Dutch MP van Laar wants strong commissioner for the BES-islands

POSTED: 04/15/14 1:22 AM

THE HAGUE – The Netherlands must send a fully-fledged Queen’s Commissioner to replace the current supervisor to the Caribbean islands Bonaire, Saba and Statia. The current system with a Dutch representative does not function, says PvdA-parliamentarian Roelof van Laar. He pleaded yesterday for a Commissioner for Caribbean Netherlands, comparable to the Queen’s Commissioner in Dutch provinces. This functionary will have to decide up to what point the Kingdom should interfere with the islands. “Right now every ministry is doing its own thing,” NRC Handelsblad quoted Van Laar yesterday.

The dysfunction of Wilbert Stolte, the current Dutch Representative for the BES-islands is not the cause for Van Laar’s plea, but it is the reason for it. Van Laar: “Stolte especially did not function well personally, but the position of the Dutch Representative has turned out to be not good either.”

Several times, Stolte was at the center of controversy. At the end of this month, he is forced to leave his post early. That creates an opportunity to change not only the person, but also the function, Van Laar says. His opinion goes against the plans the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations – fellow-party member Ronald Plasterk – has for the Caribbean islands. He wants to let the liaisons of all ministries function independently from each other.

“I can well imagine that the ministers in this cabinet all want to keep their own connections there, but that goes against the will of the parliament. We are against that. It also goes against the needs of the people over there,” Van Laar says.

Coalition partner VVD is also of the opinion that the Dutch Representative on the islands must have more competencies, especially for decisions about which projects from the Netherlands will be – or won’t be – executed. “But whether someone like that is called a Dutch Representative or a Queen’s Commissioner, that does not interest me at all,” VVD-MP Pieter Litjens says.

The function of Dutch Representative for the BES-islands was created in 2010 after the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles. The islands became Dutch public entities – comparable to municipalities – without belonging to one particular province. Members of Parliament visited the island in January. They saw that a lot of things the Netherlands wants to achieve are not functioning, or missing a connection with the local population.

Van Laar: “The Netherlands has decided that the hospital in Curacao is inadequate, so now serious cases have to be flown out to Colombia. Medical care might be better there but people do not want to travel far to a country where they do not speak the language.”

Van Laar encountered many fragmented projects that want to impose Dutch wishes onto the Caribbean reality. A strong commissioner for the islands must make sure that The Hague gets less say in what is important for the region.

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