The Caribbean Netherlands portfolio will again become an affair of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. This writes The Daily Herald. The Permanent Committee for Home Affairs on Thursday, approved in principle a proposal by Member of Parliament (MP) Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) to move its Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba portfolio to the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations.
The decision of the Home Affairs Committee is good news for the public entities. “The islands can now focus more on the Kingdom Relations Committee. They will have only one committee to deal with,” said Van Raak after the meeting. The Kingdom Relations Committee still has to decide on Van Raak’s proposal, but that will be a mere formality because there is broad support. The Home Affairs Committee agreed with Van Raak’s proposal under two conditions: individual parties in Parliament maintain the liberty to decide whether it wants a specialist spokesperson to handle a certain subject, and it will be left up to the cabinet to decide which minister(s) will attend the meetings regarding the three islands. Van Raak’s motivated his reason to draft a proposal to transfer the Caribbean Netherlands portfolio to
the Kingdom Relations Committee during Thursday’s procedural meeting of the Home Affairs Committee.
Contrary to the First Chamber, the Second Chamber decided in the past that its individual subject committees (vakcommissies) would handle the affairs of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba after the islands became public entities on October 10, 2010. This meant that the Education Committee has been handling educational matters of the islands, the Justice Committee – justice affairs, and the Public Health Committee dealt with the health care issues. This system not only proved inefficient and cumbersome, but it also led to confusion on the islands. “People on the islands consider this a complex system. All these different committees to deal with, it is driving them nuts. Let’s make things easier,” said Van Raak.
Van Raak said that the Kingdom Relations Committee had better contacts on the islands and more knowledge of the local situation. “We visit the islands on a more or less regular basis and we notice that it is hard to judge about healthcare, education, transport when you don’t know the situation, when you have never been to the islands,” he said. “We should leave the Caribbean Netherlands up to the Kingdom Relations Committee. Let the people with more feeling for the islands deal with the specific regulations and issues of the Caribbean Netherlands,” he said.
Van Raak also proposed having Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, as coordinating minister, present at meetings, along with the minister in charge of specific portfolio that is being discussed at that meeting, but that part of his proposal did not receive sufficient support.
Pieter Litjens of the ruling liberal democratic VVD party said he understood Van Raak’s reasons for coming with this proposal and agreed that having knowledge of local affairs was certainly a plus in this case, but he did have some reservations about the practical aspects. “Transferring all matters relating to the Caribbean Netherlands integrally to Kingdom Relations and having the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations always present is a step too far for me. I am not in favour of it,” said Litjens, who agreed that the coordination issue would surely have to be looked at in the general evaluation of the new constitutional status of the islands. Litjens said he wanted to keep the option open that the parties could decide for themselves which spokesperson would deal with the specific subject matters. This would enable the party’s spokesperson on, for example, health to participate in a meeting of the Kingdom Relations Committee on this specific matter. He said he also considered it too heavy on the schedules of ministers when two ministers would have to come to meetings.
Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA, VVD’s coalition partner said he had “very much sympathy” for Van Raak’s proposal. He said it was only logical that the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations was actively involved as the coordinating minister.
Chairman of the Kingdom Relations Committee Jeroen Recourt said he was glad with the decision of the Home Affairs Committee to transfer its portfolio. He confirmed that the members of the Kingdom Relations Committee were more familiar with the islands and had expertise knowledge. This decision was also in the best interest of the islands, also in their relation with the other partners in the Kingdom, said Recourt. Many of the issues that were discussed in Kingdom Relations have a link to both the Caribbean Netherlands and the overseas countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.