Published On: Thu, Dec 4th, 2014

Good Governance in the islands can indeed be enforced

The HagueTHE HAGUE, WILLEMSTAD – “The Netherlands cannot enforce good governance if the government on the islands do not want this,” wrote VVD MP André Bosman and SP colleague Ronald van Raak last Monday in the newspaper. The finding of both politicians leads to the conclusion that the islands can better choose for a commonwealth construction. “Remain friends, but do not sleep in the same house anymore,” is said here in Curaçao.

Good governance can be enforced and the Dutch government is experimenting with it. Not only in the former Antillean islands, but also on the Caribbean islands of the United Kingdom. In both kingdoms, there is a special role of the Governor. The experiments with a polished or new role of the representative of the Crown give a different meaning to the old colonial ties. And it has success!

Statute

The Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands regulates the relationships and mutual responsibilities of the countries in the Kingdom. In the official description of the Statute it seems that the guarantee function of the Kingdom Government of good governance can only be addressed when there is no possible redress from an intolerable situation in one of the Caribbean Countries. From 1954 -at the signing of the Statute - until 2012, when the government of Curaçao, headed by Gerrit Schotte received a financial instruction, the Dutch government had no clue on what to do with this provision. Caught in the fear of being accused of neo-colonial behavior, the Netherlands adopted a laissez-faire attitude.

Only after the designation in Curaçao in 2012 and the report of the Committee Rosenmöller and Transparency International on the island and a report of the Committee Wit and PricewaterhouseCoopers in St. Maarten, the realization came in The Hague that the countries are unable to solve their own problems. It became clear for the Netherlands that the islands might still not have all the necessary democratic provisions to protect all its citizens. The interventions could have most likely be prevented if the Kingdom Government in the previous period had given active substance to the guarantee function.

It is in this context that Bosman’s own VVD has stamped a new road in the relationship with the islands. First came the 2012 intervention in Curacao, which made a successful end to the big spending of the government headed by Schotte. Then followed the instruction in Aruba - which, despite a hunger strike from the premier – the Netherlands successfully forced the island to get its budget in order. Finally the Netherlands intervened in Sint Maarten to prevent a corrupt government to take over. That these interventions call for resistance is not so surprising. Until 2012 the Netherlands pampered the former Antillean islands and paid the bill at the end of the problems. It will take some time for the islands to get used to this new approach.

Alternative

In the Dutch legal magazine from October this year, Dr. Oberon Nauta makes an interesting case for the alternative role of the governor in the relationship between the mother country and autonomous overseas territory.

Nauta is a public administration expert and has a doctorate from the University of Utrecht in the subject good governance in the Caribbean overseas territories. He looks at the alternative in which the British have shown how in a relatively simple way effective interpretation can be given to the guarantee function.

The Governor of the British Overseas Territories (BOTs) represents, just as the Dutch islands, the Crown and is head of the government. The crucial difference is that the Governor in the British model actually performs that role and is present at each meeting of the Council of Ministers. And this is crucial, according to the British for a relatively smooth relationship with the islands and the high level of good governance there.

His presence creates, according to Nauta, a situation that can be tailored as tuning in with each other at the highest administrative level but under the radar of the media. In local affairs, he remains aloof, but if at the discretion of the Crown representative, the local government is tampering with good governance, he will then join in the discussion. Nauta states that the British will almost never use their formal powers and can suffice with the informal interpretation of the guarantee function.

Legally, it is possible, because the formal role of the Governor is laid down in the Statute, the individual Constitutions and Regulations for the Governor condition him to be present at the meetings and to “monitor compliance with the kingdom laws, general measures of kingdom government and the treaties and decisions of international organizations,” Nauta said.

The challenge is not to invent a new political structure. The challenge is to deal with the political tradition of 60 years of the Charter. A period in which the Netherlands at all costs wanted to avoid being accused of neo-colonial behavior. A period in which the Netherlands did 60 years aloof from real constructive interference in a democracy in the making.

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