From left: St. Maarten Parliament Member Perry Geerlings and Chairperson Sarah Wescot-Williams.
THE HAGUE–“I feel your pain,”’ Chairperson of the St. Maarten Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams said Thursday, addressing representatives of Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire. “Continue your efforts for issues that are important to your people. Nobody knows these issues better than the people who were elected. In St. Maarten we also hear gentle sounds about new structures. But I think there are topics that deserve much more attention of the parliament.”
Wescot-Williams made her comments during the second day of the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation for the Kingdom IPKO in The Hague. It was an historic meeting, as it was the first time since the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles that all six Caribbean Islands were present at the IPKO. “The main question is what the people of Bonaire, Saba and Statia need and how we can use the strength of the Kingdom to achieve this,” said Ruard Ganzevoort, chairman of the IPKO.
Members of the St. Maarten delegation with Clyde van Putten of Statia (standing, left).
The meeting showed that even on a local level there is a lot of disagreement. Statia and Bonaire each had two main representatives to share their views. For Statia, Clyde van Putten of the government party PLP objected to the formalization of the constitutional status of Bonaire, Statia and Saba in the Dutch Constitution. “Statia opposes being embedded in the Netherlands. We do not wish to be fully independent, but want more autonomy within the Kingdom,” he said. Meanwhile, Koos Sneek of the opposition party DP Statia said he was not worried about the Constitutional change, but about the ongoing conflict with the Netherlands. He also mentioned the need for an acceptable level of government services that was promised before 2010.
Speaking for Bonaire, Desiree Coffie of government party MDP mentioned the acceptable level of provisions and the need for guaranteed transport by air, while Robby Beukenboom of the government party PDB asked attention for transport by boat and expressed his worries about the Constitutional change. Only the Island Council of Saba appeared to be united. “We do not oppose the Constitutional change, but think there is no reason to rush this,” said Carl Buncamper of the WIPM, who also mentioned the problem with double taxes.
The Dutch delegation tried to comfort all delegations by stating all three islands still have the right and possibility for self-determination. “But the constitutional change is the only option,” said Frank van Kappen, Senate-member for the VVD. He said dissolving the Dutch Antilles was a huge challenge. “Of course we made some mistakes. The question is how we solve those issues,” said Van Kappen. Joba van de Berg, Member of Parliament (MP) for the Christian CDA, said problems cannot be solved by a different constitutional status but only by cooperating with each other.
The Caribbean delegations, however, were not satisfied by those statements. “I hear Mr. Van Kappen mentions some problems,” said Perry Geerlings of St. Maarten’s DP. “I can remember the Netherlands questioning how hard it can be to govern six rocks in the sea. Now I ask, how hard it can be to govern three islands? We have been talking about poverty for seven years, which means there is something structurally wrong.”
Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten also expressed disappointment not to be involved in the discussion about the Constitutional change much earlier. “It is really strange that we heard nothing about such a crucial matter,” said Rodolphe Samuel, MP for the National Alliance.
“We understand you are worried. We will talk about this issue when we return to our countries,” said René Herdé, MP for the Aruban AVP. Jaime Cordoba, MP for the Curaçao opposition party PS, even stated that it is the Netherlands that should change its way of doing business. “All delegations complain about the way in which they are controlled by the Netherlands,” he said.
Wescot-Williams chose a practical approach. “I constantly hear complaints about double taxes, about health care, about transport. This could have been solved a long time ago and it is disappointing that we have been talking about this for seven years. We need to find who we have to approach, which people have to meet, to find a permanent solution.”
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/66911-ipko-talks-about-the-caribbean-netherlands