The Daily Herald writes that Saba has offered to host a political summit of the Caribbean Netherlands and the Netherlands in January 2016 to discuss the future of the islands, their relation with the Netherlands and how to achieve more self-reliance.
Saba Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs Chris Johnson launched his proposal for a summit which might be held in January 2016 after the completion of the evaluation during a meeting of the Executive Councils of Bonaire and St. Eustatius with the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations on Thursday.
Saba, but also Bonaire, wants to become more self reliant and be more in charge of its own affairs. “In Saba everything is regulated by the Dutch ministries. We do need help, but that doesn’t mean that you are told what to do. A lot of money is being invested in our island and we are very thankful for that, but we want to be more self reliant. We need to have a mind frame shift. We want to build our own future,” Johnson said.
Johnson specifically mentioned a presentation that they attended on Wednesday by a representative of the United Kingdom (UK) Government. Johnson explained that the UK has a more hands-off policy regarding their overseas territories. These islands were granted more autonomy and had their own, independent government system. He mentioned Anguilla which only had a governor appointed by the UK.
Johnson compared the process of self-reliance to the raising of a child. “You help them to stand on their own feet. You don’t smack them down every time, you help them. We want a more handsoff approach. We need a real discussion on achieving more self-reliance as an island. We need to talk about what future we want for our islands.” He said that he hoped that the current evaluation would ignite the “big bang to make things happen.”
Bonaire Commissioner of Constitutional Affairs Clark Abraham subscribed to Johnson’s proposal. “We too would like more room for autonomy so we can decide over our own affairs.” He said that in the relations with The Hague the islands were sometimes seen as part of the Netherlands and sometimes not. “The relations are nor meat nor fish. We want constructive relations, each with their own responsibilities,” he said.
Johnson received immediate support from the members of the Kingdom Relations Committee. Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the governing liberal democratic VVD party said that he was definitely in favour of more autonomy for the islands and that it was important to have that discussion. Bosman suggested turning the system of imposing laws and regulations around. “We should start with zero regulations and then look at what is really needed.”
MP Roelof van Laar of the governing Labour Party PvdA called Johnson’s proposal for a summit a “great idea.” He said that it was “worrisome” that there was not more unity of the Dutch ministries in their dealings with the islands. He mentioned the important coordinating role of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK. Van Laar did warn the islands that they couldn’t cherry pick by only wanting the best of both worlds.
MP Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66 lauded the idea of a summit. She said that in the end more self-reliance was better for everyone. She stressed the need for mutual cooperation. MP Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) also supported Johnson’s proposal. He criticised the ministries for only coming up with complicated regulations instead of practical, simple solutions for the islands.
Chairman of the Kingdom Relations Committee Jeroen Recourt (PvdA) said it might be a good idea to organise the summit at the time of the next Inter-Parliamentary Kingdom Consultations which will be held in St. Maarten early January 2016. He also suggested to invite the UK representative to give a presentation to the Kingdom Relations Committee.
St. Eustatius was not present at Thursday’s meeting with the Second Chamber as the island government was placed under supervision and received an instruction of the Dutch Government the day before because of the budget deficits and financial management.