The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament wants to secure the input of the people of St. Eustatius on the law proposal to restore the government of the island through an alternative, virtual process, befitting the situation caused by the coronavirus crisis.
The Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations initially had the idea of travelling to St. Eustatius to talk with a broad segment of the population. Further details of this visit and going about speaking with the people never materialised because of the current crisis.
Because the entire Committee deems very important the input of Statians in this piece of legislation, which has far-reaching effects on people’s daily lives and the operation of the local government, it was decided to secure feedback in an alternative manner.
A Facebook page was opened over the weekend where people can post questions, suggestions and comments to the two rapporteurs on behalf of the Committee, Members of Parliament Antje Diertens of the Democratic D66 Party and Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA.
The Dutch government, through State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops, submitted the law proposal on restoring the provisions for St. Eustatius to the Second Chamber on March 27. Based on the concept that The Hague deems an extension of the intervention in the St. Eustatius government necessary, a law proposal was prepared that aims to prolong the current facilities and to arrange a four-phase transition regime that should result in a regular government situation in a couple of years and termination of the intervention.
The “Law on Restoration of facilities of St. Eustatius” provides for the gradual restoring of the local democracy. Island Council elections are slated to be held in October this year. However, even with a new, elected Island Council, the Government Commissioner will remain responsible for a while for some tasks of the Island Council, as well as the tasks of the Executive Council and the Island Governor.
The Dutch Parliament in February 2018 approved the temporary intervention.
According to The Hague, this intervention, which sent home the Island Council and Executive Council, was needed due to what it called “gross negligence” by the local government.
Now, a second law is in the making that will extend the intervention and phase out the current “Temporary Law on Gross Negligence in St. Eustatius”.
“We would like to know your thoughts on this,” MP Diertens and Kuiken stated on the Facebook page.
“We want to hear from people whether they agree with this law proposal, how they see the current intervention, how it has affected them, how they look at restoring democracy and whether additions to the law proposal now on the table are needed,” Diertens told The Daily Herald on Monday.
“We are also the Parliament of the Caribbean Netherlands. And, despite the physical distance, we still represent the islands. Getting in touch with the people through Facebook, email and calls is an alternative way of still keeping the people involved. We are hoping to get a lot of feedback,” said Kuiken.
Diertens and Kuiken have been sending many emails to people in St. Eustatius, inviting them to respond. They hope to speak with or hear from as many as possible in the course of this week. Based on the feedback, Diertens and Kuiken will draft a report that will be shared with the Committee. People’s names will not be mentioned in the report, to enable people to speak freely.
The individual Committee members have until the end of April to submit written questions to Knops about the law proposal.
“The MPs can then each, if they agree with your questions and comments, put this forward to State Secretary Knops at the end of April. That way you can have a say in the final text of the law proposal,” Diertens and Kuiken stated on the Facebook page.
A gradual return of democracy in St. Eustatius is important, the MPs said.
“In February 2018 we agreed with the intervention, because it was necessary. Now, we have to ensure a gradual return to democracy, to reinstate the Island Council and the Executive Council. The Island Council elections in October are a good start. Good governance remains a vital component, and that counts for every government,” said Diertens.
Kuiken was especially set on the well-being of the Statia people and the importance of combating poverty. “I want things to go well for the people, in the social aspect, with a reduced cost of living and proper infrastructure. Tackling poverty is a focal point for me.”
To give their feedback to the law proposal, people can email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Facebook page is https://www.facebook. com/108367230847289/
The Daily Herald.