September 21, 2012 9:22 AM
PHILIPSBURG - The "peculiarity" of St. Maarten as it relates to the limited use of the Dutch language in the community will be among points Members of Parliament (MPs) are expected to raise in their correspondence with the Dutch Parliament's Second Chamber about pending changes to the kingdom law regulating nationality and naturalisation.
The draft law was handled in Parliament's Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations and Inter-Parliamentary Affairs on Thursday. The new changes call for, among others, to remove the possibility to have dual nationality and require a "public conduct certificate" for youngsters aged 12 to 15 who want to be naturalised. Changes also pertain to increasing the number of years certain nationalities would have to reside in the kingdom before they can apply to be naturalised (in some cases from five years to ten).
The law also regulates the level of Dutch applicants must know to speak, read and write.
The draft law has been forwarded to Justice Minister Roland Duncan for his comments on the pending change. MPs will take their cue from him about how to proceed. They are expected to add their own comments.
Permanent Committee Chairman MP Roy Marlin (Democratic Party) said the requirements for the Dutch language would make it difficult for people who have been living here for years but were never exposed to the Dutch language. He said the only place procedures are in Dutch is government and even from government, in many instances, answers to questions for the public are in English. This is the "peculiarity" of St. Maarten.
People who have migrated to The Netherlands have an advantage with the Dutch language requirement. They are immersed in the language from the beginning, Marlin said. He added that the difficulties with the language would also extend to immigrants from Latin America living on Aruba and Curaçao.
MP George Pantophlet (National Alliance) said it was important to call Duncan to Parliament to have a discussion on the draft amendments. He said there is also concern in the community about the criteria to be naturalised. He noted that there was much concern about the level of Dutch applicants would need to know.
On the proposal to approve a Kingdom Law related to the Treaty of Athens on transportation of passengers and their luggage, MPs will research the impact of the treaty on the country's tourism industry and seek the input of the Transportation Minister as well as a legal opinion from St. Maarten Harbour Group of Companies.
The committee also dealt with a number of other treaties and draft laws.
Other committee members present for the meeting were MPs Patrick Illidge and Frans Richardson. Absent were committee member MPs Romain Laville (independent) and Dr. Ruth Douglass (UP).
MPs Jules James and Johan Leonard of UP, though not committee members, were also at the meeting as it was open to all MPs who wanted to attend.
(The Daily Herald)