The Daily Herald writes that there is a proposal that the portfolio of the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba should be handled centrally in the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, and not be scattered over the various committees. Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) has submitted a proposal to this extent to his colleagues of the Committees of Kingdom Relations and Home Affairs. The proposal will be handled by the committees on March 5 and 6 and stands a very good chance of being accepted.
Since Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became part of the Netherlands on October 10, 2010, the affairs of the three islands have been handled by the individual expert committees of the Second Chamber. In other words, police affairs are being handled by the Committee for Security & Justice, education by the Committee for Education, Culture and Science and health care by the Committee for Health Care, Wellbeing and Sports. The idea has always been that the committees “follow” the individual ministries.
In the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate, things are done differently: all affairs pertaining to the Dutch Caribbean, including the Caribbean Netherlands, are dealt with by its Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations which makes it clearer for all stakeholders.
In the letter to his colleagues, Van Raak pointed out that Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba “are not regular municipalities, but very special small communities with inhabitants with a special cultural background and politicians with a special political tradition. “Members of the Committee Kingdom Relations are still actively involved in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, try to visit the islands regularly and represent these islands in contacts with the people’s representatives of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten,” stated Van Raak. According to the Member of Parliament (MP), having knowledge of the special position of the islands in the Dutch Constellation is of importance in meetings and debates regarding the Caribbean Netherlands. “Having knowledge of the local situation is even more important than the subject itself, for example health care, education or public housing. The MPs are really doing their best, but they lack the expertise about the islands,” Van Raak told The Daily Herald on Monday. “You have to know the islands and their people. You have to have visited them, preferably on a regular basis like we, the Committee for Kingdom Relations do. Governing a country in Europe is really very different from governing an island in the Caribbean,” he said.
In his letter, Van Raak invited the committees to a discussion on the way the Second Chamber handled proposals that relate to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. “I want to suggest that the members of the Committee for Kingdom Relations discuss proposals relating to the islands with government, in the presence of the concerned individual minister along with the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. Surely, the members of the expert committees could be invited.” Bringing the islands back to the Committee for Kingdom Relations, and thereby essentially restoring the situation to prior October 10, 2010, would benefit not only the islands, but also the Parliamentary system itself, because the current way of handling things costs more manpower and money. “It can be done much more efficiently. I think it is only logical that the islands come back to Kingdom Relations. We have more grip on things. Besides, the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations would be more involved thereby assuming his much needed coordinating role. We kill two birds with one stone,” said Van Raak, who is positive that most colleagues will support his proposal.