The Daily Herald writes that minister Plasterk repeated his earlier assurances that the two public entities, part of the Netherlands since October 10, 2010, were free to hold a referendum on their constitutional status, during a general debate with the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.
Members of Parliament (MPs) Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA and Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) expressed their support for a referendum on the two islands. “Switching the constitutional status every five years is not very wise, but the right to self-determination prevails,” said Van Laar. Van Raak remarked that St. Eustatius was the only island that had adopted the public entity status without its people specifically having chosen for this option in a constitutional referendum. As such he fully supports a referendum on the island, but also for Bonaire. According to Van Raak there was nothing wrong in allowing people to express their wish in a referendum. He asked the minister what he would do with the results if a referendum were to be held on Bonaire and St. Eustatius.
Plasterk said the call for a referendum in Bonaire and St. Eustatius was justified. “Don’t let there be any misunderstanding about the fact that the islands have the right to self-determination. This is clearly stated in the Charter of the United Nations. A referendum is always a possibility and can be held at any time,” he said. The minister said that it was not up to the Dutch Government to give an opinion on this matter, but he added, “It is wise to have a clear view on what you want to achieve beforehand.” He emphasised that as minister he would not assume a leading role and that the initiative had to come from the islands themselves.
Plasterk said he hoped the options in the referendum would be “clear and realistic.” He said there were “roughly” three options: the current status as public entity with the possibility of “fine-tuning;” an autonomous country status like Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten; or independence by “severing the Kingdom ties like Suriname did.”
The minister explained that the islands currently received budgetary support, some 350 million euros per year, minus the tax revenues that are collected on behalf of the Dutch Government. Adopting the country status would mean that the island in question would no longer receive budgetary support.
He doubted whether it was wise to attain the status of an autonomous or independent country considering the small scale of the islands. “One can wonder whether in the case of St. Eustatius with less than 5,000 inhabitants having a status of public entity would not be wiser.”