Night away reduces tension on hot topics

POSTED: 01/13/12 11:46 AM

St. Maarten – Parliamentarians from Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands have agreed they all support the Kingdom Charter and its tenets, that they can agree to disagree about the Consensus Kingdom Laws, that each of them will press their respective governments and that all but Curacao wish for the guarantee function to be maintained. The majority of the Curacao delegation believes that subsection 2 of Article 43 should be scrapped.

Subsections 1 and 2 state, “Each of the countries is responsible for the realization of fundamental human rights and freedom, legal certainty and good governance. The protection of these rights, freedom, legal certainty and good governance is a Kingdom affair.”

Each delegation made their position clear at the start of the day on Thursday in a final round of discussion on the point. Parties did not complete the topic on Wednesday because the discussion had become heated with delegation members trading emotional statements with other delegations and within themselves.

Rene Herde asserted from the start that Aruba agrees to maintain the guarantee function because they see it as a means to ensure that people’s rights are maintained and protected. Curacao’s Eunice Eisden disagrees and sees it as a tool that’s being used by the Netherlands to interfere in the internal issues for which the other countries have first responsibility. Curacao’s Dennis Jackson says the PAR party stands behind Article 43 of the Charter as it is.

Bas Jan van Bochove said the majority of the Dutch delegation does not see the guarantee function as something of just the Netherlands, but something of the entire Kingdom. That includes Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten.

“What there will always be, are nuances,” the Dutch MP said.

Aruba’s Juan Thijsen believes the problem with the guarantee function is that it allows the undemocratic situation where one country polices another. His colleague Boshi Wever believes that more must be done to reduce the democratic deficit before parties can even discuss the guarantee function.

Eric Lucassen, who is part of the Dutch delegation said he stresses the guarantee function in terms of the corruption on the islands, not because he wants to, but because he has to. A similar position was taken Wednesday by his colleague Ronald van Raak.

“As it stands the Netherlands is being made to pay, but then we are not allowed to say anything. I don’t think it’s great to be critical of the islands. There are much better things that I can do, but I do it because I must,” Lucassen said.

Ineke van Gent believes each parliamentarian, in each country is given an opportunity under the guarantee function to point out certain failings in other countries since the charter applies to all the autonomous countries and not just the islands.

“That can happen in a democratic Kingdom. So please express your opinion when things don’t go right in the Netherlands,” van Gent said.

A similar position was taken by Cynthia Ortega-Martijn who believes the guarantee function should stay.

“Local institutions must have integrity. If they don’t then the Kingdom government has a responsibility. Each Parliament is free to use the guarantee function,” Ortega-Martijn said.

Consensus Kingdom Laws

Bas Jan van Bochove stressed that the Dutch delegation is not ready to discuss any termination of the Consensus Kingdom Laws that were implemented as part of the constitutional change process that led to the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles.

“These laws that we came to by consensus state how they are to be terminated and also give each Parliament enough room to execute their role. The Cft is not a political organ. It is an independent organ. I must also state that we, as the Netherlands, also want these laws to eventually be terminated,” van Bochove said.

The Consensus Kingdom Law on Financial Supervision Curacao and St. Maarten is one particular law both the new countries have a problem with, but their delegations took differing approaches.

“It is undemocratic that the Kingdom can decide on or amend a country’s budget and as far as we see it the law allows that the countries can end their participation,” Curacao’s President of Parliament Ivar Asjes said.

The Curacao politician has two main points of departure wanting to end and/or amend the Consensus Kingdom Laws. The first is “no one on Curacao voted for these laws” and  the Council of Advice of the Netherlands  Antilles advised  that an exit clause be added. The latter was not done ahead of the approvals.

Fellow Curacaolenean MP Dennis Jackson immediately disagreed and said the countries should stick to the provisions in the law that the discussion on terminating the law will take place five years after it takes effect. The process includes the setup of a committee with a jointly appointed chairman and representatives from Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands. The provision on the five year period before evaluation is based on political agreements that were made during the negotiations.

St. Maarten MP Roy Marlin said his country is willing to “stick with it” but called for a discussion on making the rules more flexible so that St. Maarten is given the space to grow into its status as a country.

Procedure

The Aruban delegation chose to stay out of the arguments on the Consensus Kingdom Laws, choosing instead to state that they have issues with the procedure to come to a Kingdom Law. The precise views on procedure varied depending on the MP that was speaking.

“The procedure is our problem from the perspective of how the countries can make use of not being part of a Kingdom Law. For that we think the arbitration regulation should be presented and implemented quickly,” Aruba’s Juan David Yrasquin said.

Juan Thijsen, who is also from Aruba, believes the answer lies in giving the Parliaments in the Caribbean more say in the handling. For example he wants the Dutch government to send Kingdom laws that will affect a particular country to their Parliament for handling. That draft law would only move forward if two-thirds of that country’s Parliament approves it. Thijsen also believes the fact that the advices from the Council of State are not binding should be looked into.

“A change in the procedure must come to give content to the discussion,” Thijsen said.

Later he’d added, “We have a problem with the abuse of certain articles in the Charter so certain Kingdom laws that affect our autonomy can be made.”

One law that Aruba and Curacao have put forward as encroaching on their autonomy is the Kingdom Visa Law. Eunice Eisden of Curacao went as far as stating that the proper procedure was not followed in the drafting of that law.

Arbitration Regulation

All delegations were pleased to note the delegations at the first Kingdom Conference agreed on the installation of a workgroup to hammer out an arbitration regulation. The parliamentarians will now individually address their governments on this point and urge them to complete the work as soon as possible. The workgroup, which has yet to be installed must present its report before the next Kingdom Conference in Aruba in August.

“Not only the drafting, but the implementation of this law, must come as quickly as possible. We have several practical examples of Kingdom laws right now that should be subjected to an arbitration process because of differences of opinion,” Aruba’s Andin Bikker said.

Fellow Aruban MP added, “It is my belief that our Dutch colleagues should really encourage their government to move quickly on this. I also believe that the Supreme Court should be the independent agency to handle differences of opinion.”

Boshi Wever, who is also from Aruba added, “This – the arbitration regulation – won’t solve all our differences of opinion. The way Kingdom laws are formulated also needs to be addressed.”

 

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