Two months ago Mr. Franklin Brown, Mr. Carl Houtman, Mr. Glenn Smith and Mr. Don Mitchell initiated a television program, U. Talk. You can watch it every Tuesday evening on Statia’s local television from 7.30. People can call in and ask questions to a panel about a subject that is in the news.
One of the persons who appears in U. Talk is Don Mitchell. I went to visit Mr. Mitchell to find out what his ideas are about the changes that will take place in the near future. Mr. Mitchell is the owner of “Super Burger”, a fast food restaurant on the corner of Oranjestreet and De Graaffstreet.
Mr. Mitchell was born in 1951 in Village ‘Noord’ in Aruba. He came here with his family when he was about 6 months old. He grew up in the dark days, when there was no electricity, maybe around five cars and not much to do on the island. He did all his schooling on the Gov. de Graafschool, until the age of 16. When he was 16, his parents sent him to work with a craftsman. He went to work with the carpenters, learning a bit of carpentry.
After working with a contractor for some time, he went to work for public works. In the late sixties, early seventies he went to St. Maarten where he stayed for four years. On St. Maarten he learned to like cooking and the restaurant business. When he returned in 1974 he worked in construction again, and in 1977 he had his first booth in the Carnival Village (where the Gov. de Graaffschool is now) selling burgers. After two years he moved to Oranjestreet where he had a booth for six years. On the 25th of November 1986 he started “Super Burger”.
Mr. Mitchell is now a respected member of our community.
About being a Rastafarian: ”In 1980 I became a Rastafarian. Ever since I adopted that positive way of life, I’ve had a lot of success. Nobody can stop your success once you are on the right track in life. It’s unexplainable. You have to live it to know…. I was inspired mostly by Bonny Wailer, one of Bob Marley’s Wailers. In his songs he teaches about the history of black people”.
He says: “There are a lot of people like me, people who started out with nothing, worked themselves up, invested and now own a business”. Mr. Mitchell is a member of STEP, the political party that was founded among others by Franklin Brown and Glenn Schmidt.
PROTECT LOCAL BUSINESS
In the program U.Talk Mr. Mitchell emphasized the need for protection of local businesses. My question was: “How can Statia protect its local businesses?” In answering that key question, we talked about subjects as diverse as Government, parenthood, sports, music, having a water supply system. But also: garbage collection and immigration laws.
Let’s start with what Mr. Mitchell had to say about the Government. Government can be much more active. Government should help locals first. And when a foreign investor wants to build a place, get local contractors to do the job. Help local people seek opportunities.
Mitchell thinks the immigration laws should be more flexible; if a local or Antillean worker cannot be found, we should be able to get a foreigner faster. It takes weeks or even months to get the paperwork in order. On the other hand, if a foreigner quits his job, he should be sent back to his home country. In that way, we protect the local men and women.
With the constitutional changes, more investors from Holland or Europe could be coming to Statia. This doesn’t worry Mitchell. He has got a good fast food restaurant, his staff works well and he is ready for changes. He thinks that when the Dutch come, he will have to comply with the Dutch hygiene rules. He is prepared to do so.
Will government be ready?
But the question is: what will government do? How can Mitchell look after the hygiene of his business, when the government is not able to collect the garbage regularly?
Mitchell thinks the time for a change in attitude is now. “The most important thing is for the government to communicate with the people”. That’s why he urges the commissioners to come to the people like in the old days. “A commissioner could be found in the streets, drinking in a bar, talking to the local people, listening to their concerns. In those days you could speak to your commissioner any time, any place…..”
Mitchell: “The person in the house comes first. Not only government must make an effort to change, the people themselves also have to change. Statian people have to change their way of life. They have to change their attitude. If you got a job: come on time, and make sure you hold on to the job. Don’t depend on the government for another job”.
Take the lead
A few weeks ago, there was a stabbing in Oranjestad. Mitchell claims: “If there was a basketball tournament, that guy wouldn’t get stabbed”.
He wants SPORTS to return to the island. Sports is the best way to get kids off the streets and in sports they learn to discipline themselves. In the old days, when Koki Talintino was a basketball player/coach, Statia commanded respect. Now, the talent is still there, but the discipline is lacking. There has to be a program to get local people to be sports coaches.
Same counts for music. Tell the parents to encourage their children to go to the music school. Sports and music help to discipline the children. It’s all about leadership: Parents must be the leaders of their children, sports coaches must be leaders, teachers must be leaders. But most of all: Government should set an example and take the lead.