Spies snubs anti-poverty platform: Equal rights a matter for local government

POSTED: 05/2/12 11:41 AM

GREAT BAY – The petition social organizations united in an informal anti-poverty platform submitted to the Kingdom Council of Ministers in January has fallen on deaf ears with Kingdom Relations Minister Liesbeth Spies. Not the Kingdom, but the governments of the individual countries in the Kingdom are responsible for compliance with provisions laid down in the European Treaty on economic, social and cultural rights (Ecosul), the Minister wrote.

The anti-poverty platform petitioned the Kingdom Council of Ministers in January to address the inequality and discrimination in the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights. More specifically, the platform asked that the Kingdom guarantee all citizens equal rights wherever they live in the Kingdom.

Minister Spies pointed out in her letter that the Kingdom “cannot be characterized as a decentralized unified state, or as a confederation. “Contrary to what you might assume, the Kingdom of the Netherlands has no budget or any other financial resource. The Kingdom is a voluntary association of constitutional collaboration between four countries that are each autonomous.”

Spies furthermore pointed out that this autonomy entails that the governments of the countries in the Kingdom “pursue their own policies and have their own legislation. This implies that the responsibility for the implementation and compliance with the provisions of the Ecosul-Treaty rests with the government of each country within the Kingdom, who shall promote the realization of fundamental human rights and freedoms, legal certainty and good governance.

Claire Elshot, the president of the Windward Islands Teachers Union and first Vice President of the Windward Islands Chamber of Labor Unions and also a member of the anti-poverty platform is disappointed with the minister’s reply.

“Prisoners got equal rights based on European standards. How come we cannot get equal rights for our pensioners?” she said. The union-leader also wondered “why there is equal unethical legislation throughout the Kingdom (same sex marriages, abortion and euthanasia are being pushed) while ethical and non-discriminatory economic, social and cultural rights are not.”

Elshot also noted that the same petition was submitted to the government of St. Maarten and to the parliament. Both also received a reminder but until yesterday the government and the parliament had not reacted to the petition.

In an analysis of the minister’s reply, Elshot concludes that”the reality of neo-colonial relations is being masked.” She refers to the fact that new constitutional relations came into being after the Dutch lost their colonies in the East (Indonesia and New Guinea) and that these new relations were “a concession from the colonizing mother country to postpone the right to self-determination and sovereignty of the colonized people of the Caribbean.”

Elshot said that the anti-poverty platform will work towards a more formal organization and that it will start an awareness and educational campaign with other social organizations. “The growing poverty becomes more and more visible,” she said. “Our goal is the eradication of poverty. We will involve unions, pensioner-organizations and also churches. It’s about people knowing their rights and demanding equality.”

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