The Daily Herald writes that Labour Party PvdA, Democratic Party D66, Christian Democratic Party CDA and ChristianUnion (CU) turned down on Monday idea of the liberal democratic VVD party and the Socialist Party (SP) to establish a Dutch commonwealth construction with an independent position for Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. The four parties took a stand against the Dutch Commonwealth July 2013 position paper of Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman (VVD) and Ronald van Raak (SP) in a meeting of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations on Monday. Roelof van Laar (PvdA) referred to the idea of a commonwealth construction as a “bit strange.” He named several reasons for his objections. The decision to change the relations in the Kingdom is first and foremost one that the islands have to take. The United Nations (UN) Charter dictates this. “The wish of the islands is leading. So far none of the is- lands have expressed that wish,” he said.
The Netherlands cannot decide unilaterally to introduce a new commonwealth structure. Gert-Jan Segers (CU), who also spoke on behalf of D66 and CDA as they could not attend the meeting, accused the VVD and SP of drawing a line in the sand. “This is not our call. We can only casually philosophise,” he said. He called the commonwealth construction a “very radical change” to the current structure in the Kingdom. Segers and Van Laar said the commonwealth construction discussion was premature, as the general evaluation of the new constitutional relations that went into effect on October 10, 2010, still had to take place, which will be in 2015.
Joost Taverne (VVD) and Michiel van Nispen (SP) said there was nothing wrong with the Nether- lands taking the lead in the discussion on a commonwealth construction. “I don’t see why we can’t take the initiative,” said Van Nispen, who did not think this was against the UN Charter. “It is our responsibility to think about a solution for the troubled relations,” said Taverne.
Van Laar said the commonwealth construction was a voluntary structure without consequences. He said the guarantee function in the Kingdom Charter that now protected the people of the islands against corruption and abuse of power no longer would apply. “How will you com- bat poverty, human smuggling and corruption when the political parties in the countries don’t serve the general interest? I don’t see the advantages,” said Van Laar.
“The commonwealth construction is depicted in your position paper as a win-win situation, but we severely doubt that. It certainly will not contribute to the fight against poverty and the efforts to improve integrity of government,” said Segers. Both Segers and Van Laar made a case to try working things out in the Kingdom, despite the frequent bickering between the partners. “It is indeed not a perfect relation and things can be better, but we shouldn’t throw everything over- board,” said Van Laar. “When you fight, you at least hold on to each other. Let’s at least try to make something of it,” said Segers.
Van Raak said the position paper was “not a blue- print,” but merely “an invitation” to have an open, honest discussion on the constitutional relations. He said the Charter signed in 1954 had been drafted as a divorce document, paving the way for the Dutch colonies Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles eventually to become independent. Suriname did so in 1975, but the Dutch Caribbean never followed. “We all have to admit that 2010 didn’t bring what everyone wanted,” said Van Raak. “Things are going wrong. Emotions run high when the Netherlands intervenes. I fear that the relations that we have had for centuries will crash. Since 2010 we have been in a fighting divorce. A commonwealth structure would end that fighting divorce.” According to Van Raak and Bosman, a common- wealth construction could provide the opportunity to deal with matters together through bilateral agreements, to decide on who would become responsible for what, tailor-made per country. Also, it would create clarity in the relations. “Let’s give content together to our cooperation. Let’s start talks to save this marriage,” said Van Raak. Bosman called the fact that none of the overseas countries had responded to their position paper a “missed opportunity.” “I don’t hear anyone saying that the Kingdom is a great structure. It chafes on our side, but also on theirs. When you love something you must also be able to let go of it. Forcing your love will only create more resistance,” he said. Bosman and Van Raak said their position paper in no way served to get rid of the overseas partners. “Assistance from the Netherlands remains a possibil- ity. We are not pushing the islands over the fence. The Charter has existed 60 years this year. It is time that we all think about where we want to go and how we see our future together,” said Bosman.
Sietse Fritsma of the Party for Freedom PVV said his party’s position remained that the Netherlands should “get rid of the is- lands as soon as possible,” but that the commonwealth construction was an improvement compared to the current Kingdom structure. He doubted that the overseas countries would cooperate to establish a commonwealth construction. “They are in a comfortable position. It is in their best interest to keep things the way they are,” said Fritsma.
Bosman said he hoped the position paper would start a discussion on the relations in the Kingdom and the Charter. “The Charter and the Kingdom are continuously in motion. Of course the initiative to change the relations is up to the Dutch Caribbean countries, but that doesn’t mean that the Netherlands has no right to discuss this. If the countries say ‘no’ to a commonwealth construction, if they have different ideas, I would love to hear them.”