D66-leader Alexander Pechtold: “Interest Dutch politicians in St. Maarten is zero”

POSTED: 10/19/11 6:54 PM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – “The interest in St. Maarten from Dutch politicians is zero,” former Kingdom Relations Minister and current D66-leader Alexander Pechtold told The Today Newspaper during a dinner party at the Sheer restaurant on Monday evening. Yesterday the delegation of Dutch faction-leaders left for Curacao, an island that is a notch higher on the Dutch political radar.
Pechtold said that solving integrity issues is up to the autonomous countries in the Kingdom first, before the Kingdom Council of Ministers invokes article 43 of the Charter.
Other faction leaders, like GreenLeft’s Jolande Sap, said that the chance that the Kingdom government will invoke article 43 in Curacao is minimal. In general, the sentiment among the faction leaders is that the cure would be worse than the disease.
VVD-leader Stef Blok and Labor Party leader Job Cohen remained non-committal about putting article 43 to work in Curacao.
“We’ll see what will happen,” Blok said.
Cohen simply stated: “I don’t know.”
Pechtold said that Socialist Party MP Ronald Van Raak blames him for the problems in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, because he was instrumental to the constitutional reform process that gave Curacao and St. Maarten their autonomy and made the BES-islands Dutch public entities.
“Too often, Pechtold said, “politicians from the Freedom Party and the Socialist Party make statements in parliament about the islands that I call the luxury of judging by never having been here.”
Assessing the value of the trip to St. Maarten, Pechtold said that it is “good to see the changes, the good ones and the bad ones.” He pointed out that apart from himself, none of the other faction leaders has ever visited the island.
The eight or nine members of the Dutch Parliament that have the Caribbean in their portfolio “are not the ones with the most political influence,” Pechtold said.
“They are the back benchers. To have six faction leaders here who see with their own eyes what is going on is important for future debates.”
One year after the constitutional change, St. Maarten is in transition, Pechtold said. “Look at the fifty years or so that have passed since the Kingdom Charter was signed. It was a post-colonial system whereby six islands were seen as a unity. But with Willemstad 900 kilometers away, that is of course an impossible situation for good governance.”
Pechtold said that he is not judging everything he sees.
“Prime Minister Rutte was here a couple of years ago for three hours and he knew immediately who to blame. I don’t think that is wise.”
Cohen said on Monday that what impressed him most was the visit to the parliament building. “The local politicians showed pride in what has been achieved so far.”
Jolande Sap noted though that there are concerns about St. Maarten. She referred to environmental issues and the traffic situation, and especially to the position of children in St. Maarten. The island needs to develop initiatives to offer children perspective, she said.
In general, the faction-leaders shared the opinion that the visit to St. Maarten had been useful, in the sense that it gave them first-hand experience with the local situation.
“It is good to follow the developments here,” Sap said, though she made clear that the involvement of the Dutch Parliament with local issues will be limited. As far as integrity issues is concerned, St. Maarten is very much on its own. “Solving those issues is in the first place the responsibility of St. Maarten,” Sap said.
The same goes for Curacao. Invoking article 43, which would give the Kingdom government the authority to intervene and set the Schotte-cabinet aside. “But the people must make clear what they want,” Sap said. “They elected this government.”
Alexander Pechtold said it is unwise for politicians in Curacao to use terms like war. “I don’t understand why some of them don’t want to learn from the past. It is very important that reports like the one from Rosenmöller get a follow-up. That is of a great value for a democracy. Not wanting that follow-up is not wise.”
During the dinner at Sheer there was time for a light moment as well, when Pechtold announced that in a few hours time Job Cohen would mark his 64th birthday. Dutch and local politicians and other dinner guests treated the Labor Party leader to a boisterous birthday song.
Second Chamber chair Gerdi Verbeet held a brief dinner speech to thank her counterpart Gracita Arrindell. Remarkably, Verbeet said that the delegation had learned during its visit that “St. Maarten is doing well.”
Yesterday morning the delegation packed up at the Holland House for the trip to Curacao. The volatile atmosphere in Curacao did not deter Pechtold. “I am looking forward to see people like Cooper and Godett again. They all know me. It’s an adventure for me.”

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D66-leader Alexander Pechtold: “Interest Dutch politicians in St. Maarten is zero” by

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