The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament has agreed in principle to transfer issues relating to the Caribbean Netherlands islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations. Members of the Permanent Committee for Home Affairs already had decided a few weeks ago that they would transfer the Caribbean Netherlands portfolio to their colleagues of Kingdom Relations. The Home Affairs Committee has handled the biggest workload regarding the three public entities so far. The other specialist committees during their procedural meetings agreed in principle this week and last week with the proposal of the Kingdom Relations Committee that the islands would be handled by the latter committee.
However, the majority of the committee members indicated that they would like to remain involved in as the backup committee and to be able to decide per issue whether to send their own spokespersons to participate in debates with the ministers with whom they normally deal, as these spokespersons are specialists in certain policy areas. The Kingdom Relations Committee will be able to convene debates not only with the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, but also with other members of the cabinet from now on to discuss specific aspects relating to the islands such as education, public health and economic affairs.
Putting the new rule into practice, the Kingdom Relations Committee has called for a general debate with Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on May 15 to discuss affairs relating to the Caribbean Netherlands. Initially, this debate had been planned by the Committee for Home Affairs, but it has been transferred to Kingdom Relations.
Kingdom Relations Committee Chairman Jeroen Recourt of the Labour Party PvdA said he was happy with the committees’ decision. “These are the first steps and they will now have to be put in practice. Things are moving. This is in the best interest of the Caribbean Netherlands, because it means maximum attention for the islands,” he told The Daily Herald on Wednesday. The transfer of their affairs to the Kingdom Relations Committee is good news for the islands. It means that Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be closer to The Hague where it pertains the handling of their affairs in the Second Chamber. Not only does the Kingdom Relation Committee have more knowledge of the islands, but the committee members also have a better view of what is good for the public entities and what is not. “We know that it is important not to view the Caribbean Netherlands through Dutch glasses, but to take the islands’ perspective and local situation into account,” said Recourt.
Not all specialist committees are letting go of the Caribbean Netherlands so easily. The Permanent Committee for Safety and Justice, for example, indicated that it wants to remain primarily responsible for judicial and police affairs on the islands. The committee decided on April 9 that the Kingdom Relations Committee would be invited to attend a general debate on the judicial system in the Caribbean Netherlands later this year.
The Committee for Defence decided that it would judge each individual case. However, the committee will remain in charge of the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard portfolio, as this concerns operation of all countries in the Kingdom. The committee already has stipulated a date, July 2, for a general debate with Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on the Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard.
Recourt sent a letter to the other committees late March with the proposal to allow the Kingdom Relations Committee to handle matters relating to the Caribbean Netherlands and to have the specialist committees as backup for monitoring purposes. The idea to transfer Caribbean Netherlands affairs to the Kingdom Relations Committee came from Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP). Having the Caribbean Netherlands covered by the Kingdom Relations Committee is in line with the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate, which has kept the islands under the wings of its Kingdom Relations despite the new constitutional relations.