By Suzanne Koelega | Daily Herald
LEIDEN–An independent check carried out on the request of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies KITLV has confirmed that St. Maarten interviewers have committed fraud during the local survey for the large Confronting Caribbean Challenges study.
The results of the check done by a third, objective person in various St. Maarten neighbourhoods two weeks ago confirmed what KITLV and its researcher Wouter Veenendaal already suspected: interviewers of the St. Maarten Department of Statistics STAT didn’t carry out interviews at all survey addresses as they were hired to do.
The findings of the check-up of 48 random addresses indicated that at 27 of the addresses, or 56 per cent, residents said that no interview about politics and the (relation with the) Dutch Kingdom was conducted at their house. These residents also didn’t recognise any of the questions in the questionnaire.
At eight addresses (17 per cent) of the residents indicated that an interview had been conducted and they recognised the questions. However, six of these addresses were covered by the two interviewers that had done their work properly and the KITLV researchers had no suspicions about.
At 13 addresses (27 per cent) it was unclear whether an interview had ever been conducted, as some of these addresses were uninhabited, or had new residents. At other addresses nobody was home, while some of these addresses did not exist or were businesses or shops, as a result of which it was highly unlikely that a successful interview was ever conducted there.
In total, 11 interviewers had been hired via STAT to do the interviews, including STAT’s fieldwork coordinator, to visit 1,000 households in St. Maarten. The KITLV has strong indications that nine interviewers didn’t do their work properly. KITLV has forwarded the results of the random check to STAT and the interviewers, but so far no answer has been received.
As a result of the fraud in St. Maarten, the information gathered from the local survey could not be used as part of the larger survey that was performed simultaneously on all six Dutch Caribbean islands and therefore St. Maarten will be excluded from the overall opinion survey. “We are very upset about what happened in St. Maarten,” said Veenendaal. A second attempt to carry out a survey in St. Maarten doesn’t seem very likely, also for financial reasons.
Elaborating on the events leading up to the initial survey, Veenendaal explained that he had given training to the interviewers beforehand during which information was supplied on the interview methods, the content of the questionnaire and the rules of the survey. “I didn’t foresee a problem with STAT’s seasoned interviewers,” said Veenendaal.
No problems were reported either during the seven weeks fieldwork that lasted from mid-September until the end of October 2015, with the STAT reporting at the end that 92 per cent of the interviews were successful.
“This in itself was very strange, because usually the success rate is between 50 and 70 per cent,” said Veenendaal, who pointed out that during the 1998 “Ki Sorto di Reino/What kind of Kingdom” survey of KITLV Director Gert Oostindie, St. Maarten scored the lowest of all six islands with a response rate of 55 per cent.
The completed questionnaires were sent to the KITLV in Leiden, the Netherlands, for processing. Students found inconsistencies in the answers on the questionnaire during the processing of the data. In January 2016, Oostindie and Veenendaal met with the STAT director to discuss the situation. It was agreed that a check by a third party would be carried out.
A good mix
The surveys on the other five islands went very well, said Veenendaal. “The results were a good mix of the things we had anticipated and the things that caught us by surprise. For example, St. Eustatius: we expected that the people were unhappy with how the new status was working out and we anticipated that Saba would be more satisfied. But, we hadn’t anticipated a dissatisfaction of this magnitude in St. Eustatius.”
Veenendaal said that in St. Eustatius, the feedback from the survey also showed that the Statians complained the most about the effects of the new status, but at the same time they pointed out more strongly than on the other islands that Dutch financial support was needed.
Respondents on all islands complained about the Netherlands and its attitude towards the islands. However, they also indicated that they valued Dutch supervision, their Dutch passport, Dutch Defence and having Dutch as the language of instruction at school.
Respondents in St. Eustatius and Saba were generally positive about the Caribbean Netherlands National Government Service RCN. Veenendaal said he found it quite shocking that less than 20 per cent were able to name the National Government Representative, Gilbert Isabella.
One of the general conclusions on the five Dutch Caribbean islands was that all islands, with the exception of Aruba which was not part of the constitutional reform in 2010, were relatively dissatisfied with the new status obtained in 2010; many people yearn for the Netherlands Antilles.
There were many complaints about the way the Netherlands has been dealing with the islands, and the increased meddling by The Hague since 2010. In general, respondents were reasonably negative about the local politics, with Aruba and Saba being more positive than Curaçao. Sabans were significantly more positive about the public entity status, the relation with the Netherlands and its own government than Statians.
The preliminary results of the study, which aims to determine the effect of the 2010 constitutional reform on local politics and the democracy on the islands, were recently presented to the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK. The end report has been completed and will be published shortly.
Veenendaal emphasized that the study’s objective was not to give advice or recommendations. His research focuses on the impact of the public entity status of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba on the opinions and behaviour of local citizens, civil servants and politicians. The project also draws comparisons with the larger Dutch Caribbean islands and other non-sovereign island jurisdictions in the Caribbean and elsewhere.
Sharing the results with the islands is important for the researchers. The first results of the opinion survey were presented during town hall meetings in St. Eustatius and Saba in January. Town hall meetings in Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire will be taking place in June.
According to Veenendaal, the end report was “just a tip of the iceberg,” because there is much more that can be done with the survey results, the fieldwork and in-depth interviews with politicians, journalists and civil servants. “We will do much more in-depth statistical analyses of the survey data,” he said.
The Confronting Caribbean Challenges project, which comprises of a five-member team and studies of various social, historic and media aspects of the Dutch Caribbean, will continue for another 2.5 years.
Veenendaal said he would also compare the results of his study with the 1998 study of Oostindie. One of the aspects that he would further delve into was the increased dissatisfaction in the Caribbean Netherlands since 2010. “That is highly paradoxical because a lot of money has been invested in the islands.”