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PVV’s call to sever ties leads to heated debate on Kingdom

THE HAGUE--Wednesday’s handling of the draft 2016 Kingdom Relations budget in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament was the scene of a heated discussion on whether to sever the ties with the Dutch Caribbean countries or not.

At the centre of the discussion was Member of Parliament (MP) Sietse Fritsma of the Party for Freedom PVV who repeated his earlier calls to get rid of the United Nations (UN) regulation that former mother countries cannot unilaterally decide to get rid of a former colony. He said the UN rule kept the Netherlands from ditching the Dutch Caribbean and dissolving the Kingdom.

Citing the results of a new survey among more than 2,000 people in the Netherlands, carried out on the request of the PVV, Fritsma stated that a majority, 61 per cent, agreed that the financial mismanagement and corruption on the islands were a reason to sever the ties. Fifty-five per cent found that the Netherlands didn’t have an obligation toward the islands because of the colonial past, and 47 per cent considered it unjust that the Netherlands could not unilaterally sever its ties.

Fritsma chided the Socialist Party (SP) and the liberal democratic VVD party for not having supported the motion that he presented during the 2015 budget-handling last year. He said that by doing so, the SP and VVD were in favour of maintaining the current constitutional relations.

MPs Ronald van Raak (SP) and André Bosman (VVD) reminded Fritsma that they were the ones who presented a discussion paper a few years ago calling for the establishing of a commonwealth structure whereby the current Kingdom would cease to exist and the countries would assume their own responsibilities.

Van Raak accused Fritsma of talking “nonsense.” “I don’t know in which closet he was locked up, but Bosman and I have proposed a commonwealth structure because the current format of the Kingdom simply isn’t working. It is a tight corset. I say away with the Kingdom,” he said. Bosman said that the rules of the Charter would be followed as long as the Charter was in place.

Fritsma said that only words were spoken but that concrete action to get rid of the islands was not taken. “The Netherlands and its people have nothing to say about whether they want to sever the ties because of a UN resolution, and that is the core of the problem.” He said that it was “one big mess” on the islands, and accused the Second Chamber of being a “fake Parliament.”

That categorisation of being a fake Parliament led to President of the Second Chamber Anouchka van Miltenburg to interfere. She said that she didn’t accept the fake Parliament classification and defended the Second Chamber as a body with honest, hard-working people.

MP Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66 also took offence to Fritsma’s harsh words. “There seems to be a competition who can shout the loudest about getting rid of the islands, but you forget that the people living on the islands have the Dutch nationality.” She said the countries in the Kingdom shared history and that this, combined with the many family ties could not be broken “no matter how loud the shouts.”

MP Gert-Jan Segers of the ChristianUnion spoke similar words. “You can deal with family members in two ways: You can maintain warm or cool relations. That is a choice. But you cannot choose not to be family members. We cannot deny our shared history, because history has connected us. And, as long as that is the case, you are better off making the best of it.”      

MP Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA mentioned the problems of the island governments. He said that no politician on the islands seemed to truly work in the interest of the people. “Still, we see so much positive energy and hope when we visit the islands. We should never give up hope that progress is possible. We cannot give up, despite the criminals, the bad politicians and the difficulties in the mutual relations, because the challenges are too great,” Van Laar said.

Hachchi used the opportunity to address the recent advice of the Council of State regarding the issuing of an instruction to the Governor by the Kingdom Council of Ministers. She said that intervention by the Kingdom Government was only allowed if all other avenues had been exhausted.

According to Hachchi, the Dutch Government put aside the Council of State’s advice because it saw nothing wrong in issuing an instruction via the Governor as a temporary measure. “Government said we don’t see anything, let’s move on.”

Hachchi and Segers said the Kingdom Government had used a “blunt axe” when it issued the instructions instead of investing more in finding a joint solution. Bosman and Van Laar defended the issuing of the instructions, stating that they were justified.

Bosman said that the VVD would keep a keen eye on the developments in the overseas countries and “wherever necessary encourage” government to intervene as long as the Charter put the responsibility for good governance in the lap of the Kingdom Government located in The Hague. “But it would be much nicer if we could support each other in a voluntary manner without obligations and accompanied supervision in a commonwealth of independent countries.”

Hachchi, Segers, Van Laar and also Madeleine van Toorenburg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA asked Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk about the status of establishing a dispute regulation (geschillenregeling) for the Kingdom. Plasterk will respond today, Thursday when the debate continues.

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