Published On: Tue, Mar 5th, 2013

Island Parliaments to stand as one at IPOK

Second ChamberTHE HAGUE--Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are positive about the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPOK which starts in The Hague today, Tuesday. The three Parliaments intend to stand as one.

The three islands have prepared together for the series of meetings. St. Maarten played a big role in getting the islands on the same line as much as possible, explained President of the St. Maarten Parliament Rodolphe Samuel. "We wanted to synchronize our standpoints, iron things so things would run smoothly in The Netherlands."

On the initiative of Samuel, Presidents of Parliament Paul Croes of Aruba and Mike Franco of Curaçao came to St. Maarten a few weeks ago to discuss their ideas and input for IPOK and to prepare for the video conference with the Dutch Parliament which recently took place in Curaçao.

It turned out to be a successful recipe because the islands stood as one front when they determined the agenda for the IPOK with The Netherlands. The Presidents of the three Parliaments and the (Acting) Chairmen of the Kingdom Relations Committees came together at the Cabinet of the St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Monday evening for a last preparatory meeting.

"It is good to support each other. If we stick to our agreement, we should have no differences of opinion between the islands here and we will be off in the right direction," said Samuel, who added that there were some issues that the individual islands would want to handle since each had its own special wishes.

The three islands agreed that it is necessary to work together on a number of areas, such as health care and the referral of patients to each other's hospitals. "That is a given." Cooperation is also necessary for patients from St. Eustatius and Saba, said Samuel.

Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten can benefit from increased trade between the islands. Economic benefits are also to be had from making more use of the embassies of the Kingdom in the Caribbean and Latin America by stationing representatives from the islands there.

Samuel stressed that the St. Maarten delegation came to The Netherlands to cooperate, not to beg, as Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) implied in Saturday's edition of The Daily Herald. Van Raak criticised the US $10,000 salary of Members of St. Maarten's Parliament, an amount that he called "exorbitant."

Samuel explained that contrary to Members of the Second Chamber, Members of

St. Maarten's Parliament have no legal support staff to help with the drafting of law proposals and to give legal advice. "The members pay that out of our own pocket." He said it was "not good" that Van Raak had made these remarks on the eve of joint meetings of the four Parliaments.

President of Curaçao's Parliament Mike Franco was very positive about the pre-meetings with Aruba and St. Maarten and he was also optimistic about the IPOK. "We came with a positive attitude, with coherence and a symbiotic approach that will benefit us all," he said.

Transport will be one of the important issues for Curaçao, that is traffic between the islands and to The Netherlands, but also maritime traffic. He gave fisheries as an example. The new, stricter rules that are being imposed since Bonaire became a Dutch public entity that Curaçao fishermen have to comply with to assist their colleagues in Bonaire are not beneficial for neither Curaçao nor Bonaire, he said.

"Fishing between the islands is a cultural thing. Fishermen are very close, like family and those relations are being severed by bureaucracy. It obstructs age-old practices," said Chairman of the Kingdom Relations Committee of Curaçao's Parliament Helmin Wiels.

"Dutch people don't understand our culture. They make laws and regulations without any understanding of our culture. In my opinion, laws are a cultural phenomenon that should be adapted to local circumstances," said Wiels.

According to Wiels the Dutch have no comprehension for the local situation in

St. Eustatius and Saba either. He said that people in St. Eustatius were "very right" to demand a new constitutional referendum. "St. Eustatius has a rock solid case. International laws and treaties are supreme and very clear on the right of self determination."

Acting Chairman of the Aruba Parliament Chris Dammers said Aruba was all for solid relations between the islands and better cooperation in the Kingdom. "We can learn a lot from each other, share our experiences and know-how. Together we can get much further, together we are stronger. We came with a dose of optimism," he said.

Sustainable energy is an important agenda point for Aruba. Dammers hoped the Parliaments could come up with ideas to realise more cooperation in this area and to inspire the governments of the countries to work together. He said that for example the countries could agree to buy products for sustainable energy in bulk. "You get a better price by doing things together," he said

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