Dutch caretaker Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies assured the Island Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba earlier this week that the process to amend the Dutch Constitution leaves room for another final constitutional model if that is what the islands want.
Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba still will be able to opt for another constitutional status after the general evaluation of their Dutch public entity status in 2015, Spies informed the Island Councils in writing on November 1. The law proposal to change the Constitution, which will take a few years to become a reality, does not anticipate the outcome of the general evaluation, stated Spies. The law proposal merely “creates an own constitutional basis” for the public entities in the Caribbean Netherlands. This constitutional basis offers the public entities the same constitutional guarantees as municipalities and provinces, such as a directly-
elected general representative body, in this case the Island Council, and the securing of autonomy and co-administration, explained
the Minister. The law proposal doesn’t seek to take a final decision on the active and/or passive right of foreigners living on the islands to vote for members of the Island Council.
The law proposal prescribes that the Island Council can vote for Members of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate. Currently people without the Dutch nationality in the Caribbean Netherlands have voting rights for the Island Councils. The law proposal to amend the Constitution leaves it to the Dutch Government and the Dutch Parliament (both First and Second Chambers)
to decide whether foreigners in the Caribbean Netherlands will have voting rights for the Island Councils when the proposed change to the Constitution goes into effect. “No position is taken on a future arrangement,” stated Spies.
The Dutch Government and Parliament also have this say on the voting rights of foreigners living in the European part of The Netherlands for the Municipal Councils. In The Netherlands, non-Dutch nationals have voting rights for the Municipal Councils. However, Members of the Municipal Councils don’t vote for Members of the Senate. Only the Provincial States have this right.
The differentiation clause as stated in the Kingdom Charter will be formulated in a more general way and moved to the Constitution,
based on the advice of the Council of State. This better serves the sober character of the Constitution, the Minister clarified.
In her letter, which was sent via National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) Wilbert Stolte, and which served to take away possible misconceptions of the Island Councils, Spies explained the process of the law proposal to amend the Constitution.
The Second Chamber handled the law proposal in a plenary meeting on October 9 and approved it on October 23. The law proposal will now go to the First Chamber for handling, after which it will go back to the Second Chamber for a second reading. This will be done by the next Second Chamber after elections that should be in 2017. A two-thirds majority is needed for the approval in the second reading by the Second and First Chambers.
The law proposal to amend the Constitution is the result of a motion of Member of the Second Chamber Johan Remkes of the VVD, approved in December 2009. The motion requested that the Dutch Government prepare a law proposal, because article 134 on which the public entity status of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba was based could serve only as a temporary basis. Article 54 of the Charter also states that the position of the islands ultimately will be secured in the Constitution.
Source: The Daily Herald, November 3, 2012