Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson is questioning The Hague’s loyalty towards the Dutch “public entities” Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius by wanting to include a permanent differentiation clause for the islands in an amended Dutch Constitution. “We have come to a point where we ask whether we are truly part of The Netherlands or not,” said Johnson following a meeting on Thursday with Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies.
According to Johnson the islands never agreed during the negotiations for a new constitutional status to a change of the Constitution whereby a permanent differentiation clause would be included to state the specific circumstances of the public entities.
In pursuance of a motion adopted by the Second Chamber, the Dutch Government recently sent a proposal to Parliament to amend the Dutch Constitution to regulate the constitutional position of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The proposal includes insertion of 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. Johnson said the Constitution was “sacred” since it regulated, among other things, human rights and equality. “Article one speaks of equality of all people. So will Article 2 now say that this doesn’t count for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba? Where is the hope and justification in that?”
In Johnson’s opinion the proposed amendment allows for “grouping,” the singling out of a specific group of The Netherlands, in this case the public entities. “To just amend the Constitution to put people in a group is not right and everyone in The Netherlands should question that and be upset about it. If we are grouped, then anyone can be put in a group,” he told The Daily Herald.
Grouping has proved to be “historically very dangerous,” said the Commissioner, referring to World War II and the persecution of the Jewish people. He said that the islands were told that they had to accept same sex marriages, euthanasia and abortion since that came with being part of The Netherlands. “But we ask: what does it take for The Netherlands to accept us?”
Changing the Constitution for a mere 19,000 people living in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba also didn’t make sense, also from a cost perspective, said Johnson. “The Netherlands has 17 million inhabitants. We make up 0.001 per cent of the population. “It costs more money to amend the Constitution than to grant the islands’ 2,860 pensioners the same allowance as the Dutch pensioners,” he said.