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Dutch minister Blok: Clearly BES-islands have right to self-determination

WEDNESDAY, 20 NOVEMBER 2013

THE HAGUE–The Dutch Caribbean islands’ right to self-determination is not an issue. The Island Councils in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba can decide at any time to hold a referendum. However, such a referendum is separate from the planned evaluation.

Dutch Acting Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Affairs Stef Blok stated this in a letter he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday. In the letter, he gave an update on the 2015 general evaluation of the Caribbean Netherlands and the constitutional positions of the Dutch Caribbean islands.

Minister Blok referred to the November 5 verbal question hour in which Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party sought clarity from Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk on the wish of Statia’s government to hold a constitutional referendum next year.

Bosman had requested the minister’s presence following reports in The Daily Herald that the Dutch government wanted to narrow down the general evaluation in 2015 to the Dutch public entity status or municipality status for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

According to Bosman, this pre-set condition wrongly obstructs a free, independent referendum in St. Eustatius. “We don’t have a leading role in this. The islands have to decide on their own constitutional future,” he said, also referring to the right of self-determination of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, which is secured in the United Nations (UN) Charter.

Minster Plasterk responded at the time that the UN Charter stated that a referendum always remained a realistic option. Minister Blok reiterated this in his letter to Parliament this week. He stated that the Netherlands had acknowledged the individual islands’ right to self-determination during the 1981 Round Table Conference.

Article 149 of the general law of the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba WolBES gives the Island Councils the authority to hold a referendum.

“It is up to the Island Councils to decide whether and when they want a referendum, and the questions that will be posed to the people. Of course, I hope that realistic options will be presented and that the people will be well informed about the options and their consequences,” Blok stated.

However, a referendum should be seen separate from the evaluation, he clarified. Blok stated that the Dutch government always had made clear that Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, after their integration in the Dutch Constellation in 2010, can opt for only independence or the status of public entity or municipality.

“In my view it is undesirable to reopen already the discussion on the constitutional relations within the Kingdom after five years. All islands and the Netherlands have to become accustomed to the new relations. These have not been crystallised fully as yet. It takes time and effort to function optimally as an island/country and as Kingdom within the new relations.

“I see more use in discussing together how we can let the Kingdom function optimally and to have this serve as the core of the objective and factual evaluation,” stated Blok.

The minister provided some information on the planning and procedure of the general 2015 evaluation and the “smaller” evaluation of the services and coordination of the Dutch government in the Caribbean Netherlands next year.

The objective of this first, smaller evaluation is to check how the tasks of the Dutch government on behalf of the public entities can become more efficient and effective. The results of this evaluation will be included in the larger general evaluation in 2015.

The Inspection Evaluation and Business Operations ISB of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations has started an audit of the National Government coordination in the Caribbean Netherlands.

The ISB consults with officials of the National Government Service Caribbean Netherlands RCN, representatives of the different Dutch Ministries in The Hague and Bonaire, the National Government Representative Wilbert Stolte and officials and representatives of the public entities.

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten

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