Published On: Wed, May 30th, 2018

Parliaments strive for greater comprehension

IPKO1THE HAGUE - The Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPKO was officially opened in The Hague on Tuesday with the usual words about the need for more cooperation and understanding within the Kingdom. This time there was a unanimous call on the Dutch government to move on with the law proposal to establish a Dispute Regulation for the Kingdom.

Chairperson of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ankie Broekers-Knol, who hosted the opening at the Senate, and delegation leaders Ady Thijsen of Aruba, William Millerson of Curaçao and Sarah Wescot-Williams of St. Maarten all referred to the long time it has been taking to get the Dispute Regulation (“geschillenregeling”) off the ground.

“Much to the frustration of us all, eight years after we jointly decided that we needed a Dispute Regulation, it still hasn’t been achieved. It is high time that the Dutch government presents a law proposal,” said Broekers-Knol, who called on all four Parliaments to play their roles in this matter. She warned not to have “exaggerated expectations” of the law proposal.

Chairperson of the Senate’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Ruard Ganzevoort put it plainly: “Yes, the Dispute Regulation should have been there already, and yes, it is a complex matter. It is taking too long. We all find it of great importance that it gets done.”

Ganzevoort said the Dutch Parliament too was surprised by Undersecretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops’ statement in the media that the law proposal, drafted by the Dutch government in 2016, had been parked for now because there were other priorities, mainly the reconstruction of the Windward Islands after last year’s devastating hurricanes.

“We can understand that the reconstruction has the priority, but that doesn’t mean that nothing else can be done,” Ganzevoort said.

In the meantime, Knops has taken back this statement, confirmed Ganzevoort and Dutch delegation leader Alexander Pechtold during Tuesday’s meeting. Pechtold said it had been decided during the Presidium meeting shortly before the opening to ask the Knops clarification in writing so the Parliaments can deal with this matter accordingly in the setting of the IPKO.

Pechtold did not hide his disappointment about the time the matter of the Dispute Regulation has been taking. “It is a long history. Much to our dismay, we have had to conclude that our government has not made any progress on this matter. The state secretary’s words that this was less of a priority quite naturally caused commotion in the countries overseas. I have to say that we too were unpleasantly surprised,” said Pechtold.

Knops sent a short letter to the Parliaments during the course of the day, in which he announced that the Dutch government planned to submit the proposal for the Kingdom Law on Kingdom Disputes to the Second Chamber before the end of this year.

“I look forward to the exchange of thoughts that we will undoubtedly have on this issue on both sides of the ocean. Don’t let that diminish the focus on tackling a number of urgent matters such as tenable finances, St. Maarten’s reconstruction and practical cooperation aimed at making use of economic opportunities,” stated Knops in his letter.


Roy Marlin observed

At the start of the plenary session after the official opening, Pechtold called on the delegations to observe a minute of silence for the late St. Maarten politician Roy Marlin, who had attended several IPKO meetings in the past. “We had come to know him as an involved, constructive, realistic and amicable man. We wish the St. Maarten delegation much strength with this loss,” said Pechtold.

Wescot-Williams noted in her opening remarks that a great task lies ahead for the St. Maarten Parliament in relation to the island’s reconstruction and the associated financial challenge. She said the IPKO has proved to be a good platform to discuss subjects of mutual interest and to take a position on these topics. She lauded the visit of the IPKO delegations to a waste-management facility in the Netherlands on Thursday.

“It is no secret that St. Maarten has been struggling with the waste issue and we hope to get valuable input from this visit,” she said.

Millerson of Curaçao took a hard look at the relations between the Dutch Caribbean islands and the Netherlands. He said space and comprehension for the small scale of the islands were needed, and space to operate within the Kingdom on an equal footing.

According to Millerson, more attention for the Kingdom in the schools would help to foster more comprehension among the children on both sides of the ocean. He further mentioned that with the current economic malaise, Curaçao could surely use the support of the other countries in the Kingdom.

Thijsen of Aruba addressed the financial reform of the new government to reduce the country’s enormous debt and to limit the budget deficit. The financial predicament, along with the crisis in Venezuela which affects Aruba and has shown the country’s vulnerability to this situation, merits the attention of the Kingdom.

“We hope to constructively talk about these challenges. The climate of general interest should prevail. We need to have this discussion without loss of our own identity and a sustainable relationship based on equality. Together, we need to tackle the common issues. Together, we have to work for a prosperous Kingdom based not on inferiority, but on equality,” said Thijsen.

Hurricane destruction

The Senate’s Chairperson Broekers-Knol mentioned St. Maarten and the hurricanes at the start of her address.

“The destruction and pain that Hurricane Irma caused will remain forever in our memory. The reconstruction has started after the first months of emergency aid. The resilience that the people have shown is impressive. Unfortunately, that resilience will again be under pressure with a new hurricane season on the doorstep. Many homes are not ready as yet and the heap of rubbish is not completely under control. There is still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

She also referred to the intervention of the Dutch government in St. Eustatius in February this year, a measure that had the support of the First and Second Chambers. “Intervention is a severe measure, but it was legitimate and necessary. The St. Eustatius people could no longer be the victims of the situation in government. But also in this case, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and the timeframe during which the local democracy is deactivated should be as short as possible,” she said.

After the official opening, the chairpersons of the Kingdom Relations Committees of the four Parliaments provided updates on the status of affairs in their respective countries. Senator Ruard Ganzevoort brought up St. Eustatius and the Dutch intervention. “We were very much aware of the fact that this was one of the most drastic measures. But it was necessary. We are glad to see that things have quieted down and that things are improving for the people, because that is what ultimately counts,” he said.

Increased poverty

Member of Parliament (MP) Ana-Maria Pauletta of Curaçao described the deteriorated economic situation and the increase in poverty. About 25 per cent of the population is now living under the poverty threshold. The Curaçao government is trying to tackle this through an integral plan. She also said that an estimated 15,000 undocumented persons were living in Curaçao, which presents a problem for society.

MP Rocco Tjon of Aruba spoke of the enormous pressure of the country’s financial crisis and the social challenges on the population. He said the exercise to improve the financial situation should not lead to deterioration of the social situation. “We need to repair the social fabric. Citizens should not become duped by government’s policy and management,” he said.

MP Silveria Jacobs gave a detailed presentation about the recent developments at the St. Maarten Parliament and the process of reconstruction. She said that so far St. Maarten would not receive budget support for 2018, which she said was cause for severe concern in light of providing the necessary services for the people. “We are seriously worried about how we will make it.” She said Parliament had approved the 2018 budget under heavy pressure from the Kingdom Government.

St. Maarten Trust Fund

Jacobs said the focus was now on preparation for the 2018 hurricane season, which is only days away. She spoke of the St. Maarten Trust Fund and the disaster preparedness projects being executed under a fast-track procedure. These include, among other things, repairs to the police station, the schools and the hurricane shelters, equipment for the Fire and Ambulance Departments, clean-up of shipwrecks, debris removal, solid-waste management and urgent roof repairs.

An interim recovery committee, under the leadership of Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin, is coordinating the projects pending the establishing of the National Recovery Programme Bureau. “St. Maarten has been dealt a very severe blow, but we continue to improve through the hard work of our people,” she said.

The IPKO continues today, Wednesday, with deliberations about the electoral systems within the Kingdom, the Dispute Regulation, the situation in Venezuela and human rights in the judicial system.

Click Tag(s) for Related Articles: