Tuesday, Jul 23rd

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Editorial - By the book

The Council of State has determined that the Kingdom Government should exercise great caution when issuing instructions to governors in the Dutch Caribbean (see related story), especially where it regards matters that are not within their authorities as kingdom representatives. For example, having them hold off on signing budgets as happened in Aruba is deemed incorrect unless part of an annulment procedure the governor initiates, requiring an advice from the Council.

By the same token, the order to conduct a more far-reaching screening for candidate members of the Gumbs cabinet than prescribed in national legislation also appears to have been out of bounds. Even the instruction for an integrity investigation in St. Maarten probably lacked solid constitutional backing.

The advisory body’s answer to questions from the Parliaments of Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten may be seen as a victory for the islands. It’s also important for the position of governors, who need to balance carefully their roles as formal head of the local government and as kingdom representative.

The Kingdom Council of Ministers, with all cabinet members of the Netherlands and only one plenipotentiary minister each for the three other countries, conceivably still can do these things itself through a so-called General Measure of Kingdom Governance – again after mandatory consultation with the Council of State – based on the guarantee function. Although the latter was clearly meant as a last resort, The Hague does not have to wait until things actually go wrong and an untenable situation arises before invoking such precisely to prevent problems, the reply states.

This means the balance of power remains squarely in favour of the Netherlands, but at least the rules of the game were reaffirmed and ought to be respected in the future. From now on also Dutch politicians must therefore learn to play it strictly by the book.