MPs say yes to continuing cooperation with the other three Parliaments in the Dutch KingdomPOSTED: 04/14/11 11:43 AM
Unity, preparation stressed
St. Maarten – Members of Parliament on and off the permanent Committee on Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary Relations see a need to continue meeting with their colleagues from the other three Parliaments in the Kingdom and have identified several concrete areas where the relationship can be improved. The MPs made their position clear on Wednesday as they begun handling of a draft joint position paper that will be jointly presented by the Parliaments of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten at the next parliamentary consultation of the kingdom (POK) which will be held in the Netherlands beginning on June 13.
The draft document before the MPs was drafted by the Chairman of the permanent committee of Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary relations of the Aruban Parliament, based on an agreement made in January. St. Maarten and Curacao have been asked to comment and the document will be filled in further based on their contributions.
Speakers at Wednesday’s meeting concur that the continuation of the meetings between the four Parliaments – that of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten – is important. They also concur that good preparation and unity must be key guiding principles.
United People’s Party MP Dr. Ruth Douglas who sits in the Committee on Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary relations was touched by the draft position papers call for good preparation and stressed that good preparation was the means to accomplish good teamwork by members of the delegation.
Fellow United People’s (UP) Party MP Johan Leonard is convinced that building unity and consensus among MPS here must come before the parliament can seek to work with their colleagues from the other parts of the kingdom.
“I think we should start building relationships within. We need to achieve one voice. If some of us are out there stating that we want new elections, how do you think people outside will see us? If we don’t go with one voice, we might as well stay at home and play marbles,” Leonard said
National Alliance faction leader William Marlin, who also sits on the committee, also stressed unity saying that he’d seen how past delegations of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba were divided at previous meetings based on factional interests. He also pointed out that there may be a challenge, especially where the Dutch parliament is concerned, with MPs referring especially policy issues to the government of their country.
“Contact is always good to have and is very important. I think we did not always make sufficient use of the opportunity. It is also important to understand that all politics is local and sometimes you may meet with Dutch politicians and believe that they are St. Maarten’s best buddy, but the moment there is a microphone, or they see a camera then all politics is local and because they oppose the government they will find reasons to not support your position,” W. Marlin said.
Preparation for the meetings is also very important for Dr. Lloyd Richardson who is also of the National Alliance faction. Seeking partnership with the other parliaments in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom – Aruba and Curacao – was also listed as priorities.
“There should be consultation so there can be support for national issues specifically related to St. Maarten, for which we could use support. We must also use this to seek reciprocity. We must also take care that we do good research and that we are well prepared and that whoever is chosen to represent us will be able to do in their language, because we’ll be on their turf,” Richardson said.
President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell is chief among those who believes that there is cause to continue with the meetings every six months as it presents an opportunity for new relationships between the parliaments. She was the first of the members at Wednesday’s meeting to suggest using the consultations case on salient issues.
“We can use this opportunity to put aside the negative impressions of this gathering that were there in the past and we can also use it to make our case on things that we believe,” Arrindell said.
Second Vice President of Parliament and Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge agrees with that position.
He said, “We must strengthen the relationships to give a clear vision of St. Maarten and its people. We also have to ensure that it’s understood that it’s not always about the money, but that it’s also about the communication.”
Committee Chairman Roy Marlin also believes strongly that gatherings with Dutch MPs should be used to give them more information about the island and the issues at play here. One concrete thing he’d like MPs to consider is a mission to the Netherlands two to three days before the June 13 meeting to meet with factions on the Kingdom Relations Committee of the Dutch First and Second Chamber.
“I really think we should try to use these meetings to build the image of St. Maarten, no matter if MPs in the Netherlands still say negative things. We should still try so that no one will ever be able to tell us we did not do a good job of image building,” R. Marlin said.
Leonard gave the idea immediate support.
“We should definitely begin any trip to Holland by meeting with the people responsible for Kingdom Relations and then with others who can help us with other issues,” Leonard said.
In general parliament’s advisor on Kingdom Relations Marcel Gumbs, who is a former member of the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles, said he’d always found the contact plan meetings fruitful, even though there had been some negatives. He too stressed that delegations must be well prepared and urged them to copy a model of using spokespersons on issues. This move has been used by the Aruban delegation at previous meetings.
“I think you should also ensure that your position is recorded well in the final declaration that comes from the meeting,” Gumbs added.
The former MP is unsure that a lobby mission ahead of the first parliamentary gathering is a good idea and urged MPs to proceed with caution. Though he advised that factions attempt to build consensus along political lines, Gumbs was clear in stating his belief that the current political atmosphere in the Netherlands does not provide fertile ground for seeking cooperation.