The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament wants a structural solution for the limited financial resources that the Dutch National Ombudsman has to work with in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA called it “unacceptable” that the Ombudsman would not be able to fully carry out his tasks in the Caribbean Netherlands due to financial restrictions.
Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen informed Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk late September this year that the 250,000 euros that were allocated for 2015 and 2016 were insufficient. He was left with no choice than to cancel last month’s working visit to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The Ombudsman said he needed at least 350,000 euros per year.
The Ombudsman has an important task on the islands and therefore he needs structural financing from the Dutch Government, said Member of Parliament (MP) Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66 during a debate with Plasterk on Thursday. “As an independent and critical party, he can strengthen the position of people in their dealings with government,” she said. She mentioned the relation to good governance.
The Ombudsman can solve practical problems of people by handling their complaints and by mediating with the local governments, explained Hachchi. She mentioned the resident who faced “bureaucratic walls” to get restitution from the Tax Office as an example. She also referred to a resident who did not get a positive response on his claim to be financially compensated for the bad state of the road.
MP Van Laar stated that the work of the Ombudsman was especially needed on the islands due to the informal government structure and unfairness that residents experienced when, for example, requesting a permit. “Everybody knows each other and that often leads to certain decisions being taken,” he said.
Van Laar called on Plasterk to solve the financial problem of the Ombudsman. “It should be possible to get the money from somewhere,” he said. “Simply put, the money is needed so the Ombudsman can duly perform his tasks,” said Hachchi, who several times during the debate asked the Minister for a structural solution as part of the evaluation process of the islands’ constitutional status.
Plasterk made clear that the Ombudsman was responsible for setting his own financial priorities and to give content to his tasks. He emphasized that this was not a task of the Dutch Government.
The Minister explained that the Ombudsman received a total annual subsidy of 15 million euros for the entire Netherlands and that for 2015 and 2016 an additional, incidental amount of 250,000 euros had been allocated to cover the Caribbean Netherlands.
Plasterk promised to discuss the matter with the Ombudsman, but added that he did not want to create false expectations. However, he agreed with Van Laar that the financial issue should not restrict the Ombudsman in carrying out his tasks on the islands.
As for the Children’s Ombudsman function in the Caribbean Netherlands, Plasterk said that this was also an internal matter and task of the Ombudsman. MP Hachchi had specifically asked the Minister to secure structural funding for the Children’s Ombudsman.
Hachchi alluded that the children on the islands needed an “independent watchdog” to defend their rights. “The children on the islands need our attention and care,” she said. Currently, there is no Children’s Ombudsman for the Caribbean Netherlands. In this case too, Plasterk promised to talk to the Ombudsman.
The Daily Herald.