St. Maarten wants no discussion about country status until 2015

POSTED: 12/16/11 1:07 AM

THE HAGUE / By Donellis Browne – The year 2015 is the earliest date that St. Maarten sees for a discussion on whether or not it has a need for a new constitutional structure. This is when the first evaluation of the current status – autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands – will be done.
The basis for waiting until 2015 is that the government does not believe it is productive to start a new discussion on constitutional structure after years of discussions about country status. The government prefers focusing the discussion on nation building and national development that will be anchored in a national development plan. Efforts to give more content to the equal position of each partner in the Kingdom, based on the charter is a key part of this effort.
“The highest goal of St. Maarten is to further build and develop the country in the first years of her existence,” the government states in a vision note.

Waiting with more constitutional discussions is one of several positions in St. Maarten’s note about its vision on the Kingdom’s future. The full vision will be compiled after consultations with the public, stakeholders and experts in St. Maarten as part of the process to craft a national development plan.

The note states further that the government wishes to have greater independence in foreign relations, especially when it comes to contacts in the Caribbean region and that St. Maarten agrees with the position taken by Aruba that there should be a secretariat of the kingdom that will act as focal point and serve as a think tank that actively identifies the issues of importance for all partners. When it speaks of partnership the government considers developing links between organizations and businesses as important as contacts between governments.

The note identifies strengthening democracy as one of the areas where St. Maarten wants to work with its partners. The country remains concerned about the decision making process in the Kingdom where the Dutch Parliament makes decisions that affect people on the islands without their representatives having a direct say in the matter.
The country also is not happy that the minister of Kingdom relations is only accountable to the people of the Netherlands. Because of these factors St. Maarten wants a new decision making process.

St. Maarten has also put forward regional cooperation as an area of partnership; the government believes that each party can profit from a network the other is involved in. As example the vision note states the Netherlands can use St. Maarten to deepen ties with North and South America. In the case of the United States of America, the cooperation would expand past tourism and into healthcare and education. In reverse St. Maarten wants the Netherlands to use its network to help further the relationship with Saint Martin – a French territory.

The government of St. Maarten also believes it needs a strong communications strategy to deal with the “highly nuanced” view of the country and because the views each party has of each other hinders the relationships in the Kingdom. The government also believes each country should be proactive in keeping its image high, rather than having to go on the defensive when something arises. The vision note states that St. Maarten wants to use the expertise present in other countries in the Kingdom as it continues to develop. This should help in the buildup of the country’s own knowledge base and increase its autonomy. Further the government believes it is critical that it gets help from the countries with building up its civil service to the quality and efficient organization the administration desires. Extreme focus is being placed on cooperation to combat crime. The government proposes a new cooperation program to be developed next year.

The government of St. Maarten also calls for cooperation in the implementation of the eight Millennium Development Goals as it believes the commitment to these goals can bring the island and the Netherlands closer together. There is a clear statement here though that the cooperation should be based achieving the common position laid down in the Kingdom Charter.

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