WEDNESDAY, 16 JANUARY 2013
~ PVV Senator Peter van Dijk favours open, honest discussions ~
THE HAGUE–It is a “utopia” that St. Eustatius and Saba would ever be able to stand on their own feet. That is why closer cooperation with surrounding islands is so important, more essential than the relation with The Netherlands, according to Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Peter van Dijk of the Party for Freedom PVV.
If it were up to the PVV the Dutch Caribbean islands would become independent. This is an option for the larger islands, but not for St. Eustatius and Saba.
“An independent St. Eustatius and Saba is a complete utopia. The islands are too small. Even together they would not make it. They will always have to work together with the other nearby islands,” said Van Dijk (60) in an interview with The Daily Herald.
Van Dijk, a member of the First Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations, was part of the delegation of the First Chamber that visited all six Dutch Caribbean islands last week.
Instead of being too dependent on The Netherlands, St. Eustatius and Saba, and Bonaire for that matter, should seek closer ties with surrounding islands like St. Maarten, St. Kitts, Nevis and the French islands, said Van Dijk. “That is much better than trying to make things work with The Netherlands, which is too far away. Draw a larger circle around St. Eustatius and Saba and work with the islands within that perimeter.”
Direct ties with The Netherlands whereby the three smaller islands became Dutch public entities as per October 10, 2010, never had the PVV’s support. However, now that The Hague has become responsible for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, it should live up to its task, said Van Dijk.
“The Netherlands should have looked deeper into the transition of the new constitutional status and what effect the implementation of hundreds of new laws and regulations would have on these islands with their very limited administrative capacity. It is utter nonsense.
The situation in the Caribbean Netherlands is worrisome, especially where it concerns health care and the high cost of living.”
Van Dijk called the move by Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers to trim down the health care package for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba per January 1, 2013, “bizarre.”
“The decision of December 21 was implemented on very short term and without prior consultation with the islands. This is no way of dealing with people,” he said.
According to Van Dijk, the decision will affect the level of health care on the islands adversely. He gave as example the fact that there is only one physical therapist for St. Eustatius and Saba. “If there is not enough work, the physical therapist will leave. The people are worse off and sending patients abroad will further increase the bill.”
There is broad consensus in the First Chamber that the minister’s decision and the decision-taking process are unfair. “I am glad that we all agree that this has to be solved. This decision has to be implemented either at a later stage or in phases, and in consultation with the islands. We will call Minister Schippers to the Chamber,” said Van Dijk, who also wants Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to provide clarity.
Van Dijk said he supported the implementation of Dutch legislation in principle, but in this case he had objections. “People are being disproportionally affected,” he said, specifically aiming at the higher cost of living and the fact that generally people have a lower income on the islands compared to The Netherlands.
“People have to make do with a small income while the food prices have soared. Police in Bonaire said they have seen cases where thieves emptied the fridge and left the laptop during a break-in,” he said. He said some people whom he had met at the meet-and-greet gatherings on the three islands were at wits’ end. “People came to us in panic. They have no idea how to make ends meet.”
According to Van Dijk, three things should be properly arranged in the public entities: food prices, education and medical care. “People should not lose sleep over these three basic things.” He said more communication between The Hague and the islands was essential. He said some Dutch ministries were better at this than others.
It is a known fact that the PVV favours independence for the Dutch Caribbean islands. The party voted against the constitutional reform process and the new statuses of Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
“It wasn’t even the start of a solution. We see the future differently. We don’t think that The Netherlands 8,000 kilometres away should play an active role,” said Van Dijk. “But it is a misconception that the PVV says that the islands should be given to Chávez (Venezuela). The islands have to decide whether they want to stay in the Kingdom. We cannot force them to leave. In that sense, the islands have more rights than The Netherlands has.”
It irks the PVV that the islands also have more rights where it comes to free movement of people. “People from The Netherlands cannot freely reside on the islands, but people from the islands can establish themselves in The Netherlands any time. That is strange to say the least. It isn’t right.”
The PVV supports the initiative law of Member of the Second Chamber André Bosman to restrict the possibility for poorly educated people from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten to register at municipalities in The Netherlands. “We too want to restrict the influx of these youngsters who don’t stand a chance in Dutch society. The future of these youngsters is on the islands, not here. They will have to be educated there.”
Benefit of doubt
Van Dijk is positive about the current Curaçao Government. “Things seem to have turned for the better. The question is for how long, but for now things look pretty good, especially when you consider the level of the former government. I give them the benefit of the doubt. The members of the Council of Ministers all have a solid education. I am very happy about that.”
The senator knows Curaçao especially very well and has been to the island at least 25 times since 1987. “I have many friends there and they are not Dutch import, but local people. I speak a bit of Papiamentu, which makes interaction with local people even more inspiring.” He took his Scouting group from his hometown Goes in Zeeland to Curaçao in 1989. “The trip was a great success.”
Van Dijk is a man of dialogue. His message and that of his party is clear, but he also has comprehension for other people’s views. His positive attitude has kept him out of trouble with people in the Dutch Caribbean despite the fact that he represents a party that has always been critical of the relations in the Kingdom.
“I don’t fight with anybody. Nobody avoids me, not even Helmin Wiels and people who have no political relation to me or my party. I am open to every discussion. I have no long toes. In all those years, only one person refused to give me a hand and that was a Dutch lady,” he said.
“The PVV has certain political ideas, but we do have respect for the islands, especially for those that really try to make something of themselves like Aruba. Prime Minister Mike Eman is doing his utmost to develop his island and we appreciate that.”
Difference of opinion
Differences of opinion should not be a problem, and even contribute to open, honest discussions and debates. “My opinion might be totally opposite from others in debates, but afterwards we have a beer together. In the end everyone has to pass through that one door.”
Being there to air your opinion is crucial, said the senator. “If you are not there to give your input, you have no influence. You make your opinion clear through dialogue. I don’t have to convince people of my opinion as long as they try to understand my point of view. I am open to other people and I hope that they do the same.”
Van Dijk entered the First Chamber in June 2011. He used to be a member of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, which he represented in the Municipal Council of Goes from 1981 to 1990. “But I lost interest over time. In November 2010, my wife convinced me to write to the PVV. Things went very fast from there on.”
Van Dijk became leader of the PVV party in the Provincial States of Zeeland in March 2011. “PVV leader Geert Wilders asked if there were candidates for the First Chamber. I was number 10 on the slate and the PVV secured 10 seats in the Senate, so I was in. It is a great honour to do this work, which I do with all my heart and soul.”