Senate invites Donner for debate on smaller islands

THE HAGUE--Concerned about the effects of new legislation on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the First Chamber has invited Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner for a debate on developments on the islands.

Chairwoman of the Senate's Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Marijke Linthorst sent a letter to the Minister last week inviting him, on behalf of the committee, for a meeting that should take place in the near future, sometime after Parliament's May recess.

According to Linthorst, the government department Caribbean Netherlands, Rijksdienst Caribisch Nederland RCN, which acts as a central point, fails to coordinate between the different Dutch ministries when there are conflicting interests between these departments. "RCN is not authorised to take decisions. This results in stagnation in the execution. In turn, this leads to concerns among the population on the islands," stated Linthorst in her letter.

The Senate also noted that the island governments are having a hard time to bring their issues to the attention of the ministries in The Hague. "Minister Donner said that the responsibility lies with the individual ministers and the ministries. But the Ministry of Education tells the islands that they should go to the Ministry of Social Affairs which then sends them back to Education. The islands are between a rock and a hard place," said Linthorst in an interview.

The Senate's Committee has expressed its concerns about the issue of responsibility for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba since the islands became part of the Netherlands as 'public entities' per October 10, 2010 and decided that it would keep the islands under its wings. The Second Chamber Kingdom Relations Committee, on the other hand, transferred the responsibility for the three islands to the committees that specifically deal with the individual portfolios.

"People pretend that the constitutional restructuring process was completed with the implementation of the legislation per October 10, 2010. That is a wrong assumption because that is when the actual work for the three islands started. Implementation plans are lacking and things are moving too fast," said Linthorst.

In the interview, Linthorst also said that the committee wants to involve Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the meeting with the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands which will take place in The Hague mid-June.

"We will, in any case, ask the islands whether they have specific issues that they would like to see addressed in the meeting. But we will also look into the possibility of allowing a representative of the islands to participate in the meeting. As Dutch Parliamentarians we represent the residents of the islands, but we don't know all that happens there," said Linthorst.

The Senate still has to discuss its proposal to involve Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in the Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom with the Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber. But Linthorst didn't think there would be any objections.

The islands cannot claim a formal role in the meeting, but their representatives can be added to the Dutch delegation as advisors, said Linthorst. "It is up to them whether they would want this, but we would appreciate their participation."

26 April 2011

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