The Daily Herald reports about the meeting of the Constitutional Workgroup on Friday. In a press moment in the afternoon, Commissioner Johnson said the workgroup had a productive first meeting that morning, which he had the honour to chair. He proudly announced the signing of the terms of reference, stressing that the workgroup comprised “equal partners” in outlining the content of the 2015 evaluation and in establishing an independent evaluation commission.
Main agenda point was a review of the position paper of the Council of State of February 6. That report organized the evaluation process in three categories: the legal evaluation of the different laws and their implementation; the evaluation of the political structure of the islands; and evaluation of the effects the transition and new status have had on the people of Bonaire, Statia and Saba.
“Each of the parties at the table, we all have our own personal opinion about the evaluation, the build up to it and what the effects should be, but as a workgroup we feel that this press release includes our common goals and vision,” Johnson said. The workgroup had seven additions to the Council of State’s position paper. First among these, the Commissioners feel there should be a better recognition of the differences between the islands. They feel the three separate public entities should be evaluated as applicable to their respective needs. The second point addresses the “democratic deficit” in the evaluation process, with regard to how laws are written and implemented, with the demographic imbalance being an aspect.
The workgroup feels the economic development of the islands needs to be emphasized more than it currently is. “Article 1.2 of the Statute establishing the possibility of having different laws for these islands, needs to be included in the evaluation,” Johnson said. “It is an article that seems to have been misinterpreted at times through different points in the last years of this status. It needs to be included in the evaluation.”
The evaluation has to be strongly based on human rights, said Johnson, adding that “this needs to be one of the basic premises of the evaluation.” “As a workgroup, we acknowledge that every island has the right to self-determination,” stated Johnson, repeating that all workgroup members are equal partners.
All participants agreed on the importance of an effective evaluation process that can be presented objectively.
Secretary-General Van Zwol said the meeting was a success and had set the right tone. He agreed wholeheartedly with Commissioner Johnson that “our common goal is to have an effective evaluation with outcomes respected and implemented by all parties.” On behalf of his colleagues at the other ministries in The Hague, he said the evaluation is very important. “We should not underestimate it, as it touches a wide range of topics and organizations. It is a very complex evaluation. That is why I appreciate that this first meeting of this working group was so efficient and that we have reached common goals very quickly.” The evaluation is to involve a wide range of organisations on the three islands and in The Hague. “We realize it is a huge task and that we need all the time available and that is why this fruitful meeting is such a good start,” said Van Zwol.
Asked about the dynamics in the workgroup, he confessed having met “a real spirit of cooperation. I think we must not underestimate that although the spirit of cooperation is good, we all have our constituencies relative to the peoples of each island or for my part the various ministries in The Hague, so keeping that spirit is something we will have to work on.”
The next workgroup meeting will be held on Bonaire, April 14 and 15. Other meetings are scheduled for May 26 and 27 on Statia and on June 12 and 13 in The Hague.