Sunday , March 26 2023

Islands team up against change to Constitution

Dutch “public entities” Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will jointly protest against a permanent differentiation clause for the islands, in an amended Dutch Constitution. According to Statia’s Commissioner Koos Sneek, the three islands will be coming with a counterproposal to the law proposal preparing the change to the Constitution.

The law proposal of the Dutch Government seeks to anchor the public entity status of the islands. Included would be a permanent differentiation clause stating the islands’ specific circumstances. Just as Saba’s Commissioner Chris Johnson did last week, Sneek openly criticised the Dutch proposal over the weekend. He too said it was wrong to single out a specific group in The Netherlands, in this case three overseas islands. “If this is allowed now, who will be the next group?” he

asked. Johnson had questioned The Hague’s loyalty. “We are either part of The Netherlands or not,” he had said last week at the end of a meeting with Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies.

The Dutch proposal is not only unjustified, it is also unnecessary, said Sneek. “Article 1 of the Constitution speaks of equality in an equal situation. But if our circumstances are already different, then we are not equal to begin with and there is no need to specifically state that in a separate article.”

The islands also believe that the process to change the Constitution has been initiated without their input and their consent. Sneek said he had had to read about the pending change in the newspaper. “The Netherlands says the islands have been informed since 2009, but I have asked around and nobody has seen those documents,” he said. “It directly concerns us, so the least they could have done is to inform us,” he added, noting that the islands had not been involved in the advice of the Council of State on this matter either. “This is not just any law; this is the Constitution, on which everything is based.” The Commissioner said he was especially irked because the process had been initiated by the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber, in which Bonaire, Statia and Saba have no say. “We couldn’t vote for this Second Chamber and we have no say, while it directly concerns us.” Sneek would like to see a regular consultation with Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations, to discuss current affairs.

Sneek said the law proposal went against past agreements that no action would be undertaken until after the evaluation of the public entity status in 2015, at which time the islands could make a final decision on their constitutional status. However, a 2009 motion of the liberal democratic VVD party, which was adopted, instructed the Dutch Government to start the process of securing a constitutional status for the islands in the Constitution.

The Labour Party PvdA and Christian Union (CU) in the Second Chamber support the islands’ view that the Constitution may not be changed prior to the evaluation. According to the CU, there is no direct need to secure the public entity status. The PvdA argued that the islands might very well choose a different status, because the people were disappointed.

Bonaire, Statia and Saba have agreed that they will jointly draft a formal response to the Dutch proposal, with the assistance of experts.

Source: “The Daily Herald ” 2012-03-19

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