Parliaments offer support for quick recovery St. Maarten

ORANJESTAD/THE HAGUE–The Parliaments of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, during the Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation IPKO held in Aruba this week, committed their support to a speedy and sustainable reconstruction of St. Maarten following Hurricane Irma.

The IPKO closed off on Thursday with the signing of the customary agreements list. Main topics in that agreement were the effects of Hurricane Irma on St. Maarten, the situation in Venezuela and the implications for Aruba and Curaçao, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in relation to the Small Island Development States (SIDS).

Delegation leaders: Alexander Pechtold of the Netherlands, Ady Thijsen of Aruba, William Millerson of Curaçao and Perry Geerlings of St. Maarten signed the agreements list which was followed by a press conference that was streamed live in all four countries so journalists throughout the Kingdom could attend.

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The four Parliaments not only confirmed their support for St. Maarten’s recovery, but also agreed that the St. Maarten delegation at the IPKO will keep in touch with the other delegations to share information regarding the reconstruction, in particular where it concerns the parts of the reconstruction that might encounter difficulties.
It was agreed that the Dutch delegation will incorporate the information shared by St. Maarten in the duty that it has to check the Reconstruction Fund for which the Dutch Government has reserved 550 million euros.

The delegations took note in the agreements list of the presentation of Member of the St. Maarten Parliament Perry Geerlings of the Democratic Party (DP) on Tuesday about the consequences of the hurricane on St. Maarten and the island’s reconstruction. The St. Maarten delegation will urge its government to do everything that it can to realise the home repair programme within the shortest possible time.

During the IPKO Geerlings brought up the issue of cooperation within the Kingdom. He asked his colleagues during the first day, on Tuesday, to have a discussion on how to give more content to the Kingdom, to establish a closer relation of cooperation whereby each country would maintain its responsibilities as autonomous countries.

However, the Dutch delegation did not react enthusiastically to this proposal and maintained that instead, the discussions at the IPKO should focus on St. Maarten’s reconstruction and the role of the Netherlands in that process through the Reconstruction Fund. The Dutch delegation considered discussing the relations within the Kingdom to be of a lesser importance at this time considering the urgent situation in St. Maarten.
Geerlings stated during the press conference on Thursday that the discussion regarding a closer cooperation within the Kingdom may have been limited in the plenary talks of the IPKO, but that in bilateral talks with the Netherlands he received “a lot of positive feedback.”

“The question is, how do we give content to the immense task that we have to rebuild St. Maarten? The reconstruction provides St. Maarten a good opportunity to do things the right way and to work on the further growth of the country. We want to grasp this opportunity with both hands, preferably with the full support of our partners in the Kingdom. So far the response has been positive,” said Geerlings.

Geerlings said it was important for the Parliaments to keep a close communication regarding St. Maarten’s recovery programme. In general, he said that he very much believed in the Kingdom and that there were sufficient options in the Kingdom Charter to continue and to strengthen the cooperation. “I am hopeful for the future,” he said.
Another important topic during the three-day IPKO that was held at the Aruba Hilton Hotel, was the situation in Venezuela in particular the unilateral decision of Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro to close the sea and air border between his country and Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire. The four Parliaments did not take this situation lightly.

In the agreements list it was stated that the delegations were “very concerned” about the recently announced “boycott” of Venezuela against Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, and the “far-reaching consequences” thereof for these islands.

On Tuesday, the four Parliaments sent a letter to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Halbe Zijlstra with the urgent request to inform the Parliaments of the developments at the meeting between Venezuela and the Netherlands, which takes place in Aruba today, Friday. The Minister promised to do so in his written response to the Parliaments on Wednesday.
In his letter, which was distributed to the media on Thursday, Zijlstra stated that representatives of the Dutch Kingdom have shown repeatedly that they want to arrive at a solution with the Venezuela Government. “The Kingdom is of the opinion that cooperation and exchange of information is essential in the approach towards illegal, border-transgressing activities.”

According to the Minister, the matter did not merely concern the smuggling of copper and gold, as the Venezuela Government has contended, but it is also about the smuggling of drugs and weapons, as well as illegal migration from the neighbouring South America country to the islands.

Zijlstra stated that more clarity was needed about the size and nature of the problem described by Venezuela. “That is why Venezuela authorities will be asked to provide a clarification regarding its decision.” Venezuela will also be urged during today’s meeting to solve the matter of the passengers from Aruba and Curaçao who have been stranded in Venezuela.

The Minister stated that several measures were taken within the Kingdom to combat the reported illegal activities. The patrols of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard have been intensified. Curaçao has national legislation that controls the import and sale of copper, while Aruba has a law that forbids the import of non-certified copper and metal scraps from Venezuela. Controls are also taking place at the small boats from Venezuela that bring fruits and vegetables to the islands.

“There has been good and intensive contact between the Governments of the Netherlands, Aruba and Curaçao in the past days. The Kingdom assumes that Venezuela will reverse the measure once a joint approach regarding the issue of smuggling has been secured. The Kingdom is aiming for a constructive meeting, targeting a speedy normalisation of the situation,” Zijlstra stated.

In the agreements list, the four Parliaments resolved that the relation with Venezuela did not only require the attention of the Kingdom on short term, but also on the long term. The delegations decided to put this item on the agenda of the next IPKO, which will take place in The Hague from May 29 to June 1.

The Parliaments agreed to ask their governments and the Kingdom Government to provide information proactively about the situation in Venezuela, the cooperation of the Kingdom on this issue and the long-term vision regarding the relation with Venezuela. The delegations agreed to share all information so they can check and, where needed, adjust the actions of the Kingdom Government.

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/72661-parliaments-offer-support-for-quick-recovery-st-maarten

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