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Duncan: cabinet division should be proportional

Roland DuncanWILLEMSTAD--The division of cabinet posts within the new Central Government should be proportional, says Constitutional and Home Affairs Minister Roland Duncan of the National Alliance (NA).

Duncan also contends that PAR’s proposal that there should be a smaller cabinet with fewer ministers and no state secretaries should also reflect proportionality.

Antillean Governor Frits Goedgedrag had asked the parties that earned seats in Friday’s elections for the Antillean Parliament to what extent they deemed a business cabinet desirable or essential, in view of the limited time available for the large-scale transfer of tasks to the Island Territories.

NA currently has one minister, one state secretary and the deputy minister plenipotentiary in The Hague, with its two seats in the Antillean Parliament. In last Friday’s elections the St. Maarten party won all three seats allocated to St. Maarten.

PAR will most likely lead the formation of a cabinet as the largest party. Considering its intention to form as small a government as possible, Duncan stated that the size of the parties should also be proportionally reflected in the new cabinet.

According to well-informed sources, PAR wants to try to form a cabinet of at most five or six ministers and no state secretaries. A new ministerial post especially entrusted with the dismantling process is a possibility that will be discussed.

Leader of Bonaire’s UPB Ramonsito Booi stated that PAR had tried to form a smaller government in the past, but that such had not been successful in practice. Personally, Booi also thinks it is not necessary to form an extensive cabinet.

An analysis of the pending work could be done swiftly and decisions could then be made on the required ministerial posts, according to Booi. “We should not enter into a discussion with one another for the remaining six to seven months. It all boils down to us finalising the process. The end is more important than the means.”

In general, this was also Booi’s advice to the governor. “We must form a government as chosen by the population, and that is to finalise the constitutional reform course with the Netherlands.”

The UPB leader believes that the ADB/Nicolaas Island Government forms an impediment to this, and discussed this with Goedgedrag as well. Bonaire’s Executive Council has decided to hold a referendum on March 26, the same day the new Antillean Cabinet is to take office, on what was negotiated by the former UPB Government.

Pueblo Soberano (PS) leader Helmin Wiels believes in a business cabinet that will handle matters quickly and efficiently in order to finalise the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles. In his opinion, there is no need to appoint state secretaries, and in view of the elections later this year, a business cabinet would be best to complete the transfer of tasks.

“We should avoid the situation in which politicians hold campaigns and immobilise Government again,” said Wiels, whose party captured two seats in the Antillean Parliament last Friday.

It is the expectation that elections for the first Parliaments of Countries Curaçao and St. Maarten will be held in July. Nomination for these elections will take place around May, and the new Parliament and Government of the Netherlands Antilles will have been in office barely two months at that time.

Wiels further stated that, in his conversation with the governor, he had brought up the fact that the smaller islands had exceptional power now because of the new division of seats for Curaçao in the Antillean Parliament being seven-seven (seven for coalition parties and seven for opposition parties). “From the statements made by Minister Roland Duncan, one can already observe that the smaller islands have a greater say, as NA demands two ministers.”

According to Wiels, Curaçao made a historic mistake when Aruba left the Antilles. Of the eight parliament seats that became available at that time, Curaçao demanded only two, and the remaining six went to the other islands.

To the governor’s question regarding important policy matters other than constitutional relations, Wiels answered that all possible corruption cases within Government should be investigated as soon as possible.

He added that patriotism among the population should be cultivated as well, while “nation building” required the necessary attention, the proposed Kingdom Law on Movement of People should be stopped, there should be one type of Dutch citizen within the entire Kingdom, the guarantee fund for car insurance should be activated, and the Netherlands should be obligated to comply with the United Nations’ international treaty regarding economic, social and cultural rights, based on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Samuel: Still possible to file under Brooks Tower Accord

SAMUEL RodolpheWILLEMSTAD--Undocumented people can still make use of the Brooks Tower Accord (BTA) to regulate their status, although the submission period has ended.

National Alliance (NA) Parliamentarian Rodolphe Samuel urged people to file their applications as soon as possible. There are a lot more people in the community who can benefit from the BTA, an effort to control and regularise immigration on the islands, he said.

Justice Minister Magali Jacoba told Parliament Tuesday that applications for residence permits for undocumented people could be filed up until February 28. An application must include all documents needed to file the request, as well as a letter addressed to the Minister requesting inclusion under the BTA, Samuel said after the meeting.

Meanwhile, special provisions are being looked at for Haitians who need passports and other documents renewed in their country, but cannot access them now because of the devastating earthquake that brought the country to a halt.

Several hundred people, particularly in Curaçao and St. Maarten, registered last year to legalise their status in the Netherlands Antilles under the BTA.

Parliament also heard from the Police Force of Curaçao and the Prosecutor’s Office about the rise in youth crime and delinquency. This is a problem that also faces St. Maarten, Samuel said via telephone.

He had suggested to Parliament that provisions be made to employ social inspectors who would look into complaints early on and survey living and other environmental conditions to stop social issues before they develop into petty or violent crimes.

The Police Force and the Prosecutor’s Office have been requested to provide Parliament with figures on youth crime and other related matters.

Samuel is one of two St. Maarten Parliamentarians who were re-elected to their posts in Friday’s parliamentary elections. George Pantophlet (NA) was also re-elected.

Democratic Party (DP) Parliamentarian Erno Labega was not re-elected. His term will end on March 25.

The new parliament, termed the last for the Netherlands Antilles, will take office on March 26. It is expected to have a life of only seven months because of the dismantling of the Antilles and the emergence of Country St. Maarten, Country Curaçao and the Dutch public entities of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (the BES islands) on October 10.

Executive Council to get two more commissioners

PHILIPSBURG--Two “professional” commissioners will be added to the current St. Maarten Executive Council in February to help with the heavy workload associated with preparing for country status and the seven ministries that will come into being as of 10-10-10.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Roland Duncan (NA) will present the law on the expansion of the Executive Council and Island Council of St. Maarten to the Council of Ministers on Thursday.

Duncan told The Daily Herald the Legal Affairs Department had completed the draft law last week. After approval by the cabinet this week, the draft goes to Parliament, where Duncan hopes it will be signed off on in February.

The draft law provides for the number of commissioners in the Executive Council to be increased from five to seven, matching the number of ministries that will be established for Country St. Maarten.

However, the two additional commissioners cannot be members of the Island Council. Therefore, the National Alliance (NA)/Heyliger government will have to appoint two “professional” commissioners (vakgedeputeerden) who will not be able to vote in the Island Council, but will have full rights and responsibilities in the Executive Council.

The professional commissioners will be like Finance Commissioner Xavier Blackman, who was appointed as “vakgedeputeerde” in June 2009, when the NA/Heyliger coalition took office. They can be appointed as soon as the law has been adopted by the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles and published in the official Gazette.

Another part of the draft law deals with the expansion of the Island Council of St. Maarten from 11 members to 15, matching the size of the Parliament for Country St. Maarten, the minister said.

This expansion will become effective after the next Island Council election, which should take place around June/July as a precursor to country status. Duncan explained that the next election would be an early one for the Island Council, because this is due in April 2011.

The draft legislation also provides for the dissolution of the Island Councils of the five island territories, an arrangement not provided for under the Islands Regulation ERNA. A Kingdom Consensus Law also regulating this early dissolution is before Parliament for handling.

The 15-member Island Council will later evolve into the Parliament of Country St. Maarten, because the elections will take place before country status is attained.

Yet another area covered in the draft law is the adoption of the constitutions of Country St. Maarten and Country Curaçao by the existing Island Councils in the coming months.

A two-thirds majority will be needed to adopt the constitutions. Should this quota not be reached, the current Island Council would have to be dissolved to allow even earlier elections. The newly-elected council would then have the authority to pass the constitution with a simple majority.

This mechanism to facilitate the passing of the constitution has been built into the law especially for Curaçao, because there are issues there about the way the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles and the entire constitutional change process has been proceeding.

Main Voting Bureau rechecks numbers

voting214PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten’s Main Voting Bureau hit a snag Wednesday morning when it was discovered that numbers from some of the polling stations had been entered into the wrong columns/lines by the station heads in their reports.

This led to a re-check of the report numbers submitted by the chairpersons of the 16 polling stations to ensure all numbers were in order.

Main Voting Bureau Chairman Lt. Governor Franklyn Richards told the press that numbers had been logged on the “wrong line,” making it necessary to reopen the “suitcase” with original documentation from Friday’s Parliamentary election. However, he did not elaborate on what exactly had gone wrong with the entries.

However, that process will not affect final count of votes and the overall election results. The Main Voting Bureau, by law, has to double-check the documentation from the polling stations within days of the elections, to make the election results official.

Verification of the elections results should be released on Thursday or Friday.

Friday’s election saw William Marlin’s National Alliance (NA) win all three of St. Maarten’s parliamentary seats, leaving main rival Democratic Party (DP) out of the last Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles.

There was no protest against the results by any of the three parties that contested the elections. The third party was Gracita Arrindell’s People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA).

First, Second Chambers say ‘no’ to voting rights

page10a213THE HAGUE--The Dutch Parliament’s First and Second Chambers are not in favour of giving residents of future Countries Curaçao and St. Maarten active voting rights in Dutch Parliamentary elections.

With the exception of the one-member OSF faction in the First Chamber, all First and Second Chamber parties present at Tuesday’s joint meeting of the Permanent Committee for Antillean and Aruban Affairs NAAZ stated that they were against granting active voting rights to the islands.

The factions stated this in response to a recommendation of the Democratic Deficit Committee.

The Committee, chaired by Netherlands Antilles Deputy Minister Plenipotentiary in The Hague Mavis Brooks-Salomon, had suggested allowing Dutch citizens of the two countries active voting rights as a means of reducing the democratic deficit within the Kingdom.

The BES islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will automatically acquire voting rights in the Second Chamber elections when they become part of the Netherlands on October 10.

The Committee had analysed the democratic deficit and come up with suggestions that were made in a report called “Choosing for the Kingdom,” presented on November 11, 2009.

The Dutch Caribbean partners within the Kingdom generally believe that the Netherlands plays a too dominant role in the Kingdom, especially because decisions relating to the Kingdom are made by the Netherlands.

Benefit

“We don’t see any benefit in granting voting rights,” said Member of the Second Chamber Bas Jan van Bochove of the governing Christian Democratic Party CDA.

“We are not in favour of active voting rights,” said Member of the Second Chamber John Leerdam of the Labour Party PvdA, which forms part of the coalition.

“We have our doubts as to whether this is even possible,” said Christian Union (CU), the smallest coalition partner, represented by member of the Second Chamber Cynthia Ortega-Martina.

Opposition parties agreed with the ruling parties on this one. Member of the Second Chamber Johan Remkes of the liberal democratic VVD party said “no” to the Committee’s recommendation. “I don’t think it would be proportional,” said Remkes, referring to the small size of the islands compared to the Netherlands.

“Active voting rights are not the solution to the problem of the democratic deficit,” said Member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP).

Member of the Second Chamber Hero Brinkman of the Party for Freedom PVV said things should be placed in the right context, with the Netherlands having a population of some 16.5 million.

Member of the First Chamber Jan Laurier of the green left party GroenLinks said his faction couldn’t give a definite “yes” or “no” to the recommendation on voting rights.

Little brother trauma

Only Henk ten Hoeve of the OSF faction in the First Chamber supported the Committee’s suggestion. He agreed that active voting rights would reduce the democratic deficit, since the people of the islands would feel more involved in the Dutch Parliament. Ten Hoeve noted that the Antillean electorate was very small compared to that of the Netherlands.

Ten Hoeve said voting rights would positively contribute to reducing what he called the “little brother trauma.”

Liaisons from the Antilles and Aruba Parliaments, and in future, from the Parliaments of the three Dutch Caribbean countries, as well as video-conferencing – other suggestions of the Committee – would have less effect in reducing the “little brother trauma,” said Ten Hoeve.

The other parties agreed that video-conferencing was not a bad suggestion, but all doubted that it would work. “It will only work for five minutes,” envisioned Bas Jan van Bochove.

However, parties did acknowledge the importance of communicating between the parliaments, but doing so through liaisons was considered a bad idea. “Liaisons are superfluous and would only lead to more bureaucracy,” said Ronald van Raak.

Parliamentary meetings

The semi-annual Parliamentary Consultation in the Kingdom POK should be done away with immediately, agreed most parties. “POK is dead and we should not make any efforts to revive it,” said Johan Remkes. “Whatever happens, no more POK,” said Hero Brinkman.

John Leerdam and Cynthia Ortega-Martijn said POK in its current form obviously didn’t work, just as the Committee had stated.

Leerdam and Ortega-Martijn said parties on both sides of the ocean should discuss how to better structure their contacts before definitely killing POK.

“You should not throw out your old shoes before you have new ones,” said Leerdam.

“We should give the meetings more content and work with themes,” said Ortega-Martijn.

Brinkman said that meetings between the Parliaments, if they were to continue, had to be public. “We are very much in favour of transparency,” said Brinkman.

Remkes and Van Bochove agreed that contact meetings between the Parliaments, in any case, needed to be shortened to one or two days. “Meetings have to be leaner and meaner,” said Remkes.

State of the Kingdom

All parties supported the Committee’s recommendation to have an annual so-called State of the Kingdom, presented by the Kingdom Council of Ministers. In this State of the Kingdom, Government would reflect on developments in the Kingdom. “It will lead to more pondering about the quality of our Kingdom,” said Jan Laurier.

Van Raak warned that the State of the Kingdom should not be overdone. “We should not make a big circus out of it,” he said.

Parties showed much appreciation for the work of the Committee and described the report as “good” and “broad.” It was agreed that the First and Second Chambers would continue their deliberations on the report until after State Secretary of Kingdom Relations Ank Bijleveld-Schouten had submitted the formal response to the report on behalf of the Dutch Government.

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