament

PHILIPSBURG – Earlier this year, former Minister Plenipotentiary Jorien Wuite became a member of the Dutch political party D66. Now she is the number 19 (out of 65) on the party’s so-called advice-list of candidates for the parliamentary elections that are scheduled to take place on March 17 of next year. The D66-membership is able to vote on the candidates from November 19 until December 1. Shortly afterwards, the party will announce the definitive list of candidates.

StMaartenNews.com had the opportunity to have a candid interview with Jorien Wuite about her D66-candidacy.

Wuite’s candidacy fits within the trend towards more diversity in Dutch politics. The youth organizations of five political parties have urged their leadership to place more candidates with different backgrounds on their lists of candidates. And though Wuite (1964) was born in The Hague, she is considered first and foremost as a representative of the Caribbean.

Her curriculum shows that her career on the island began 23 years ago when she became director of the Sector Health Care Affairs of the island territory of St. Maarten. After subsequent positions in the fields of healthcare and education, she briefly became the interim Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport in 2018, followed by her appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary in June 2018. Currently, she is a temporary strategic advisor for World Bank projects at the Ministry of Education.

A quote from the American poet Muriel Strode (1875-1964) fits Wuite’s approach to life like a glove: “I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail.” (Strode also famously wrote with a hint of sarcasm: “The best defense against the atom bomb is not to be there when it goes off”).

The American mythologist Joseph Campbell, who inspired George Lucas’ Star Wars movies, made an observation in his classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces that echoes Strode’s first quote: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
With her potential candidacy, Wuite is clearly choosing her own path, becoming a trailblazer for others in St. Maarten who aspire to step up to the plate. On her curriculum, Wuite’s describes herself as a Kingdom child living in St. Maarten: “Respect all different realities, reach out to connect and build trust for the greater good.”

A recent post on Facebook emphasized her philosophy: “Do you believe that through collaboration and innovation, you can move mountains? I do.” St. Maarten could not wish itself a better representative in the Dutch Parliament.

We are, of course, not there yet. D66 first has to establish its definitive list of candidates and then it will have to fight hard for every vote. Currently, the party holds 19 seats in the Second Chamber and that would make Wuite’s number 19 position good for a seat, were it not that in recent opinion polls, the numbers hover between 12 and 14.

Wuite says about her choice for D66 in answer to a question put to her via email that “nine out of ten times it has always been D66 for me. The party aligns with my social liberal perspectives and ideals.”

D66’s international perspective and the value-driven leadership of Sigrid Kaag and running mate Rob Jetten also appeal to Wuite. “I was nurtured with the Democratic Party’s ideology, which clearly has similarities with D66. The party has its own progressive and liberal views that are different from most other parties.”

It sounds like a long shot, but Wuite would like to see party-leader Kaag as the next Dutch prime minister. “The party has a progressive campaign program, a strong vision to change and innovate educational systems, a high priority for climate change and an economy based on values and social entrepreneurship.”

Wuite’s relatively high position on the D66 advice-list came as a pleasant surprise to many in St. Maarten. The question is, of course: how did she do it? “I worked hard during the assessment process and I hope to have convinced with my motivation and ideas,” Wuite says.
Our former minister refers to a paragraph in the party’s manifesto entitled Connected in the Kingdom. Wuite contributed to the text. “I believe it holds a vision and objectives for more constructive, respectful and equal partnerships on the basis of mutual opportunity, solidarity and joint values. I am excited about D66’s ideas for the introduction of a Caribbean climate fund, the possibility for special delegates from the Caribbean to vote directly in the Second Chamber on kingdom laws and new partnerships in education, research and culture.”

Wuite plans to strategize with a team to fight for her election that could come down to preferential votes if the party does not manage to capture enough seats. “It is critical to have Caribbean and bicultural voices in the Second Chamber to ensure new perspectives and nuance about a variety of issues such as social-economic prosperity for all, the Caribbean Diaspora, equal opportunities for people with bi-cultural heritage, international partnerships, racism and the impact of slavery, and the creative industry.”

The upcoming election campaign is going to be a tough battle, Wuite realizes, but she will enter the political battlefield with what she calls “an interesting Team Kaag.” Apart from a fight for equality and fairness, these elections will also be about countering “the tendency to more far-right, conservative and populist developments in the Netherlands. A change is necessary and these far-right tendencies should not be the aspiration or the vision for future generations.”

If Wuite manages to capture a seat in the Dutch parliament next year, St. Maarten will have to do without her, because it is required to move to the Netherlands and establish a formal address there.

As a team player, Wuite remains passionate about a wide range of topics: kingdom affairs, education, healthcare, culture, social entrepreneurship, and the circular economy. “We should not focus too much on what I would like to do,” she says. “It is a team effort with choices that will be made based on the outcome of the elections. The collaborative ambition is to be result-driven, bold and with expertise on matters we care about.”

Wuite will feel comfortable in a Dutch environment since she lived there for more than thirty years. But St. Maarten, that has been a part of her life for so long is in her heart and part of her. Any ideas about improving the relationship with the Netherlands?

Wuite talks about a focus on a shared vision and agreements about joint or bilateral programs in areas like climate, education, culture, economic opportunities, democratic values and the rule of law. “The Kingdom Charter provides a good basis for change. It should be applied within the Kingdom Council of Ministers as the platform that is accountable for and responsive to the needs of the four countries.”

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