The Daily Herald writes that new National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) for the Caribbean Netherlands will be able to take action when things are going wrong in the coordination of tasks between The Hague and the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
The term “pulling the emergency brake” was used during a general debate of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Thursday evening.
The new National Government Representative, whom Plasterk hopes to appoint before this summer, will report possible conflict or unwarranted situations to the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations. The minister has agreed to give the new National Government Representative this additional authority. The current National Government Representative, Wilbert Stolte, will resign per May 1. Deputy National Government Representative Julian Woodley will be in charge until the new appointment goes into effect.
Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA asked to make it possible for the National Government Representative to “pull the emergency brake” when he or she for example took note of certain actions by an individual Dutch ministry in carrying out tasks, policy and projects on the three islands which were too far-fetched or went against the wishes of the local government. Plasterk explained that the National Government Representative would advise the minister when encountering problematic situations. The Dutch ministries cannot simply neglect this advice. However, the Representative cannot give the ministries or their liaisons specific orders as they resort under the responsibility of the minister in charge of the ministry in question.
The new Representative, who will head the National Government Service Caribbean Netherlands (Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland RCN), will work together with the six liaisons of the Dutch ministries stationed on the islands. The Representative can seek information and ask for a clarification or explanation from the liaisons “at any time,” said Plasterk. In urgent situations, the Representative can ask for a certain issue to be discussed at the so-called Caribbean Netherlands Table in which the Dutch ministries and the island governments are represented. The Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations chairs the Caribbean Netherlands Table which meets once a month.
The individual ministries remain responsible for executing their tasks and policy on the islands, clarified Plasterk. According to the minister, the islands have benefited from the fact that the individual ministries are operating on the islands. Often, the ministries have made additional investments when the islands asked for this or when it became apparent that increased efforts were necessary, he noted.
The minister went along with Van Laar’s proposal to consult the Representative in the execution of tasks that the Dutch Government carries out on the islands, just as the local governments provide their input. Van Laar emphasized that the Representative’s right to give advice was important to his party. Plasterk said he wanted to give the Representative a solid position in the coordination of tasks that are being carried out on the islands. The Representative, who will be appointed according to a new profile that is being set, also has to be a “solid person.” The minister asked for comprehension for the difficult role that the Representative has to operate in a complex constellation with three small and very different islands located at a large distance from the Netherlands. He compared the Representative to a “sheep with six legs” since the person has to comply with a large number of requirements and characteristics.
Van Laar described the ideal Representative as a “solid binding leader, someone of irreproachable conduct, incorruptible, truly interested in the people on the islands while at the same time being businesslike.” The PvdA also wants someone who understands the fragile relation between the Netherlands and the islands, someone with knowhow of the islands and who can count on an “open and constructive cooperation” with the residents and local politicians, said Van Laar. During the debate, Van Laar made a case to extend the authority of the National Government Representative and to make this person a Commissioner of the King for the Caribbean Netherlands. The Commissioner would have a say in the execution of projects by the ministries and check whether these complied with the multi-annual programme, the absorption capacity and wishes of the islands. “A solid coordination cannot do without a clear authority and mandate,” said Van Laar, who proposed making the Commissioner the highest civil servant in the Caribbean Netherlands and head of the National Government Service RCN.
Member of Parliament Pieter Litjens of the liberal democratic VVD party agreed that the National Government Representative needed a clear mandate. Without a clear mandate, the Representative would be like “sending out a horseman with his hands tied.” He preferred to have the liaisons of the ministries resort under the Representative. Litjens said he was in favour of giving the local governments more power to handle their own affairs. “We should let go more and rely more on the internal strength of the islands,” he said, pointing out that The Hague was overburdening the public entities with regulations and laws.