PHILIPSBURG–“We can make enormous progress by working together and improving the lives of the people here [in the Kingdom – Ed.],” said outgoing Dutch Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Monday as he wrapped up his farewell visit to the Windward Islands.
Plasterk’s comments did not come in a vacuum. He has been for the past four-and-a-half years in the maelstrom of the very often tense relationship between the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean Islands.
Any form cooperation takes among the kingdom partners must take place “within the rather complex constitutional situation” of the six islands in the Caribbean and the European part of the kingdom, he said at a press conference held together with Dutch Representative in Philipsburg Chris Johnson.
“I have seen it as my role in last couple of years to also be precise in figuring out who is responsible for what so that people always know who to talk to on specific issues” be it the local authorities or those in The Hague, Plasterk said. “It is not always clear to everybody.”
“We have worked together in good spirit; sometimes we have had discussions … but we have always managed to figure it out,” Plasterk said.
Looking back on his tenure and the relationship with St. Maarten and the Kingdom since the attainment of country-within-the-kingdom status in October 2010, Plasterk said, “We have grown to a situation where the relationship is mutually respectful, but also grown up. We are in a situation where we realise we have responsibilities.”
“Now all four countries in our countries in our kingdom have financial supervision to make sure someone is looking over the shoulders of the politicians of the day to make sure there will also be financial stability for the generations to come. So we have that and I think everybody is happy with that,” Plasterk said.
The Dutch Minister touched on the integrity screening conducted by the Governor for Minister candidates in St. Maarten after the last two elections. “I think that is good. That is progress and it is important for the people of St. Maarten to know that integrity is an issue … a step like that is an important one,” he said.
St. Maarten is a young country as well as one of the smallest in the Caribbean with a closely knit community that “makes it difficult to do things properly, he said, adding his appreciation for politicians that are striving to make a difference.
On his stop in St. Maarten, Plasterk also met separately with Governor Eugene Holiday, Parliament Chairwoman Sarah Wescot-Williams and the Council of Ministers represented by Prime Minister William Marlin, Finance Minister Richard Gibson Sr. and Public Health Minister Emil Lee. Plasterk said he again signalled support to Lee for the building of a new hospital.
The St. Maarten Development Fund (SMDF) representatives met with the Minister to discuss the use of NAf. 1.9 million allocated to the fund for elderly projects. The money was the remainder from the now closed Dutch funding agency USONA.
Plasterk also briefly visited the border with the French side of the island at Oyster Pond. The formal demarcation of the border is still to be worked out between France and the Netherlands. Discussions about this are still ongoing under the keen eye of Plasterk’s colleague Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders.
The Dutch Minister also visited Saba and St. Eustatius prior to heading to St. Maarten. He intends to retire from politics when the term of the current cabinet comes to an end hopefully with the formation of a new Government.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/68577-plasterk-cooperation-can-bring-enormous-progress