Certain segments of the community on the Caribbean Netherlands islands may advise against participating in the upcoming Dutch elections, but for Member of the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber and number twelve on the democratic D66 party slate Wassila Hachchi (32) it is clear: people should vote, because the elections are relevant to the islands.
For the first time since becoming Dutch public entities on October 10, 2010, people on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be able to cast their vote for a new Second Chamber.
Besides the fact that it is important to be represented in some form or fashion in the Second Chamber, voting in the elections is also imperative to the relations and cooperation in the Dutch Kingdom, one of the main items for D66 where it concerns this portfolio. Who gets into Parliament and the make-up of the coalition is relevant to the islands, said Hachchi, a Member of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations since she entered the Second Chamber in June 2010.
Participation of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the elections is a “growth process,” both for the islands and for the Second Chamber, said the Member of Parliament (MP). “We have to realise that we are now also their representatives. Not all parties have grasped that concept yet, said Hachchi in an interview with The Daily Herald.
“People on the islands have to get used to the idea as well; they have to find out who they want to vote for. On the other hand, people should know about the Second Chamber by now.
The issues are known. We have had various meetings with the Dutch Ministers about the improvements that were needed,” she said.
Voting is a right that should be cherished, said Hachchi. “That right is not a given in many countries in the world. By voting you give yourself legitimacy that you have a say. We have that democracy in the Kingdom, so I say: use it. It is your entry.”
Hachchi said she was bothered by remarks of some people in The Netherlands that the public entities were not important in the elections, as they “were only a few votes, not nearly enough for a seat.” “That upsets me, because the islands are part of us, part of our Kingdom,” she said. The fact is that the influence of the 15,000 eligible voters on the islands has little effect, because some 65,000 votes are needed for a seat in the Second Chamber.
“I want accomplish more for the people and I am happy with every vote, whether it comes from Breda where I grew up or from Saba. I feel connected to the islands; I have lost my heart to them,” said Hachchi, who privately visited the islands in May 2011, outside the regular visits of the Dutch Parliament.
The relationship of The Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands, the way they look at each other is a mental thing “between the ears,” said the MP. “We should focus on opportunities. Cooperation is more important than ever. We need St. Maarten for St. Eustatius and Saba, and Curaçao and Aruba are vital for Bonaire.”
The old attitude in the Kingdom that The Netherlands is the most powerful and thus the boss, and that the islands are the victim is a mindset that must be changed, according to Hachchi. “No longer the we-versus-they thing. I am convinced that tackling and solving things together in the Kingdom is a matter of attitude, of cooperation. That is where it starts, that is where it fails, that is where the opportunities are,” she said.
Success stories in the Kingdom have to be embraced, said Hachchi. She specifically mentioned Aruba and the Eman cabinet. “Aruba’s strategy and success in the area of sustainable energy and development are an example. Aruba doesn’t want to do that on its own, but seeks cooperation in the Kingdom. That is the right attitude. We are all brothers and sisters and we can support each other.”
Issues facing Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can and should be solved together. “Just complaining doesn’t help. Solving things together, that is the way to go.
The Netherlands has to take its task seriously and treat the islands with respect,” said Hachchi.
The MP said the Second Chamber also had an important task of making sure that issues on the islands were solved. She said that Parliament already had intervened in a number of cases in which the responsible Minister had been urged to remedy situations in education, public health and taxes, for example. “That has to be appreciated as well.”
Asked if she wanted to maintain the Kingdom Relations portfolio when reelected into Parliament, she said that after the elections her party would take a decision on the division of portfolios. She said she liked her two portfolios, Kingdom Relations and Defence, very much. “I would love to keep them.”
Responding to occasional remarks by some voters as to why D66 didn’t have an Antillean candidate on the slate, Hachchi said: “You don’t have to be from the islands to love them and to work on behalf of them. It is about commitment.” Hachchi’s parents are from Morocco, but she was born in The Netherlands. Contact between politicians and the people is often very direct in small communities.
Hachchi said she valued the direct contact that she has with residents of the islands. “People address you on the issues; they share their concerns. Don’t hesitate to do so and to keep me informed.”
Hachchi is on Facebook: www.facebook.com/wassilad66.