Plasterk: “Commonwealth is not an issue on the islands”

POSTED: 10/9/15 3:29 PM

THE HAGUE – “I have taken notice of the proposal for a Commonwealth, but on the islands this is not an issue. It is not a topic of conversation,” Minister Ronald Plasterk (Kingdom Relations) said yesterday during the handling of the budget for Kingdom Relations in the Second Chamber.

“Without being embedded in the kingdom, the inhabitants of the six islands would be worse off,” Plasterk said. “Think about the administration of justice and about practical advantages of scale, like consular services and defense. The future is one of communality with the Netherland.”

The minister acknowledged that the position of the countries in the kingdom is asymmetrical. “There is the magnitude: 98 percent of the population lives in the Netherlands. In the Kingdom council of Ministers the Netherlands is 25 times overrepresented. This is also true for the deployment of money and manpower. Everywhere where you read kingdom, it is actually the Netherlands.”

Plasterk said that the current constitutional framework can only be changed by consensus. “The islands are allowed to choose, but the Netherlands does not have that right. That is due to our history, though it does not mean that the Netherlands has nothing to say. The financial support for the budgets is now down to zero.”

Sietse Fritsma (PVV) a staunch supporter of severing ties with the islands, noted that this is exactly the most painful point for his party. “The Netherlands cannot unilaterally severe the ties. But the minister does not have to reconcile himself to that situation.”

Fritsma wants to get rid of the UN charter that gives the islands the right to self-determination.

Plasterk disagrees: “I support the underlying motivation of the UN charter. The islands did not choose for this framework.”

“It is a force marriage,” Fritsma persisted. “That cannot be healthy.”

Plasterk referred to the increasing call for independence by several political parties in the Caribbean. “They have not put that into practice and that makes sense. I see it happen sooner that financial supervision is no longer necessary.”

Plasterk noted that the Commonwealth construction, as proposed by Van Raak and Bosman, “looks a lot like the current framework, but then without article 43. We can only do this if the other countries want it and currently that is not the case.”

“The minister says that we have to do things together within the constitutional framework, but we are doing nothing in the field of justice and after that we intervene,” D66-MP Wassili Hachchi said.

Plasterk denied that the government did nothing; he referred as an example to the €22 million program that will send 55 Dutch detectives to St. Maarten.

“It would be nice to see the words of the minister back in reality,” Hachchi bit back, to which Plasterk said, “We are helping out constantly.”

The minister emphasized that the Netherlands does not want to intervene without reason. After Roelof van Laar (PvdA) noted that Bonaire was holding a referendum without prior consultation with the Netherlands. “A referendum without consultation cannot bind the Netherlands if the options are unrealistic,” Plasterk said. “I want to be careful here, because I do not want to create the impression that The Hague determines the choices they have.”

Bosman added that it is the responsibility of the Netherlands to get to a point where the people on the islands are able to make their own choices in all freedom.

While Plasterk maintained that a Commonwealth is not an issue and Gert Jan Segers (Christian Union) said that that discussion is therefore over, Van Raak remained “optimistic” about the concept. “They are thinking a lot about this on the islands,” he said. “I see the beginning of a debate, but the initiative is with the political parties on the islands.”

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