MPs agree with shift to consultations on social, educational relationships

POSTED: 03/31/11 12:09 PM

Parliaments of the Kingdom meet in June

St. Maarten – Chairman of parliament’s permanent committee on Kingdom Affairs and Inter-parliamentary Relations Roy Marlin has asked his colleagues to think about how St. Maarten can “give substance” to a decision by leaders from all four parliaments in the Kingdom to give more content to relations on issues outside of the constitutional relationship. The decision to make the shift was taken at a meeting of leaders from the Kingdom Relations Committees of the Netherlands, Curacao, St. Maarten and host Aruba, last month.

“All parties agree that for years the discussion has focused on constitutional affairs and yes, while there is a need for St. Maarten to respond on the report on the democratic deficit, which is titled Choose for the Kingdom – Kiezen voor het Koningkrijk – we see that the report has much to do with constitutional matters and so we have decided to not to place too much focus on it anymore as we move forward,” Marlin said in a Central Committee meeting.

The discussions on how to bring the countries closer together on the social, economic and cultural level will be continued in the week of June 13, when parties meet again in The Hague. Aruba has said it will take the lead in preparing a joint position paper for the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, but Marlin believes the Parliament here must begin to think about what the vision of St. Maarten will be for improving the cooperation in the Kingdom.

“We have an opportunity for new relationships where the Parliaments in the Kingdom will work to support and strengthen each other. We must take advantage of those offers to help St. Maarten’s Parliament to grow to what it needs to be,” Marlin said.

While Marlin believes strengthening the relationship with all the parliaments in the Kingdom is important, he placed focus on building cooperation with the members of the Dutch First and Second Chamber, so that while the Government of St. Maarten lobbies with Dutch Ministers, especially Piet Hein Donner of Kingdom Relations, that the MPs and Senators will also have information that will cause them to help make St. Maarten’s case, instead of vetoing assistance and to dispel the dark perception that many politicians in the Hague carry about the island.

“We must seriously lobby and let’s see if we can’t get our Dutch counterparts to help us. Yes all politics is local at the end of the day, and I believe we should not get down in the mudslinging. Instead we should spend our time ensuring that our colleagues in The Hague have the right information,” Marlin said.

Areas the committee chairman identified that the Parliament could begin providing their colleagues with information or lobbying is the current discussion with Board of financial supervision (Cft) about the 2011 budget, asking factions in the Second Chamber to urge Minister Donner to look favorably on St. Maarten’s request to use 78 million guilders left over from the debt relief program to do social and infrastructure projects, and building support in the Dutch parliament for a continuation of development aid funding through USONA and the Antillean Co-financing Agency (AMFO) past the end of 2012, when funding via both these agencies is slated to stop. The latter point is key because an end to the funding could mean an end to social programs that employ roughly 250 people.

On the request for the funding Marlin said, “It’s money that was set aside and deposited at the Central Bank already, and granting the request would not have a negative effect on the Netherlands’ budget this year.”

“We must think differently as we also look at the growth of St. Maarten,” Marlin concluded.

Member of Parliament for the National Alliance Dr. Lloyd Richardson suggested that Parliament reach out to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in order to obtain information on the projects that they have done using Dutch aid. That information should then be passed on to the Dutch to “show the good work that has been done, how continuity would be lost if the funding dries up and how the island has never gotten the best in terms of allocations that have been made.”

“We need to have hard facts and good reports about what has been done with the money. We must also encourage accountability and encourage the NGOs to deal directly with other NGOs in the Netherlands from whom they can get assistance. Maybe not in cash, but maybe in kind,” Richardson said.

Earlier in the discussion the MP had said the island’s delegation went into the speedily convened meeting with the Dutch delegation “ready to defend St. Maarten’s rights and aspirations”.

National Alliance MP George Pantophlet said building the relationship with the other parliaments in the kingdom will require a change in behavior and that the approach should be a united one. He agreed with D.P MP Roy Marlin and his faction colleague Dr. L. Richardson that addressing the social disparities between the various parts of the kingdom is important.

“I also hope that we can get the 78 million guilders because we desperately need it to do things like strengthen prevention instead of only placing attention on repression. It is important that we work together as a team. The proposals should come from one common body and one common force. Also very often we focus on the problems, but we should prioritize our solutions and work on those, and when the time comes to present those solutions, we should do it in a professional manner,” Pantophlet said.


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