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Van Laar asks for longer maternity leave on islands

THE HAGUE--Longer maternity leave for women in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, and a fast, affordable ferry service between the Windward Islands – Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Roelof van Laar of the Labour Party PvdA brought up these two points during the handling of the draft 2016 Kingdom Relations budget on Wednesday.

During the continuation of the budget handling on Thursday, Van Laar submitted a motion to ask the Dutch Government to look at the possibilities to extend the maternity leave to sixteen weeks per January 1, 2017. Van Laar asked on Wednesday, why the maternity leave for women in the Caribbean Netherlands was only 12 weeks instead of the 16 weeks that women in the Netherlands get when they give birth.

“What is the ratio of this discrepancy? Is recovery after birth quicker in Bonaire than in the Netherlands? Do mothers in Saba bond faster with their child? Are St. Eustatius men so much involved with the care of their babies that mothers need less time to tend to their child? I don’t think so,” said Van Laar.

Mothers in the Caribbean Netherlands do not have it easy and need as much maternity leave as mothers in the Netherlands. Van Laar asked Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to straighten out this discrepancy, and to give parents in the Caribbean Netherlands and the Netherlands an equal period of maternity leave.

Plasterk responded on Thursday, that he had taken up the matter of extending the maternity leave with his colleague Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Lodewijk Asscher. He said it was up to Asscher to react to this proposal. He said Asscher’s first response was positive.

Van Laar also brought up the point of an absent fast ferry service between St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba. He said that residents of St. Eustatius and Saba should be able to leave their island for an affordable price, just as people in the Netherlands had the opportunity to make use of reasonably priced public transportation.

“We ask the minister to research the possibility of setting up an affordable fast ferry connection between the islands, whereby people should be able to visit another island for less than US $10.” Van Laar suggested renting a boat that would service the islands twice per day on a monthly basis.

Minister Plasterk addressed Van Laar’s suggestion on Thursday. He said he was prepared to discuss the matter with the islands, but cautioned that a ferry connection between the Windward Islands was more complicated than running a ferry between Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, a plan that was currently being worked out.

Plasterk explained that the populations in the Windward Islands were smaller and as such a ferry service was less lucrative. He said that most people on the islands made use of air service, also because the seas were rough in the Windward Islands. “People get sick because of the billow,” he said.

Van Laar also referred to St. Eustatius, which has been placed under supervision since June this year. He said that his party supported the actions of the Minister and National Government Representative to address the crisis in the Statia Government.

“There is no room for nepotism, the bullying and intimidation of civil servants, and financial mismanagement. We ask the minister not to shun any means to call the members of government responsible for this mess and to make any progress impossible to order. The PvdA is willing to handle new legislation with priority, if that proves necessary. We also ask the minister to keep supporting the Island Governor and all others that mean well,” said Van Laar.

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