Parliament to debate about St. Eustatius

THE HAGUE–The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will be having a general debate within a few weeks with caretaker Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk about the stalemate between the St. Eustatius and Dutch Governments, and the aspirations of the island coalition to attain an autonomous status.

The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations during a procedural meeting on Wednesday approved a proposal of Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party.

MPs Joba van den Berg-Jansen of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Antje Diertens of the Democratic Party D66 and Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) agreed with Bosman that clarity was needed from the Minister.

According to Bosman, the May 2017 letters of Minister Plasterk regarding a working visit of officials of his Ministry to the United Nations (UN), about the governmental situation in St. Eustatius and about the installation of a Committee of Wise Men, merited a debate.

“A visit to the UN is not a small thing, and we need to hear the details from our Government, whether it has a caretaker status or not,” said Bosman. Van den Berg-Jansen said her party was “very worried” about the situation in St. Eustatius. She said that if the VVD had not asked for a debate, her party would certainly have done so. Diertens said that “a lot was not clear” and therefore a debate was necessary.

Van Raak called it a “good idea” to have a debate, but he also asked for clarity from the Minister about who has the authority in St. Eustatius to decide on seeking more autonomy. “Who has the authority on the sovereignty? I want to know whether this is an authority of the Island Council and the Executive Council, or of the people. If it is the authority of the people, then a referendum should be held. In my opinion, it is the people who decide on that and not the politicians.”

Van Raak said it was important to have this clarity before the meeting with the delegation of the Island Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the Second Chamber next week Thursday, June 15.

The Committee agreed, so a request was sent to Plasterk to inform the Second Chamber before next Wednesday “who has the final say in the answer to the question whether St. Eustatius attains an autonomous status: the Island Government or the Statia people.”

Van den Berg-Jansen expressed concerns about the power of the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) and independent Island Council Member Reuben Merkman in the Island Council. “It appears as if three persons can decide the fate of an entire island. That is worrisome,” she said.

MP Liesbeth van Tongeren of the green left party GroenLinks suggested to seek a broad advice of the Council of State on the matter of authority regarding a new constitutional status for St. Eustatius. She said she would rather not only hear Plasterk’s opinion on the matter, but also of the Council of State which is able to render an objective, broader advice.

Committee Chairman Paul van Meenen (D66) stated that seeking an advice of the Council of State would take more time. He proposed to, at least for now, focus on getting an answer from the Minister to the question who decides on more autonomy for St. Eustatius.

The Committee decided to plan a debate with the Minister in the near future, in any case after the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation IPKO, which takes place in The Hague next week, and Parliament’s summer recess, which starts on July 10.

In an invited comment as to why he proposed a debate with the Minister, Bosman said his party was worried about the “chaos in Government” in St. Eustatius and the accusations “flying back and forth” between Oranjestad and The Hague. He said that instead of getting things financially in order and to comply with the norms of good governance, the Statia Government was only busy fighting.

Bosman said he also wanted clarity on the apparent message that was given to the Dutch delegation during their visit to the UN in April this year. “The UN said it is up to the Kingdom to give content to the relations within the Kingdom. My question is, how do we give content to that? Is injustice being done to the islands or not?”

Source: The Daily Herald