Sunday , March 26 2023

Christian Union wants extra seat in Parliament for islands

The Daily Herald reports that the Christian Union wants the Caribbean Netherlands to have its own elected representative in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. According to Christian Union Member of Parliament (MP) Gert-Jan Segers, who presented his proposal during the Kingdom relations budget debate on Wednesday, having a Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba representative would help to close the democratic gap that the islands currently experience because they have no permanent representation in the Dutch Parliament. “The islands are part of the Netherlands. They are hampered by the administrative and legislative burden,” said Segers. He said the islands are unhappy with their lack of representation in the Netherlands. This discontent was also evident in the very low turnout of voters on the islands for the recent Second Chamber elections. “There is a big gap between the Netherlands and the islands; geographically, socially, culturally, administratively and democratically. We, in the Second Chamber, are taking decisions on their behalf which they have no say on. There is no control of the effectiveness and necessity of laws. In other words, we have a problem,” said Segers.

The MP asked Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to look into the possibility of adding a 151th seat to the Second Chamber who would represent the three islands. Segers pointed out that France has a similar construction for its overseas territories in its Assemblée. Puerto Rico is represented in the United States Congress by a non-voting delegate who does have the right to speak. MP Joost Taverne of the liberal democratic VVD party called Segers’ proposal “sympathetic” but questioned the necessity of a specific representative for the three public entities. The islands already have passive and active voting rights in the Dutch Parliament, he pointed out. Taverne said a separate representative was difficult to combine with the public entity status of the three islands. Dutch municipalities also do not have a representative in Parliament, he remarked.

Segers contended that the islands were not ordinary municipalities. “Special circumstances apply that merit looking into the possibilities,” he said. MP Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) said it was a “very sympathetic” proposal. He also suggested establishing a permanent representation, a sort of Caribbean Netherlands House, in the Netherlands to cater to the needs of the islands, to look out for their interests and to improve communication between the islands and The Hague.

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