The islands have the right to organise a constitutional referendum at any time, but the options have to be realistic, Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk confirmed during the handling of the 2014 draft budget of Kingdom Relations in the second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday. This was written in The Daily Herald. “The Netherlands will surely not block the wish of any island in the Kingdom to opt for looser ties on the basis of a seriously measured wish of the people through a referendum or elections,” said Plasterk in response to questions of Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party.
Bosman wanted to get clear from the Minister that he was not preconditioning the terms of the 2015 general evaluation by excluding the possibility for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to opt for another status besides that of public entity or municipality. During talks with the Caribbean Netherlands representatives in The Hague late October, the island representatives received a draft proposal which stated that the evaluation would focus on giving content to the direct ties with the Netherlands within the Dutch model as a public entity or municipality. St. Eustatius fiercely objected to this restriction in the evaluation. The island wants to organise a referendum in 2014. The initial text of the draft agreement was adapted and it was agreed that a joint work group would determine the terms of the evaluation.
“Nothing is being excluded beforehand. I cannot do that because any island can decide between now and eternity that it wants looser ties,” Plasterk assured the Second Chamber of Thursday. He said that he still preferred not to revise the constitutional relations every five years but to focus on areas of improvement. “But that is more a pragmatic attitude than a final position,” he added.
The Minister emphasized that a referendum “only made sense” when a realistic option was put forward. He said a realistic option was not to keep the budget support from the Dutch Government, which is around 300 million euro per year, while getting rid of the “meddling from The Hague.” According to Plasterk, it is up to the islands to decide which options they will put forward in a referendum. But, he added, “I may hope that they will put forward options that the European part of the Netherlands can work with.” He said that it did not mean that any result of a referendum would be acceptable to the Netherlands or the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
MP Bosman had initially prepared a motion in which he requested the Dutch Government to give the countries and public entities the “right of freedom of a referendum without the Netherlands setting preconditions.” Assured by the answers of the Minister that there would be no pre-conditions in the terms of the constitutional evaluation to restrict the islands in their efforts to organise a referendum, Bosman decided not to submit his motion.