Tuesday , March 28 2023

A Commonwealth construction for Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten?

The Dutch government cannot force good governance in the Dutch Caribbean [Red: meant are the Islands Aruba, Curaçao and St Maarten] if the local politicians don’t want to cooperate, but it can offer assistance when the islands ask for it. This can be done through a commonwealth construction, an association of independent states. That is what Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) and André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party stated in a joint opinion article on Wednesday. “It is time for change.” This writes The Daily Herald.

The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations will discuss the July 2013 position paper of Van Raak and Bosman on Monday, December 1. The position paper proposes to break up the Kingdom in its current form and create a commonwealth instead. In the opinion article, titled “Out of the tight relationship of the Kingdom,” Van Raak and Bosman stated why a looser commonwealth could lead to better ties with Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.

According to the two members of the Second Chamber, the idea of a commonwealth structure in the Kingdom is not new. They said politicians in the (former) Netherlands Antilles have advocated such a structure. Betico Croes of Aruba did so in the early ’70s and Minister of Kingdom Relations Ernst Hirsch Ballin of the Netherlands in 1990, with his paper “Sketch of a Commonwealth Constitution” for the Kingdom. Van Raak and Bosman suggested that under the commonwealth construction, the Netherlands could sign a treaty with each country about cooperation whereby the wishes and needs of each island would be taken into consideration.

“It is up to the people to decide how close the governmental ties with the Netherlands would be and which tasks would be executed by the Netherlands. We can set conditions so we can truly live up to that responsibility. The people of each island will remain completely free to decide on its own future and cancel the help of the Netherlands. This enables the islands to become truly autonomous, but the century-old friendship can be maintained,” they stated.

“Our countries have century-old ties that we would like to keep for the future. The tight relations of the Kingdom, however, lead an atmosphere of fighting and suspicion, and continue to set us further apart. The responsibilities between the countries have to become clear to make a joint future possible. If it were up to us, our countries would cooperate on the basis of equality and clear agreements.”

Van Raak and Bosman said the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Charter of the Kingdom on December 15 wouldn’t be a happy occasion with the multiple interventions of the Dutch government on the islands in relation to good governance and solid government finances.

The Charter says that the Kingdom is responsible for human rights, legal security and good governance in the partner countries. The securing of these guarantees in practice rests on the shoulders of the Netherlands, stated Van Raak and Bosman. “There is no Kingdom government, only a Kingdom Council of Ministers, where our country always has the majority. There is no Kingdom Parliament. Important decisions are taken in the Second Chamber in which the people of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten have no say.” The 1954 Charter is actually a sort of divorce document, intended for the colonies to go their own way after Indonesia’s independence. The Charter offered the Netherlands the possibility to give the colonies more autonomy, while at the same time maintain supervision in the transition to independence, stated Van Raak and Bosman.

The members of Parliament pointed out that the SP and VVD parties in 2010, at the time of the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles as a country and the new constitutional status of the individual islands, had pressed for a revision of the Charter. Both parties were in the opposition benches at that time and a majority of the Second Chamber approved the constitutional change. “The Netherlands paid the debts, but refrained from securing sufficient guarantees and securities for good governance,” Van Raak and Bosman said.


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