Samuel at Ipko: “It’s good to support each other”

POSTED: 03/6/13 11:47 AM

THE HAGUE – St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao are positive about the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom (Ipko) which started in The Hague yesterday. The three Parliaments intend to stand as one.

The three islands have prepared together for the series of meetings. St. Maarten played a big role in getting the islands on the same line as much as possible, explained President of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel. “We wanted to synchronize our standpoints, iron things so things would run smoothly in The Netherlands.”

On the initiative of Samuel, Presidents of Parliament Paul Croes of Aruba and Mike Franco of Curacao came to St. Maarten a few weeks ago to discuss their ideas and input for Ipko and to prepare for the video conference with the Dutch Parliament which recently took place in Curacao.

It turned out to be a successful recipe because the islands stood as one front when they determined the agenda for the Ipko with The Netherlands. The presidents of the three parliaments and the chairmen of the Kingdom Relations Committees came together at the cabinet of the St. Maarten Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Monday evening for a last preparatory meeting.

“It is good to support each other. If we stick to our agreement, we should have no differences of opinion between the islands here and we will be off in the right direction,” Samuel said, who added that there were some issues that the individual islands would want to handle since each had its own special wishes.

The three islands agreed that it is necessary to work together on a number of areas, such as health care and the referral of patients to each other’s hospitals. “That is a given.” Cooperation is also necessary for patients from St. Eustatius and Saba, he said.

Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten can benefit from increased trade between the islands. Economic benefits are also to be had from making more use of the embassies of the Kingdom in the Caribbean and Latin America by stationing representatives from the islands there.

Samuel stressed that the St. Maarten delegation came to The Netherlands to cooperate, not to beg, as Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP) implied in the media. Van Raak criticized the $10,000 salary of Members of Parliament, an amount that he called ‘exorbitant’.

Samuel explained that contrary to Members of the Second Chamber, Members of Parliament have no legal support staff to help with the drafting of law proposals and to give legal advice. “The members pay that out of their own pocket.” He said it was “not good” that Van Raak had made these remarks on the eve of joint meetings of the four parliaments.

Mike Franco was very positive about the pre-meetings with Aruba and St. Maarten and he was also optimistic about the Ipko. “We came with a positive attitude, with coherence and a symbiotic approach that will benefit us all,” he said.

Transport will be one of the important issues for Curacao, which is traffic between the islands and to The Netherlands, but also maritime traffic. He gave fisheries as an example. The new, stricter, rules that are being imposed since Bonaire became a Dutch public entity that Curacao fishermen have to comply with to assist their colleagues in Bonaire are not beneficial for neither Curacao nor Bonaire, he said.

“Fishing between the islands is a cultural thing. Fishermen are very close, like family and those relations are being severed by bureaucracy. It obstructs age-old practices,” said Chairman of the Kingdom Relations Committee of Curacao’s Parliament, Helmin Wiels.

“Dutch people don’t understand our culture. They make laws and regulations without any understanding of our culture. In my opinion, laws are a cultural phenomenon that should be adapted to local circumstances,” Wiels said.

According to Wiels the Dutch have no understanding for the local situation in Statia and Saba either. He said that people in Statia were “very right” to demand a new constitutional referendum. “Statia has a rock solid case. International laws and treaties are supreme and very clear on the right of self-determination.”

Acting Chairman of the Aruba Parliament, Chris Dammers said Aruba was all for solid relations between the islands and better cooperation in the Kingdom. “We can learn a lot from each other, share our experiences and know-how. Together we can get much further, together we are stronger. We came with a dose of optimism,” he said.

Sustainable energy is an important agenda point for Aruba. Dammers hoped the parliaments could come up with ideas to realize more cooperation in this area and to inspire the governments of the countries to work together. He said that for example the countries could agree to buy products for sustainable energy in bulk. “You get a better price by doing things together,” he said


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