Sunday , May 28 2023

Government Representative BES was source of heated debate

The Daily Herald writes that the appointment of a new National Government Representative for the Caribbean Netherlands was the source of a heated debate of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on Thursday.

At the start of the general debate on the evaluation of the tasks of the Dutch Government on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, Member of the Second Chamber Wassila Hachchi of the democratic D66 party got on the minister’s case for what she termed as his lack of action in dealing with the problematic functioning of the National Government Representative (Rijksvertegenwoordiger) Wilbert Stolte. According to Hachchi, the minister should have taken immediate action when it became clear that Stolte was not functioning as he should, a view that was confirmed in the November 2013 report of the Inspection, Signalling and Coaching ISB unit of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ISB researchers advised appointing a new temporary National Government Representative as soon as possible in order to restore the troubled relations between the islands and Stolte, and The Hague in general. The ISB report spoke of a lack of trust and cooperation.

“The minister should have intervened immediately, but chose to do nothing with the ISB report,” said Hachchi, who made clear that her party at earlier occasions had requested meetings to discuss the issue of the National Government Representative. “Why did it take months to start the procedure to appoint a new National Government Representative?” she asked.

Members of Parliament (MPs) Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA and Pieter Litjens of the liberal democratic VVD party came to the minister’s defence. Van Laar and Litjens said that the minister did not hide the ISB report and that Plasterk followed the correct procedure in the evaluation of the tasks of the Dutch Government in the Caribbean Netherlands. Plasterk confirmed that he did what had been promised to Parliament. The minister informed the Second Chamber in September last year that the evaluation would consist of several phases. The first phase entailed the research by ISB. The second phase consisted of the appointment of a small committee headed by retired top civil servant Marcel van Gastel. Saba Island Governor Jonathan Johnson was one of the members of this committee. Plasterk had promised at that time that Parliament would be informed of the complete outcome of the evaluation, including the findings of the ISB and the committee, accompanied by a response of the Dutch Government. Van Laar said that the minister had stuck to the right order of doing things. “The procedure was clear to Parliament. It was better to wait for the completion of the entire evaluation,” said Litjens.

Hachchi insisted that Parliament should have received the ISB report soon after it was sent to the minister in November last year and that the minister should have acted immediately to solve the problems with the National Government Representative and the coordination of tasks. MP Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) concurred and asked the minister why he had not sent the ISB report to Parliament at once.

MP Madeleine van Toorenburg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA chided Hachchi for continuously mentioning Stolte’s name in the debate. She called this “inappropriate” and said that Parliament had a sacred rule not to mention people by name but to refer to them by their function. She accused Hachchi of setting a “hysteric tone.” Litjens said he had a problem with Hachchi’s “exciting tone” and the way she suggested that “a game was being played.”

Van Laar wondered what the time saving effect would have been if the minister had immediately acted and appointed a new National Government Representative at once. “How much time would have been saved, three months?”

Plasterk assured that he did take action. He explained that soon after his appointment in November 2012 he took note that things were not going well with the National Government Representative. He said he had several serious talks with Stolte and that when it became clear that things did not improve Stolte decided to resign per May 1, 2014. “The ISB report confirmed my view. The report didn’t lie on my desk gathering dust. We took action,” said Plasterk, who explained that the procedure to appoint a new National Government Representative and to adapt the profile and position of this function started immediately. He promised that a new National Government Representative would be appointed before this summer.

Ronald Plasterk

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