Fierce debate during charter discussion leads to premature adjournment

POSTED: 01/12/12 4:09 PM

Curacao takes aim at The Netherlands, while Arubans argue amongst themselves


MPs attending the Inter-parliamentary Consultation on the Kingdom had a slow start to their day on Wednesday. The Dutch and Aruban delegation turned out in full force from the start, but the members of the delegation from St. Maarten and Curacao trickled in as the day went along. St. Maarten’s delegation peaked out at nine MPs, while six others did not attend.

St. Maarten – Wednesday’s discussions between the four parliaments of the Kingdom was terminated prematurely because of the heated and emotional statements delegation members were tossing at representatives from both other countries and from their own. Opposition parties and governing parties openly disagreed with one another and particular members of the Dutch delegation also drew the ire of MPs from Aruba and Curacao. One of the central points in the heated discussion with the Dutch delegation was the matter of independence for Curacao.

The discussion should have focused on the Kingdom Charter, but speakers injected their position on Kingdom Laws and the guarantee function that the Kingdom Government has even though those were separate agenda points. Things were cordial during the opening remarks of each delegation on the subject, but went south at the first mention of the guarantee function by VVD MP Andre Bosman.

“The Netherlands functions with the responsibility for the guarantee function. So while each country is responsible for its affairs the Netherlands must be co-responsible because it represents the interests of the islands and it has the liability when it submits the position of the Kingdom. I consider responsibility and liability a package deal,” Bosman said.

Bosman got support from VVD Senator Frank van Kappen who pointed that he respects that every country is the first party responsible for their affairs, but there is also a need to accept that a choice – up to now – has been made to stay together. Van Kappen was also the first to point out that the Netherlands is in the unfair position where it cannot leave the Kingdom, while that option is offered to Curacao and St. Maarten.

PVV MP Eric Lucassen also picked on that point and said, “We continuously hear about equality, but is it equality that all the other countries can leave the Kingdom and we – the Netherlands – cannot.”

SP MP Ronald van Raak also mentioned the guarantee function when he said, “I hope that we can keep the Kingdom. We (the Netherlands) have a guarantee function. I don’t want that responsibility, but I have it.”

That Aruba’s Parliament is committed to the Kingdom and the Charter is clear from the position paper presented by Chairman of Aruba’s Committee on Inter-parliamentary Affairs and Kingdom Relations Rene Herde. He believes that the countries must use the possibilities in the charter to assist in their development and find new ways to cooperate.

“We see continued cooperation with the charter as the basis. The possibilities under the charter have not been exhausted,” Herde said.

Chairman of Curacao’s Committee on Inter-parliamentary Affairs and Kingdom Relations Glen Thode sees protection for each country in the Charter and a means for all partners to advance their collective interests. He also stressed that the charter should be used as an “instrument of emancipation.”

This tone was picked up by Pueblo Soberano leader Helmin Wiels, President of Parliament Ivar Asjes and MAN MP Eunice Eisden. Wiels and Asjes both stressed a belief that the Charter as it stands and the way it is being interpreted does not meet international standards on decolonization. Asjes also stressed that the autonomy Curacao had received was not in line with what was expected.

“That autonomy is one where Curacao has its own Central Bank and no consensus Kingdom laws,” Asjes said.

Wiels added, “Van Raak should not say anything about any referendum until he reads international treaties and agreements on self determination and decolonization.”

Eisden concludes, “The charter gives us the chance to develop and work on our emancipation and this gets too little attention.”

Van Raak was critical in his reply and questioned the Curacao delegation on whether or not they are willing to conform to the agreements in the charter or not.

“If not have a referendum with independence as an option and see how the people feel,” the SP MP said.

Delegation in-fighting

The matter of the charter also inspired a bit of infighting in the Aruban camp as Juan (Adi) Thijsen accused the governing AVP faction of pressing ahead with independence. This as he called for Aruba to deepen how it participates in debates in the Second Chamber.

“We want to think along and work along and we must stay constant in our interpretation of the charter,” Thijsen said.

AVP MP Juan David Yrasquin said the assertion about independence is not true and that Aruba’s official position is that it wants to continue within the Kingdom.

“We believe this charter can carry us forward. We don’t believe in independence. We want to continue in the Kingdom,” Yrasquin said.

St. Maarten’s contribution to the discussion on the charter was minimal, with only one intervention by chairman of parliament’s permanent committee on Inter-parliamentary Affairs and Kingdom Relations Roy Marlin.

“We must work together more on international agreements as a means of reducing the democratic deficit,” the committee chairman said.

Focus

President of Parliament drs Gracita Arrindell attempted to keep the discussions focused, getting aid at one moment from D66 MP Wassila Haachi.

“I want to use our time and energy to discuss cooperation,” she said.

CDA Senator Sophie Bijsterveld also placed emphasis on the specific point of the charter by saying, “In my opinion we must stimulate autonomy on the islands, while the guarantees are maintained. People can think differently in our Kingdom and there should be space for that.”

Committee

Arrindell also attempted to recentralize the discussion by proposing that a committee be installed to look at the various viewpoints on the charter. But discussions continued devolving with MPs getting into debates with each other and Arrindell decided that it was better to adjourn the meeting until Thursday morning when MPs return to the discussion table.

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