Remkes, four years ago: “It depends on what the islands want” – Commonwealth-idea dates back to the early nineties

POSTED: 07/8/13 12:36 PM
Johan Remkes

Former VVD faction-leader Johan Remkes.

 St. Maarten – The proposal by the liberal VVD-faction to create a commonwealth with Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten is not new at all. Already in March 2009 then VVD faction leader Johan Remkes (since July 1, 2010 the Kings’ commissioner in North-Holland) launched the idea, combined with his party’s mantra “no more financial aid for St. Maarten after 2012.”

At the time, commissioner for Constitutional Affairs and now Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-
Williams put Remkes’ proposal in perspective:”It is a very old idea, she said more than four years ago at a press briefing on March 20, 2009. “When I read about it, it took me back in time to St. Maarten in 1991,” Wescot-Williams said at the time, adding that at time a similar concept was subject to discussion. “The commonwealth was the original idea, but it is water under the bridge because the people of St. Maarten chose for country status in the referendum of 2000. I will stick with the outcome of the referendum.”

Like in André Bosman’s current proposal, Remkes said four years ago that all Antillean islands had to become autonomous within the next five years. That would have been 2013. His objective was obviously that to have as little as possible to do with the islands in the near future.

“The Royal family, Defense, and Foreign Affairs remain a joint responsibility. When the islands have everything in order, we must not interfere any longer. For one island this process will go faster than for others, but the tempo does not have to be the same for each island,” Remkes said in 2009.

The former VVD- faction leader urged the Dutch government at the time to accept the idea of a commonwealth construction. At the same time, he realized that the Netherlands cannot do it alone: “It depends on what the islands want.”

What the islands want is clear: they want to stick to their autonomous country status within the Kingdom, even though independence in the long term has not been ruled out by anyone.

For Remkes it was all about the money: “We have to learn to master the art of letting go. The Netherlands had the tendency to interfere with everything. The islands have long toes where autonomy is concerned, but they want to keep presenting the Netherlands with the bill. Those two do not go together.”

There was four years ago even a member of the VVD-faction (Charlie Aptroot) with an even further reaching plan: if necessary the Netherlands ought to step out of its own Kingdom.

That’s not what Remkes had in mind: he qualified Aptroot’s position as “a statement made as an individual” – and nothing ever came of it.



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