Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk seems unmoved by the call of St. Eustatius Island Governor Gerald Berkel and Statia Island Council member Elvin Henriquez to maintain the voting right of foreign residents for the Island Council. In two separate letters to Berkel and Henriquez dated June 18, Plasterk disregarded their pleas to refrain from removing the voting right of non-Dutch residents on St. Eustatius once the amendment to the Constitution has gone into effect, which regulates that members of the Island Council can co-elect the members of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate.
Berkel and Henriquez had written to the minister on respectively April 17 and May 21. Berkel emphasized in his letter that the public entity St. Eustatius was “completely against” the law proposal to reverse the voting right of non-Dutch citizens for the Island Council. The law proposal was submitted to the Second Chamber in March this year. Henriquez went a step further: he stated that the law proposal showed a “tremendous lack of respect” for the Statia Island Council and accused the Dutch Government of “misuse of power.” According to Henriquez, the decision to eliminate the voting right of foreigners once the Constitution has been adapted seemed “very discriminative” to the Statia people.
In his response, Plasterk stated that the Dutch Government “understood the wish” that non-Dutch residents keep their voting right for the Island Councils. In both letters, Plasterk elaborated on the reasons why the Dutch Government took this decision “after careful deliberation.” The Dutch Government and also Parliament don’t want foreign residents on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to have any influence on the composition of the Senate through the Island Council members, no matter how minimal that influence is. Only people with the Dutch nationality should have a say in who gets elected into the Senate.
Plasterk explained the cabinet’s standpoint regarding the establishing of an Electoral College through which citizens with the Dutch nationality would indirectly vote for the Senate. The cabinet has deemed this suggestion of the Senate “disproportionate” because setting up this organ requires an amendment to the Constitution, a lengthy process for a small group of some 1,200 residents. The minister stated that the Dutch Government had to weigh the interests. This, however, didn’t mean, as Henriquez suggests, that it was a matter of a lack of respect for the Island Councils or abuse of power.
Plasterk stated that he lamented that the Statia Government didn’t make use of the opportunity to respond to the law proposal when it was submitted to the islands for consultation in July 2013. St. Eustatius requested to move up the response term from September 1 to October 15, 2013.