The Island Councils in the Caribbean Netherlands have the authority to decide on holding a constitutional referendum, not the Dutch government. Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated this in his recent reply to a letter of the Bonaire non-governmental organisation “Nos Ke Boneiru Bèk” (We Want Bonaire Back). This writes The Daily Herald.
The organisation is against the current constitutional relation with the Netherlands for it is of the opinion that the public entity, or integration structure, was never the choice of the people as expressed in the 2004 referendum. The organisation collected more than 3,500 signatures in 2013 in favour of a new referendum. In a letter to Minister Plasterk, Chairman of Nos Ke Boneiru Bèk James Finies asked the Netherlands to organise a new referendum under the right of self-determination, based on a general measure of government (Algemene Maatregel van Bestuur) since the current Bonaire government is not in favour.
In his reply, Plasterk explained that the Island Councils have the right by law – the WolBES to be specific – to decide on holding a referendum. “It is up to the Island Council whether to hold a referendum or not. I am not getting involved,” he stated. The minister rejected the organisation’s stance that the constitutional change, which went into effect on October 10, 2010, wasn’t implemented conform the rules of the international human rights with the approval of the people of Bonaire. Plasterk reiterated that the majority of the people in the 2004 referendum voted for direct ties with the Netherlands and that, in 2006, the delegations of Bonaire and the Netherlands agreed that the island, together with St. Eustatius and Saba, would attain a constitutional position as a public entity.
“Considering that the Island Council of Bonaire unanimously ratified these agreements and the then governing party, the UPB, won the absolute majority in the 2007 elections, it can be assumed that the people of Bonaire didn’t reject the agreements made in 2006,” stated Plasterk.
As to the request of Nos ke Boneiru Bèk not to hold any more meetings on constitutional structure level before a referendum is held, the minister stated that preparations have started for the evaluation of the public entity structure next year. “A possible change of the constitutional relations is not part of that evaluation,” he concluded.
This is a friendly way of saying that a referendum on an island has no impact on the relations within the Kingdom. The outcome of such a referendum is irrelevant.