The Daily Herald writes that the Caribbean Netherlands Evaluation Committee on Friday informed representatives of the governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba and the Netherlands, the principals in this exercise, how it will go about the research for the 2015 constitutional evaluation.
Commissioners Reginald Zaandam of St. Eustatius, Chris Johnson of Saba and Edsel Winklaar of Bonaire attended Friday’s meeting, as well as the Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Richard van Zwol. Present on behalf of the committee were chair-person Liesbeth Spies and members Glenn Thodé, Fred Soons and Luc Verhey.
The meeting served to start the research phase by the independent evaluation committee. During this period, from December 2014 until April 2015, existing research, evaluations, policy programmes and inspection reports will be analysed, followed by additional research on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in April and May. This will be done through interviews and questionnaires with the assistance of sub-committees and outside researchers.
The final report, which has to be submitted latest October 10, 2010, exactly five years after the new constitutional relations went into effect, will contain conclusions, but not recommendations, Spies told the media after Friday’s two-hour meeting. It will be up for the representatives of the islands and the Netherlands to take the actual decisions as a result of the evaluation.
The evaluation will concentrate on three subjects: the workings of legislation, the workings of the governmental structure and the consequences of the 2010 transition for the people of the islands. Three major subjects that are of great importance to the three islands, said the three Commissioners.
Commissioner Zaandam said the aspect of fiscal laws and the level of facilities (voorzieningenniveau) was especially important for St. Eustatius. He pointed out that equality was an important factor in the Dutch Constitution, although he felt that an exception was made for the islands where it came to this.
Commissioner Johnson said the social economic factors and the burden of legislation and regulations were key for Saba in the evaluation. “We are overregulated and overburdened with legislation and regulations that are not suitable and unnecessary for a small island like ours. We want common sense to rule in this,” he said. He compared the situation to the story of David and Goliath. Zaandam added that The Hague at times missed the point that the islands’ resources are limited, also where it concerns human resources to carry out the new laws and regulations. He lauded Secretary General Van Zwol for showing understanding for this aspect. “We have a heavy hitter on our side,” he said. Zaandam said he was sure that the evaluation committee would dedicate sufficient attention to this aspect.
Commissioner Winklaar said the expectations of the Bonaire people were very high in the area of social security. He said communication in the evaluation process was of essential importance.
Zaandam said that in this sense the meeting with the committee on Friday was instrumental. “We were able to clarify things from our side, because we can’t have miscommunication. We all have to be clear on this and know exactly what we can expect,” he said.
The three Commissioners agreed that it was important to address the small size of the islands in the evaluation, to take the local situation and the specific needs into account. “At the end of the day it is about our social economic development, it is about the people, the families, their life and future,” said Johnson.
Spies confirmed that the terms of reference of the Evaluation Committee specifically states that the dif-ferences between the three islands have to be addressed. She said the report will detail as many practical examples of the things that are happening on the islands as possible so it turns out to be a comprehensible, realistic document. The committee hopes to receive input from the residents of Bonaire, St. Eusta-tius and Saba. “We want to involve the people. We hope that they will cooperate by sharing information with the researchers and the committee.” A special website and Facebook page will be launched early January for this purpose where, as Spies put it, “people can take and supply information.”
Van Zwol said the evaluation was an “exhilarating” exercise because it was the first time that this kind of constitutional structure, the public entity status, was used in the Kingdom “in the hope and conviction that this would benefit the people.”Whether the structure has been successful or not can only be determined after the evaluation, said Van Zwol, who added that much work was still in progress. He said that The Hague was becoming “increasingly aware that it wasn’t so easy to do everything right.” Van Zwol stressed that the evaluation would not be a “paper exercise.” “We are doing this together with the assistance of a professional, independent committee with broad experience. These are five heavy hitters,” he said.