On our way to new countries

With the signing of the Conclusions of the Test-Round Table Conference (T-RTC) at the naval base in Parera yesterday, all Kingdom parts approved the result of the draft-phase for the political changes in the Kingdom. Next is the implementation-phase, with which the concrete status of the several islands and new countries must gradually become reality.


Striking was that the participants in the T-RTC came to terms in just two hours: even the press conference that followed the signing seemed to have taken longer – definitely when the representatives of the islands constantly said about the same.

“This is an important day”, called Prime Minister Peter Balkenende the tone at the beginning of the press conference yesterday. He emphasized that no matter how abstract the indication ‘political relations in the Kingdom’ may sound, it’s about people and their future. He regrets the fact though that for safety reasons, the T-RTC couldn’t take place in the World Trade Center. “What we need now is a mature debate without threatening each other and demonstrations with the Star of David”, said the chairman of the T-RTC with some indignation in his voice. “There are still other arrangements to be made. We’re not there yet. But we’ve taken a good step today. We will now start a new process – the process of the implementation and there is a lot at stake: the debt restructuring, good financial management, and maintenance of law and order for example. We’re not done yet, we will continue.”
Balkenende said a little later that not all the parties “are of the same opinion yet” about the subjects and interpretation. It means that an exchange of thoughts is necessary later. For example the question, which institutes of the maintenance of law and order are passed over. “There is no conclusion reached on that yet.”

On the question what his opinion is on the possible consequences for Curacao in the event of a ‘NO’ result in the referendum of April 2009, he shook his head and said: “Curacao will shoot herself in the foot with a ‘No’. One must realize that a choice for ‘stop the matter’ won’t help any, considering what is needed in the healthcare, the employment, etc.” For one moment he even seemed to get annoyed when the questions continue on that particular issue. “The speculations on ‘No’ need to stop! What is best for Curaçao? Why have we followed this process? That was in accordance to what the people wanted and everything is until now based on decisions taken democratically.”

Balkenende said straightforward that the Netherlands ‘will not let the BES-islands down if Curaçao would come with a ‘No’ in April’s referendum next year. The representatives of the BES-islands gave him a thunderous applause after he said that. It is clear that a vast majority in Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba would like to become a special municipality of the Netherlands as soon as possible. Like their individual representatives indicated, they see this as the most reliable way to guarantee the healthcare, the safety, and the education for their people.

The opening of regional service centers, which takes place in Bonaire today, in Saba tomorrow, and in St.Eustatius on Thursday, is according to the BES-islands a tangible proof that the Netherlands will give matters like education, public health, safety, social security, and also youth and family sufficient attention. The idea was at first to only open one service center in Bonaire, and the other two islands would be serviced from this service center. “We objected that”, indicated the commissioner from Saba, Christopher ‘Chris’ Johnson (Constitutional Affairs, WIPM) when asked. “We made it clear that if we are going to create a second Antilles, Saba will bail out. But fortunately, three service centers are now going to be opened.”

St. Eustatius went even this far with her appreciation for the understanding and the willingness of state secretary Ank Bijleveld-Schouten (Kingdom Relations, CDA) that the island proposes to declare Bijleveld ‘Women of the Year 2008’.
Statia hopes that the fellowship between the islands continues and will take further shape in cooperation agreements. “The Netherlands will have to assume the check that goes with such cooperation, because we do not have money”, said Commissioner Julian Woodley (Constitutional Affairs, DP) – to the amusement of those present.

Also the Aruban Prime Minister Nelson Oduber bursted out laughing on the question whether there is no restriction at all with the signing of the conclusions – also not regarding the seat of the Common Court for the Leeward Caribbean Kingdom parts.
“Aruba won’t leave any stone standing on the path of the other islands towards their fortune. Like in November of 2005, we are here to support the other islands. We are very happy that they made this headway in three years time. Look how certain goals that we already had 23 years ago with our status aparte are also relevant now.
We are pleased that the new Charter is going to include more countries: after Aruba, also Curacao, St. Maarten, the BES-islands as special municipalities of the Netherlands, and also the Netherlands.”
Without losing his good humour, Oduber added more seriously: “Regarding the other entities, we are nice but not naïve. We would like to hear from the State Council what the Netherlands’ argumentation was to be against the seat of the Court in Aruba. Don’t forget: love and affection go both ways.”

(Source: National newspaper Amigoe)

16 December, 2008


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