Dutch election programmes dedicate attention to islands

Several Dutch parties, but certainly not all, are dedicating attention in different degrees to the Dutch Caribbean islands and the role of the Kingdom in their programmes for the March 2017 Parliamentary elections>

The liberal democratic VVD party and the Socialist Party (SP) advocate a commonwealth construction, while the Christian Democratic Party CDA, the Democratic Party D66 and the ChristianUnion (CU) emphasize the importance of good relations within the Kingdom.The VVD and SP were straightforward in their election programmes about the constitutional relations within the Kingdom. The VVD: “We want to maintain the relations with Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten in a Commonwealth. They are autonomous countries and have to financially sustain themselves. The Kingdom Charter will have to be adapted to create a Commonwealth. This requires that the countries have to agree to an independent status.”“We want to replace the current Kingdom with Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten with a Commonwealth in which the countries cooperate on the basis of mutual respect. We arrive at agreements about mutual support in the execution of government tasks,” stated the SP.

D66, CDA and CU have a completely different view on the relations in the Kingdom. “D66 advocates a mutual constructive cooperation with the Caribbean Netherlands and the autonomous countries within our Kingdom from a perspective of our historic connection, appreciating each other’s differences.”

The CDA also referred to the historic ties. “The Netherlands has been tied to the Kingdom parts in the Caribbean through many centuries of shared history. Since 2010 there are three autonomous countries, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten who are in charge of their own affairs.”

The CU lamented the fact that the European part and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom have not gotten any closer to each other in the past years. “That is a pity, because the relations can yield so much more. The CU wants to turn the tide, with respect for own language, culture and traditions of the islands.”

The Netherlands has a task to help improve good governance, solid finances and an effective law enforcement in the Dutch Caribbean, but the overseas countries also have a responsibility. The five parties shared that view.

“The Netherlands supports good supervision on the quality of Government, Justice and Finance. We want to offer help to train members of Government,” stated the VVD. “The countries have a serious responsibility to guarantee integrity in Government and for an effective law enforcement and border control,” stated the CDA.

Good governance

The CDA added an additional paragraph about good governance: “There is a joint responsibility for good governance. The islands where this is going well can execute more tasks, closer to the citizens. Where this is not going well, the Netherlands will take its responsibility seriously in the interest of the citizens.”

Fundamental human rights and freedoms, legal security and good governance will remain a matter of the Kingdom, emphasized the CU, which proposed a number of measures. “The strengthening of the law enforcement, in cooperation between the countries, will be continued to tackle heavy crime and mafia practices. Continuity of experience and know-how has to be secured on the islands.”

Also, the entrepreneurship and start-up of a small business by the local people of the islands should be stimulated, in the opinion of the CU. The economic development will benefit from a good investment climate. The islands should work together to deal with the waste management issue in order to ensure clean islands and beaches, which is good for tourism.

D66 wants to put more focus on what binds the countries in the Kingdom, instead of what divides us. “The time of accusations back and forth is over if it is up to D66, and a time of working together on a joint future has arrived. For we are all citizens of one Kingdom.” D66 does find it logical to adapt the Charter now that the constitutional relations have changed drastically since 2010. A special Kingdom Committee would have to be established for that purpose.

The VVD, on the other hand, wants to keep a grip on the migration of underprivileged residents from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten to the Netherlands with “clear criteria for permanent residency.” The initiative law proposal of Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman (VVD) that sought this restriction was voted down in Parliament this year.

Caribbean Netherlands

The public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba were not left out of the election programmes. The VVD voiced the option of having the Caribbean Netherlands join the Commonwealth, if the islands so desire. “This means that they will have to become independent. We don’t want the islands to become regular municipalities within the Netherlands. For us the current public entity status is the most integrated format.”

The SP want to have Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba carry out as many of their own tasks as possible, with the support of the Netherlands where necessary. The SP wants to draft an action plan to combat poverty on the islands and ensure a decent standard of living for everyone.

The Netherlands has a special responsibility for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, remarked the CDA. “The improving of the economic prospective, infrastructure and the combating of poverty, especially among the elderly and families with children, gets priority. The regulations imposed by the Netherlands often lead to unnecessary bureaucracy.”

D66 stressed that Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba were also part of the Netherlands and deserved the proper attention. “D66 wants an agenda for inclusive growth and social development for the Caribbean Netherlands. We invest in education, infrastructure and economy. We strive for equality with the Netherlands, taking into account the large distance and small size of the islands.”

The CU dedicated a couple of long paragraphs to the Caribbean Netherlands. The party described the disappointments of the people since the islands became Dutch public entities in 2010, the lack of trust in politics and the difficult living conditions and perspectives of the people of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

“The CU supports warm ties between the European part and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands, from a point of solidarity and with an attitude of helping the islands to structurally improve the situation for the people while keeping the own identity and culture in mind. The dialogue has to take place based on equality and mutual respect.”

The CU proposed to bring the social facilities in the Caribbean Netherlands to an acceptable level with focus on improving the wellbeing of children. Minimum norms for social security have to be set so everyone can have a decent standard of living.

“Single mothers have to be supported. Too many children grow up in poverty and are confronted with domestic violence. Care is lacking and facilities for handicapped children too limited. Investing in education remains necessary to offer children a future perspective and break the vicious circle of poverty.”

The CU further sought to make the remigration of educated people from the islands more attractive. “A new generation of highly educated people to run the local Government is needed to secure a sustainable future for the islands.”

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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