Aruba and St. Maarten solidify relationship

THE HAGUE--St. Maarten and Aruba have solidified their bonds as countries in the Dutch Kingdom. A St. Maarten flag was placed at the Aruba House Wednesday and the islands promised full cooperation in their actions in the Netherlands.

St. Maarten Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams visited the Aruba House on Wednesday, and introduced "her" Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Mathias Voges and incoming Member of the Council of State Dennis Richardson.

Aruba's Minister Plenipotentiary Edwin Abath reemphasised the "traditional and historical links" between the two islands. He referred to the people of Aruba, St. Maarten and Curaçao as "brothers and sisters."

Based on their shared history and mutual relations, Aruba and St. Maarten should show that they stand united in the best interest of their people. "Our people gave us the task to prepare a new future for them," said Abath.

Abath said the countries were facing "challenging times," but added that Aruba would stand at St. Maarten's side. "You can count on our support and we also expect your support. Cooperation is key in The Hague," he said.

Abath looked back at the "arduous" process through which Aruba had to go before it became a country within the Kingdom in 1986. He said separate status had come "naturally" to the people after a long and hard fight.

Wescot-Williams, obviously inspired by the support she received from the Curaçao House during her visit Tuesday and again at the Aruba House on Wednesday, said she was even more convinced that the new constitutional relations would result in closer ties between the Caribbean partners of the Kingdom.

About St. Maarten's relations with both Curaçao and Aruba, she said the bond was "long and strong indeed." The major difference in the current relations was the fact that the relations were now based on equality, with the Netherlands Antilles having been dismantled and St. Maarten and Curaçao having become countries within the Kingdom.

Wescot-Williams agreed with Abath that being a country meant facing many challenges. "Will it be easy? Absolutely not. Nobody said it would. The new status brings along new responsibilities, but also opportunities. We will face the challenges as they occur. But I have an unrelenting belief in our people. It is only when things get really tough that our true nature comes out," she said.

A lot of work lies ahead for the Ministers Plenipotentiary of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten to defend the interests of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, said Wescot-Williams. "We want to establish our mark in The Hague. The Caribbean side is coming together in a serious way, something that we have been longing for for a long time," she said.

Voges said he was inspired by Wescot-Williams' words. "She has a message and that is to join hands and work in the interest of our islands." About the role of the Netherlands as largest country in the Kingdom and the power of The Hague, Voges said: "Things can't only go one way, it also has to go our way."

After the speeches, Wescot-Williams officially handed over the St. Maarten flag to Minister Plenipotentiary Abath. Together they tied the flag to the pole in the Betico Croes room, next to the Dutch, Aruba and Curaçao flag.

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