Not only the Labour Party PvdA, but also the Christian Union (CU) want to delay the anchoring of the constitutional status of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the Dutch Constitution. According to the CU there is no direct need to secure the Dutch public entity status of the islands in the Constitution. The CU is of the opinion that the Dutch government should stick to the agreement made with the Executive Councils to only take a decision on the final status after the evaluation in 2015.
“Government is violating its agreement with the islands,” stated Member of the Second Chamber Cynthia Ortega-Martijn (CU) in her observations regarding the law proposal to change the Constitution which was recently sent to Parliament. “Residents of the islands may very well choose a different direction while the Dutch government is already adapting the Constitution. This only strengthens the idea that The Hague decides what is best for the people of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba,” Ortega-Martijn questioned the fact that government was going along with a majority in the Second Chamber which approved a motion of the then Member of Parliament Johan Remkes of the liberal democratic VVD party. “Government always intended to wait for the evaluation, but now seems to follow Parliament without its own consideration.”
Ortega-Martijn asked Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies to clarify whether the people of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba could still determine their own constitutional position after the Constitution has been adapted. The Labour Party cited the discontent on the islands over the implementation of the public entity status as the main reason to request government to hold off on adapting the Constitution until after the 2015 evaluation.
The plea of the CU and the PvdA will probably not hold, since a majority in Parliament, including the VVD, Christian Democratic Party CDA, Socialist Party (SP), the Democratic D66 party and the orthodox Christian SGP party, supports the law proposal to secure the islands’ position in the Constitution.
The VVD called it “a good move” and the SP said it was “happy” with the initiative.
The CDA wondered if this meant that a choice had already been made for the islands to remain public entities of The Netherlands. “What consequences does the law proposal have for the constitutional final model? Does it run ahead of the results of the evaluation?” The CDA pointed out that the Council of State had advised not to run too much ahead of the evaluation and to keep the differentiation in the adaptation of the Constitution “sober.” The party said it supported a sober formulation, considering the character of the Constitution, but warned at the same time that the law proposal was a bit too sober which made it too general.
Parties inquired about government’s decision to include a permanent differentiation clause in the Constitution, taking into account the ‘specific circumstances’ of the islands and legitimising the difference between the public entities and The Netherlands in the level of provisions. “When do special circumstances apply and who determines this,” asked the CDA. The VVD wanted to know whether the law proposal created the possibility to differentiate between the islands. The SP remarked that the islands cannot be compared to Dutch municipalities and asked to what extent the adapted Constitution would grant the islands extra space to implement special measures that fit the islands’ scale and culture.
The SP inquired why government hadn’t opted to have the islands join up with a Dutch municipality. The party noted that the islands face “very small scale and especially practical problems” and that local governments would know better how to tackle these than the national government.
The SGP proposed to stop referring to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba as public entities, because it is “too technical.” “Why didn’t we choose to use the word ‘islands’ to indicate the form of the public administration there?”
SP asked. Minister Spies will now formulate a written response to the observations and questions by the different parties. After that, there will be debate in Parliament before the law proposal is put to the vote.
Source: “The Daily Herald ” 2012-03-13