THE HAGUE -The trajectory to achieve full independence for Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten should be completed. The Dutch Government should approach the United Nations (UN) to discuss this.
The liberal democratic VVD party and the Socialist Party (SP) made this call during the second day of the handling of the 2017 Kingdom Relations budget in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Thursday.
Members of Parliament (MP) André Bosman (VVD) and Ronald van Raak (SP) submitted a joint motion at the end of a lengthy debate in which they requested the Dutch Government to consult the UN, together with Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, to arrive at a “definite fulfilment of the right of self-determination of all countries in the Kingdom.”
In the motion, Bosman and Van Raak made mention of the UN decolonisation process that started after 1945, and the fact that the Kingdom Charter of 1954 was “the first step in the decolonisation process.” According to the motion, the Charter was never the end goal to do justice to the full right of self-determination of all countries within the Kingdom.
Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk tried to convince Bosman that it was a “futile exercise” to go to the UN without the consent of the Dutch Caribbean countries on this matter, especially if the countries voiced their objections to the UN.
The Minister said that he would first have to discuss this important step in the history of the Kingdom with the three countries before going to the UN. Bosman subsequently agreed to shelve the motion for now in order to give the Minister the chance to enter into discussions with the overseas countries. Plasterk promised a reply before December 31 this year.
The issue of independence sparked a debate between Plasterk and Bosman who had opposing views on the matter. “We don’t agree on the end goal,” said Plasterk, who made clear that he did not think independence of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten was such a great idea.
Product of history
The Minister pointed out that it was up to the countries to take the decision if, and so when, they wanted to step out of the Kingdom. “Whether that is a wise decision is another matter. Letting go entirely would not be a good thing for the people there. The Kingdom is a product of history including the black page of slavery and colonialism. In my opinion, together we should try to make the best of it in the interest of the people.”
Plasterk said the Dutch Government had “no intention” to end the current constellation and that the Dutch Caribbean countries so far had not made a decision either to go independent. MP Sietse Fritsma of the Party for Freedom PVV objected to the Minister’s line of thinking and made a point that the Netherlands should achieve the right to unilaterally get out of the Kingdom. He submitted a motion to this extent.
Bosman urged Plasterk to proceed on giving content to the trajectory of complete independence described in the Kingdom Charter. He said it was the task of the Dutch Government to actively assist in the developing of the self-governance of the islands, as was stated in article 73 of the UN Charter.
“We have to talk about that with the countries,” said Bosman. Plasterk emphasized that the Dutch Caribbean countries had a right to self-determination and that this was not conflicting with article 73 of the UN Charter.
Van Raak said that the Kingdom Charter had a “smothering” effect on the relations within the Kingdom because the relations were not equal, and there was no way for the Netherlands to unilaterally decide to step out of the Kingdom. Van Raak and Bosman are in favour of a commonwealth structure where, in their opinion, the relations would be more equal.
“We are in a hybrid system. Nobody has the power to see things through. The polder model doesn’t work in the Caribbean. We need to create clarity,” Bosman said about the current Kingdom structure. He said that while the overseas countries have their own autonomous responsibilities down the line it was the Kingdom, meaning the Netherlands, that was held responsible internationally.
Plasterk noted that there were also good things happening in the Kingdom. He said that Curaçao had a stable government for the past few years. A government which had created sound government finances and had achieved a budget that was truly balanced.
The Minister said that in St. Maarten the concerns about the links between the upper world and underworld remained, but that St. Maarten Governor Eugene Holiday, who has just been reappointed for another six years, had performed a “very strict screening” of the last cabinet. “He did that very well.”
Plasterk said that in the Kingdom it always remained a matter of seeking a balance, of giving space to the local governments, while keeping an eye on the responsibility of the Kingdom Government. “Of course we are not there yet. There is still much room for improvement, but many things are moving in the right direction.”
The responsibility of the Kingdom also came up during the debate in relation to the extensive pollution caused by the Isla refinery in Curaçao and the deal that Aruba has made with Citgo Petroleum to reopen the refinery in San Nicolas.
MP Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA remarked that in Curaçao school children were fainting because of the toxic fumes and that the closing of the school in question was not redressing the actual problem. He urged the Minister to accomplish a real solution in short term. Plasterk said that the Isla refinery had the attention of the Curaçao Government and that with the help of Dutch expertise a solution was being sought.
MP Alexander Pechtold of the Democratic Party D66 criticised the lack of action of the Dutch Government to tackle the pollution caused by the Isla refinery. He said the Dutch Government did not truly see the urgency of the matter. “If the Dutch tourists were affected at their hotel, we would all cry out that this was unacceptable.”
Van Raak was highly critical of the Citgo agreement with Aruba. “Everyone can see that this is a bad deal that will create large debts. The promises of Venezuela are soft as butter,” he said. Plasterk said it was not up to him to judge the Citgo deal. He emphasized that Aruba carried the full financial responsibility for this agreement.