Faction leaders open talks with Donner, Leers on Kingdom, Immigration policy

POSTED: 04/4/11 12:11 PM

St. Maarten – Faction leaders in Parliament opened informal talks with Dutch Minister of Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner Sunday afternoon on a new vision for the Kingdom and with the Dutch Minister of Immigration and Integration Geert Leers on immigration and free movement in the Kingdom. Both men are clear that their policy is to first consult the countries and jointly define a way forward instead of “issuing directives from the Hague.”

All faction leaders with the exception of the National Alliance leader William Marlin were present at the gathering. Marlin sent formal communication that he could not attend. MPs and the visiting Ministers called the meeting fruitful, open, very important, a good starting point and very cordial.

President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell said factions were truly able to put forward their positions and that while they had agreed to be party to continued talks, they’ve pointed out they’ll wait for the Dutch government to put their draft policy papers on table.

“We welcome the consultation, but seeing as these will be initiatives of the Dutch we will await the policy paper from the Dutch government and when we receive that we will continue to be partners in the discussion,” Arrindell said.

Faction leader of the United People’s Party Romain Laville used the opportunity of the meeting as a chance to state that whatever final documents are developed should not be a one size fits all.

“In the past many things were forced and a I used the analogy of a shoe, where while Curacao has a shoe size of 12, St. Maarten has a shoe size of nine and Saba is a size three etc. but still many things were forced and that made St. Maarten feel like it was not truly part of the Kingdom. We now have an opportunity to gain a better relationship,” Laville said.

Faction leader of the Democratic Party Roy Marlin said Minister Donner told the meeting that it was also his vision that the discussions on the Kingdom create more benefits for the people and that parties should now seek opportunities to give content to that.

“This is a good starting point as we both realize that it must be about the people as we give substance to the Kingdom,” Marlin said.

Independent Member of Parliament Patrick Illidge, who is also 2nd Vice President of Parliament, said he encourages the talks about the future relationship, but urged parties to look at the relationship of the past for the lessons that must be learned.

Donner called Sunday’s informal discussions a chance for him and his colleague to get the views of Parliament on their two policy papers.

At the end of the meeting he said, “The discussions were fruitful and productive without being very precise.”

Leers added that he appreciated the open atmosphere of the discussions and requested that parties “make a new start.”

“We are looking to regulate people coming in as well as the transit in the Kingdom. I take away from today’s discussion that we really need to work on people coming in. We are truly not looking at issuing directives because we believe we must look at these issues together. One area that is of concern to us all is that of smuggling and trafficking,” Leers said.

Both Ministers also received a tour of the new Parliament Building and signed the guest book. They were generally impressed with the facility and also spoke highly of the Dr. A.C. Wathey Cruise and Cargo facilities, which they now understand is a key part of the island’s economy, especially where it comes to the cruise industry.

“There is an extremely high quality of infrastructure at that facility,” Donner and Leers jointly said.


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