Category Archives: Dutch Politics

‘Plasterks mantel der liefde zorgt niet voor beeld dat politicus een eerzaam beroep is’

Gekopieerd van de Volkrant website 6 dec Op de foto Wilbert Stolte, de in opspraak geraakte Rijksvertegenwoordiger BES eilanden.

COLUMN Het is niet meer van deze tijd om zaken over politici waar op z’n minst de geur van corruptie om heen hangt binnenskamers af te handelen, schrijft columnist Meindert Fennema.

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Murk Schaafsma (1883-1955) was aan het begin van de vorige eeuw ‘assistent bij de posterijen’ in Leeuwarden. Dat was hoger dan postbesteller, maar erg hoog kan het ook weer niet geweest zijn, want hij werd lid van de SDAP, de voorloper van de PvdA. Murk had ambitie en talent; hij maakte carrière bij de posterijen en In 1915 werd hij lid van de gemeenteraad. Daar bleef het niet bij, want in 1919 werd hij wethouder. De ondernemende wethouder reisde veel naar Duitsland. Of dat in het kader was van de internationale solidariteit weten wij niet, maar wel zijn de declaraties bewaard gebleven van hotelrekeningen in Berlijn Keulen en Frankfurt.

Sommige hotelrekeningen kwamen over de 300 gulden. Omgerekend is dat een bedrag van 1600 euro. Vergeleken met de dienstreizen van Bram Peper valt dat nog mee, maar in Leeuwarden was men dat destijds niet gewend. ‘De gemeentelijke boekhouders kregen er rode oortjes van’ schrijft Jaap Hellinga in de Leeuwarder Courant van 18 mei 2001.

Voor Schaafsma viel het doek in 1921, toen bleek dat hij als privépersoon een polder had gekocht die vervolgens in gebruik genomen werd als vuilstortplaats voor Leeuwarden.

Niets nieuws onder de zon zou men, denkend aan Ton Hooijmaijers, zeggen. Maar er is één groot verschil.

Geheime notulen
De zaak Schaafsma werd in 1921 door de Burgemeester van Leeuwarden, J.M. van Beyma, in een geheime raadsvergadering afgehandeld en zou nooit naar buiten gekomen zijn als één van de raadsleden de Leeuwarder Courant geen inzage had verschaft in de geheime notulen van de raadsvergadering. De burgemeester eiste van alle 25 raadsleden een verklaring dat zij niet hadden gelekt. De liberaal A. de Vos weigerde dat, tot woedde van de burgemeester.

De Vos zou in 1923 niet terugkeren in de raad van Leeuwarden. Het is nu ondenkbaar dat zo’n zaak de kop zou kosten van de klokkenluider, als zijn er genoeg voorbeelden bekend dat de politieke erfgenamen van een man als De Vos in hun politieke carrière nog steeds tegengewerkt worden. Maar zo opvallend als dat in 1921 gedaan werd, dat kan niet meer.

Of niet?

De laatste loot aan de stam van reislustige wethouders is de oud-wethouder uit Den Haag, Wilbert Stolte. In de NRC van afgelopen zaterdag wordt verslaggedaan van zijn reizen naar Bonaire, waar hij aanzienlijk meer aan uitgeeft dan zijn illustere voorganger Murk Schaafsma deed in Duitsland. Maar ook Wilbert Stolte struikelde uiteindelijk: niet over een vuilnisstort, maar over een penthouse, dat hij aanvankelijk huurde op kosten van BZK maar dat hij besloot het te kopen, samen met zijn maatje Hans Hillen, die zich op Bonaire flink laat betalen voor lobbywerk in Den Haag, ten behoeve van het bestuurscollege. Zo wordt hij twee keer betaald: één keer als senator om besluiten te nemen en één keer als adviseur van het bestuurscollege om voor Bonaire de juiste besluiten te nemen.

Stolte en Hillen worden op de Antillen knabbel en babbel genoemd. Zij kochten het penthouse in 2007 van een vriend en zakenman op Bonaire, Ed de Vuijst. De Vuijst zelf huurt al sinds jaar en dag een klein landhuis aan zee van het bestuurscollege op Bonaire. Voor 60 euro per maand. Dat ‘unique Carribean style house with private beach’ (NRC 30-11-2013) verhuurt hij op zijn buurt aan toeristen voor 2000 euro per week. Van dat geld stort hij zo nu en dan wat in de verkiezingskas van de regerende Union Patriotiko Boneriano (UPB) om te zorgen dan zijn huisbaas de baas blijft op Bonaire. Politici van het CDA maken graag  en gratis gebruik van het penthouse van Hillen en Stolte. De leider van het CDA was er afgelopen jaarwisseling.

Stolte declareerde in 2006 een aantal dagen waarop hij in zijn Penthouse werkte zowel in Den Haag als in Bonaire. Ook op andere punten moest Den Haag zijn declaraties ‘corrigeren’. Hij reisde 17 keer naar Bonaire voor werkzaamheden ten behoeve van een commissie, waarvan het Curacaose lid één reis nodig had.

Aftreden
Stolte treedt nu ‘op eigen verzoek’ al volgend jaar mei af als Rijksvertegenwoordiger, drie jaar eerder dan de bedoeling was. Minister Plasterk doet er verder het zwijgen toe, hij ‘twijfelt niet aan de integriteit van Stolte.’ Het lijkt erop dat Plasterk, net als destijds de burgemeester van Leeuwarden, de zaak graag binnenskamers afhandelt. Maar dat kan niet meer in een tijd waarin de media hun controlerende taak veel serieuzer opvatten dan destijds. Was Plasterk ook niet de minister die in de Volkskrant verklaarde dat de burgers er weer van overtuigd moeten worden dat het beroep van politicus een eerzaam beroep is? Plasterks mantel der liefde draagt daar niet toe bij.

Meindert Fennema is emeritus hoogleraar en columnist voor Volkskrant.nl. Onlangs verscheen zijn eerste roman Het slachthuis.

link: http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/11204/Meindert-Fennema/article/detail/3557028/2013/12/06/Plasterks-mantel-der-liefde-zorgt-niet-voor-beeld-dat-politicus-een-eerzaam-beroep-is.dhtml#.UqGC7mkGE9Y.facebook

Appointment procedure for “Rijksvertegenwoordiger” has to change according to D’66

(picture NRC) In this article the D’66 opinion about the appointment procedure of the “Rijksvertegenwoordiger” and that that has to change.

http://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2013/11/27/benoemingsprocedure-rijksvertegenwoordiger-antillen-nu-te-schimmig/?fb_action_ids=10200213360297152&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B414840835310241%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.recommends%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

28 nov written answer from Plasterk:

Kamerlid: Hachchi (D66)

Vraag:

Kunt u de benoeming van de Rijksvertegenwoordiger stroomlijnen met die van een commissaris van de Koning?

Antwoord:

Er bestaan grote verschillen in de rol en positie van de commissaris van de Koning en de Rijksvertegenwoordiger, welke mede tot uitdrukking komen in de benoemingsprocedure.

De benoeming van de Rijksvertegenwoordiger is vastgelegd in art 188 Wolbes. De minister van BZK stelt een profielschets vast, waarna de vacature wordt geplaatst in de Staatscourant. Voordat de minister de voordracht tot benoeming doet, wint hij over de voor te dragen persoon het gevoelen in van de bestuurscolleges van de openbare lichamen, dit om het draagvlak voor het functioneren van betrokkene in de praktijk te toetsen. Aangezien de Rijksvertegenwoordiger geen deel uitmaakt van het eilandsbestuur en daar dus ook geen verantwoordingsrelatie mee heeft is er geen sprake van een vertrouwenscommissie, uit respectievelijk aanbeveling van de eilandsraad.

Zoals bekend legt de huidige Rijksvertegenwoordiger per 1 mei 2014 zijn functie neer. Ik zal derhalve voor zijn opvolging een profielschets vaststellen. Dit past in de huidige acties voor de verbeteren van de Rijkscoördinatie.

Letter to the First Chamber urges them not to sign the amendment untill after 2015

This link goes to an article in Dutch about a letter that was sent to the First Chamber in the Netherlands.

In the letter, William Anthony (a Bonairean living in the Netherlands) urges the First Chamber not to sign the concept law to amend the constitution. This amendment is necessary to give Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba their special position as public entities. Anthony is supported by “Awor Té Ora” and “Nos Kier Boneira Bek” from Bonaire and “Brighter Path Foundation” (St. Eustatius).

http://www.versgeperst.com/nieuws/199437/positie-bes-liever-niet-zo-snel-in-de-grondwet.html

 

 

Plasterk reconfirms role as coordinating Minister

THE HAGUE–Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk has informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament that he is willing to give “substantial” content to his role as coordinating minister for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. “This means that I will be the central point for the  islands in all areas, that I will relay the issues where they belong and that I will maintain the relations with the Caribbean Netherlands by pressing for consultation and sharing of argumentation,” the Minister stated in his January 30 letter.

It will also mean that the Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations will be informed in reducing travel between The Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands as much as possible, he stated. And, he added, “It means preventing the islands from being confronted with unnecessary regulations.”

Plasterk described the relations between The Netherlands and the Caribbean Netherlands as “fragile,” using reactions to changes  in the health care insurance package for the islands as an example.

“The islands were taken by surprise and are asking about the intentions of The Netherlands for the Caribbean Netherlands.” He said the islands are aware that the health care cost has to be kept in check, but that there should be room for consultation. The islands find desirable that different way of giving content, he added. According to Plasterk, it is of importance to discuss the “rules of the game” when policy changes are made that affect the islands. Consultation with the islands is also necessary on the planned general evaluation in 2015. “My standpoint is that we don’t go for drastic constitutional changes, but that we focus on fine-tuning the current structure,” he said, also referring to the status of Curaçao and St. Maarten.

Plasterk further informed the Second Chamber that the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have asked attention for several issues such as medical referrals, the backlogs in infrastructure, deregulation,  combating of poverty and the development plans. These issues will be discussed during the Caribbean Netherlands week in The Netherlands, from March 11 to 15.

You can read the entire letter in Dutch here: http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/ministeries/bzk/documenten-en-publicaties/kamerstukken/2013/02/04/kamerbrief-over-reis-minister-plasterk-van-19-tot-27-januari-2013.html

 

“We should care,” says Ganzevoort

By Suzanne Koelega

THE HAGUE–Making space for others and their views. It is this motto that Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Ruard Ganzevoort of the green left party Groen- Links, professor of practical theology and former preacher also applies in his approach towards the Dutch Caribbean. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t critical about some  developments, especially in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the Caribbean part of The Netherlands. The burden of too many taxes and regulations, the steep prices, high airfare between the Windward Islands, a trimmed health care package and the lack of commitment to assist where help is really needed bothers him. According to Ganzevoort (47), a member of the First Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations and part of the delegation that visited the islands early January 2013, The Netherlands is especially over-regulating in the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

“While on the islands it became clear to me that we are doing too much. We can do without so much legislation, especially considering the small scale of these islands. Take infrastructure. Prohibiting the dumping of waste water is beautiful but what good does it do when you have no sewage lines. The islands are plagued by regulations that are quite impossible to execute.” The new tax structure that The Netherlands implemented on the public entities is another example of too much and too complicated, according to Ganzevoort. Instead of making things too complicated, authorities should work on a better tax compliance. “The number of people paying taxes should go up. There are too many tax evaders. Authorities should not compensate with higher taxes because you punish those people that already comply. Higher tax compliance will result in more income for local government which means that there is more money for improvement of infrastructure and social facilities,” said Ganzevoort.

The Senator sees a solution for the increasing poverty in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba by tackling three issues: increasing salaries, lowering of (food) prices and a better tax compliance. “in my opinion the solution lies within that triangle,” he said.  

Combined effort  

According to Ganzevoort the solution would have to be a combined effort of the local government and the business sector in consultation with The Netherlands, Curaçao and St. Maarten. The latter two countries have a big influence on the prices of goods because they serve as transhipment points and in many cases taxes are levied on products that go to Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

Ganzevoort said that when he visited the islands with a delegation of the Senate he became well aware of the urgency of the situation and the need for a solution. “Many people simply do not manage and that is unacceptable.” The high prices, the steep cost of living increase, the low wages and elderly allowance AOV, health care and the role of local government were recurring topics during the meet and greet gatherings that the Senate’s delegation attended in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The December 21 decision of Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers to restrict the health care insurance package in the Caribbean Netherlands per January 1, 2013 is not wise, said Ganzevoort. As a matter of fact, the entire First Chamber is objecting to this decision which was taken without consulting the islands.

 Killing health care 

“You run the risk of killing the local health care system,” said Ganzevoort. He said the principle of making the system equal to that of The Netherlands doesn’t apply because it is not a level playing field: people on the islands cannot take additional health insurance and cannot switch health care providers. “Measures to cut cost are always painful but you cannot transplant the system one on one.”

Overall there are three larger issues that need to be solved in the Caribbean Netherlands: fewer regulations/legislation, clearing the backlog especially where it comes to infrastructure, working on truly better relations and more cooperation among the partners in the Kingdom.

Firstly, it is important to determine which laws and regulations are really needed and which are not. Overregulation makes no sense, said Ganzevoort. Secondly, “We also have to look at the aspects that have not been cleared and check what is really necessary such as the infrastructure. For example, the roads in St. Eustatius and a water distribution system in Saba; aspects that were never addressed when the islands were part of the Netherlands Antilles.”

Thirdly, partners in the Kingdom have to constructively look at ways to improve relations and cooperation. Fact of the matter is that St. Eustatius and Saba will remain dependent on St. Maarten. Cooperation with surrounding islands is essential. We have to approach this as a network, see what is possible not only geographically with other islands but also with organisations, NGO’s,” said Ganzevoort.  

High airfare 

The Senator was struck by the high prices of air tickets in the Windward Islands. He agreed with residents and governments of St. Eustatius and Saba that this has an adverse effect on the accessibility of the islands and the economic development in general. He said it was important to determine the exact cause of the high prices and who is responsible.

Asked if Winair should be considered a form of public transportation which should be subsidised by government just like the Dutch railway company NS, he said that the two cases could not be compared. Also, The Hague would have to look at the cost involved. Ganzevoort agreed that the Dutch Government is partly responsible for good, affordable connection by air. “Fact is that it is a problem. The issue does require a deeper analysis.” He suggested consultations with the St. Maarten airport to see if the airport taxes could be lowered. The problems of St. Maarten are of an entirely different nature. Ganzevoort has respect for the way the largest of the Windward Islands is building a country and the determination to make something of it. But St. Maarten remains fragile, he added. The people whom I spoke with seem to be well aware of the challenges. After all it is a very small country.”

According to Ganzevoort, St. Maarten seems to be searching for its own position in the Kingdom and trying to find a balance in its relationship with The Hague as far as its dependence on The Netherlands while at the same time showing the willingness to cooperate, also in the interest of its sister islands St. Eustatius and Saba.  

Short mandate

 Asked about his impression of the new Curaçao Government, the Senator pointed out that this cabinet as a short mandate. “The question is how things will be in one year. The measures that this government will have to take are very far-reaching. It remains to be seen to what extent the measures can really be executed,” he said. He noted that it will be a challenge to close the gap in the government’s finances. “Fact is that they are taking responsibility and that is very good, also for the people and the relations in the Kingdom,” he said, stressing that his remarks were based on what he had seen and heard during his visit and that by no means he meant to interfere in Curaçao’s own affairs or how Willemstad manages its own finances. How did Ganzevoort end up in the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations last year? “I spent part of my childhood in Suriname. I have a more than average consciousness of the width of the Kingdom and the importance of good relations. I want to contribute to these relations, also from the perspective as to whether the decisions that we take here are good for the islands.”

There is every reason to handle the islands with care and not to lose sight of their interest, said the Senator. “The islands are small and deserve to be treated with care. Democracy is not only power of the majority but also the protection of the minority,” he said, aiming at the role of The Netherlands as the biggest country of the Kingdom.

So why does a preacher who studied theology become a Member of the First Chamber? Because of his motto: making space for others. Diversity, accepting ne another for who they re is important to him. “There is too much polarisation, ertain groups in society are excluded. One political party said that the islands should be put on marktplaats.nl. That is in contradiction with my motto. People from the Dutch Caribbean are citizens of the Kingdom. We should care.

“Good Antilleans can stay, criminals must go back” says Fritsma

~ PVV Member of Parliament Fritsma: without reciprocity no equal partners ~

By Suzanne Koelega

THE HAGUE–Agreed, not all people from the Dutch Caribbean are criminal. In fact the majority are doing well in The Netherlands. But those who trespass the law should be sent back to the islands, applying a sliding scale which takes into account the nature of the committed crime and the time that a person resides in The Netherlands.

Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Sietse Fritsma (40) – and member of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations since September last year – is clear about the vision of his party, the Party for Freedom PVV. “We will keep asking for measures as long as Antilleans are overrepresented in crime statistics and the usual lists of social welfare, unemployment and school dropouts.”

The group called “Antilleans” in The Netherlands, the majority of them being from Curaçao, is not doing well, said Fritsma in an interview with The Daily Herald earlier this week. “Figures show that one third of these youngsters have been in contact with justice. One third is a lot – way too much, if you ask me.”

The main problem is that people from the islands have always been admitted into The Netherlands without any conditions attached. People from The Netherlands, on the other hand, are not allowed to freely take up residency on the islands. “That is very strange, to say the least. That has created an imbalance,” he said.

As long as this imbalance exists, there can never be equality between the partners in the Kingdom, said the Member of Parliament (MP). “We have to be able to set the same conditions. That includes the possibility to send back criminals. As PVV we always had this opinion and that remains unchanged.”

Sure, there is a “large group” from the islands that is doing well in The Netherlands, said Fritsma, when asked if he knew that the majority of the “Antilleans” were good, hardworking people contributing to the Dutch society. There is also a large group of students who aren’t causing problems either, he acknowledged.

No fear

“If one third is not doing well, it means that two thirds are doing well. I am very happy about that. This group should have absolutely no fear of being sent back. People who say that we want to throw out all Antilleans are lying. We never said that,” he said.

However, the issue is the group that is spoiling things for others and causing big problems in The Netherlands. “They are overrepresented in crime statistics, they are committing violent crimes, large numbers are living off social welfare and many are dropping out of school. That is a problem that needs solving. As long as those problems exist, the PVV will keep this issue in the spotlight.”

The PVV is in favour of implementing a system for people from the Dutch Caribbean, whereby the residency of a person and the crime committed is linked to a certain penalty. The system would be a sliding scale format: the shorter the period of residency, the quicker one can be expelled, depending on the type of crime.

“When a person has resided in The Netherlands for a long time, he or she will not be expelled more quickly than a person who has been here for a short while. For a person who has been here for a long time to be expelled, he or she must have committed a very serious offence,” he said.

Fritsma explained that authorities in The Netherlands use a similar system to expel foreigners who get in trouble with the law. Fritsma is also PVV’s spokesperson on immigration affairs. After his study of social geography at Groningen University, he worked at the Immigration and Naturalisation Service IND until he was elected into Parliament in 2006.

Because people from the islands have the Dutch nationality, legal experts question whether it is legally possible to expel these Dutch citizens or refuse them entry to The Netherlands. According to the PVV, both are possible or should become possible. “Curaçao is another country so that justifies the decision to expel or refuse a person. We think that it is possible to treat Dutch citizens from another country differently,” said Fritsma.

Say farewell

It is no secret that the PVV would rather get rid of the Dutch Caribbean partners. In fact, the PVV election programme clearly stated that the party wants to “say farewell” to the islands, including the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Especially Curaçao is a problem, which various PVV politicians have called a “banana republic.”

To emphasise the party’s view of the islands, Fritsma presented a motion during the handling of the 2013 draft budget of Kingdom Relations in October last year which called on the Dutch Government to facilitate the independence of the islands. The motion didn’t make it, but the PVV had made its point.

“Curaçao is a priority candidate for independence,” said Fritsma. “On none of the other islands is there as much political chaos as in Curaçao.” Although he has never visited Curaçao or any of the islands for that matter, Fritsma said he was “shocked” to learn of the “avalanche of craziness” committed under the auspices of the Schotte cabinet when he became PVV’s spokesman for Kingdom Relations. “Debt, reports of corruption, fraud, nepotism, and the list went on.”

PVV’s scepticism of Willemstad remains with the appointment of a new cabinet which wants to restore tranquillity, trust and (economic) stability. “The election results didn’t give us much confidence. Helmin Wiels (Pueblo Soberano), the man who threatened to send Dutch people back in body bags, won,” said the MP.

St. Maarten less chaotic

Fritsma was more positive about St. Maarten. “It isn’t as much of a chaos as it is in Curaçao. But there are problems. St. Maarten is often mentioned in combination with fraud, corruption, drugs and the mafia. Here too applies: St. Maarten should become independent.”

Asked if St. Maarten, St. Eustatius or Saba weren’t too small to become independent, Fritsma said that the solution was more cooperation among the islands, creating (economic) unities. “That is a real possibility. It happens all over the Caribbean region.”

Why should the islands get out of the Kingdom? “Our interest is the Dutch taxpayer. Too much money is going to the islands. It is a one-way relationship dominated by money from the Dutch Government and migration from the islands to The Netherlands. The interests of the Dutch taxpayers have been hurt and compromised,” he said.

The PVV would rather spend the money in The Netherlands. “We have enough problems of our own to solve,” he said. The PVV vehemently protested the payment of the 1.5 billion euro Antillean national debt during the constitutional process to dismantle the Netherlands Antilles.

Fritsma got quite a lecture from his colleagues of other parties in the Second Chamber when he claimed during the handling of the 2013 Kingdom Relations budget that The Netherlands has the right to step out of the Kingdom, just as the islands have that right.

Various constitutional experts have said that a United Nations (UN) regulation on decolonisation prevents The Netherlands from forcing the islands into independence and one-sidedly ending the relations. The right of self-determination lies with the former colonies and not the former coloniser.

No self-determination

But Fritsma remained adamant. “There are also constitutional experts who say that we do have the right to end the relationship. The Netherlands is the only country in the Kingdom that has no right of self-determination or an independent position. Curaçao and the other overseas territories can choose to leave; we can’t. I refuse to believe that we can be held forever hostage by the islands.”

According to Fritsma, clarity should come once and for all on the issue of the right of self-determination. “The central question has never really been answered. And, as it is a recurring topic in the discussions about the islands, it is important that we do. As long as this question remains unanswered, we will keep having differences of opinion.”

Fritsma already has thought of a solution if it turns out that The Netherlands indeed can’t unilaterally end the relationship with the islands. “Then we will have to change the conditions of the UN resolution. The PVV will not accept this as a given, because we find it very strange that we would have no say in this.”

The fact that a large group of some 140,000 people from the Dutch Caribbean live in The Netherlands shouldn’t obstruct the independence of the islands. “The relation with the islands doesn’t have to be in the form of Kingdom ties. The Netherlands has good ties with many countries in the world.”

Amendments in the Dutch Kieswet

THE HAGUE–A proposal to change the Dutch Electoral Law will make it easier for new political parties in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to participate in the elections for the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. Dutch Minister of  Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk has taken over this advice of the Electoral Council in the second government amendment in relation to the proposal to adapt the Electoral Law, currently at the Second Chamber.

The Electoral Law, in its earlier report on the September 12, 2012, Second Chamber elections, had advised to reduce the minimum number of support declarations for new parties in voting district 20, comprising Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, from thirty to ten. This would make it easier for new parties to participate in the Dutch Parliamentary elections.

Plasterk took over the majority of the Electoral Council’s proposals. Other important changes in the second government amendment include the relieving of the workload of the voting bureaus, the noting of the number of  votes through  authorisation (of another person), expanding the possibilities for people abroad to vote by letter and an extension of the term for support declarations.

http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/ministeries/bzk/documenten-en-publicaties/kamerstukken/2013/01/17/tweede-nota-van-wijziging-van-de-kieswet.html

Minister Plasterk visits Caribbean part of the Kingdom, Thursday and Friday on Statia

Minister Plasterk (Interior Affairs and Kingdom relations) visits the Caribbean part of the Kingdom from Saturday 19th of January till Saturday 26th of January 2013. At his first trip to the Caribbean the minister visits the countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. He also visits Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire, the islands that are part of The Netherlands.

 

Plasterk starts his visit onAruba. He will have meetings with Governor  Refunjol, Prime Minister Eman, the council of ministers and the leaders of the political parties of the parliament ofAruba. He will also visit the Coast Guard and he is present in theharbourofOranjestadwhen Wubbo Ockels arrives  with his ‘Zero-emission’ yacht.

 

On Monday, January 21 and Tuesday morning January 22, the Minister is on  Curaçao. He speaks with Acting Governor Van der Pluijm-Vrede and meets with Prime Minister Hodge and the new government of Curaçao. He also speaks with politicians and other representatives from civil society.

 

The rest of Tuesday and Wednesday 23 January Plasterk is on St. Maarten. There he will meet the Governor, Mr. Holiday, Prime Minister Wescott-Williams and the members of the Cabinet. The visit to St. Maarten ends with a visit to the Coast Guard.

 

In the afternoon onSaba, the minister is introduced to Island Governor Johnson, the Executive Council and the Island Council. On Thursday, January 24,  Plasterk will discover a unique piece of nature, the rainforest ofSaba. Between 08.00 and 11.00 AM he climbsMountScenery, the highest point in theNetherlands.

 

Thursday afternoon, the Minister is onSt. Eustatiusfor talks with Island Governor Berkel, the Executive Council and the Island Council. Friday, January 25, the Minister gets acquainted with the island and its history. In the afternoon Plasterk travels toBonaire, where he has a meeting with Island  Governor Mrs. Emerencia, the Executive Council and the members of the Island Council.

 

Saturday, January 26 Minister Plasterk concludes his trip to Bonaire with a visit to different projects on the island and where the social and economic problems ofBonairewill be explained to him. He begins his tour at 09:00 AM from Playa to Rincon and he will visit the elderly day care centre Cocari, the FKPD (foundation for the care of physically of mentally disabled people) and Magasina di Rei. At the end of the day Plasterk will fly back to The Netherlands.

Plasterk eager to visit islands

Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk is looking forward to his first offi cial visit to the Dutch Caribbean. He starts his seven-day visit this Saturday on Aruba. The Minister will be on St. Maarten next Tuesday afternoon until Wednesday morning. He will visit Saba Wednesday afternoon until Thursday morning and St. Eustatius on Thursday afternoon until Friday morning.

Plasterk, who was appointed on November 5 last year, has never visited the Windward Islands before, only the Leeward Islands in a previous function as Minister of Education, Culture and Science, said in an interview with The Daily Herald and Amigoe that he will be visiting with an “open mind.” “This is an introductory visit. I have already met some members of the overseas governments like Prime Ministers Mike Eman of Aruba and Sarah Wescot-Williams of St. Maarten, but I have yet to meet the new Curaçao Prime Minister Daniel Hodge and the other members of his cabinet,” he said.

The Kingdom of The Netherlands is important to Plasterk (55). He often reminds people, including his colleagues in the Council of Ministers that the Kingdom entails more than The Netherlands. “People sometimes forget that the Kingdom consists of four countries, each with tits own autonomy and responsibility. I want to ensure that people are well aware of that,” he said. Cooperation in the Kingdom is imperative, according to the Minister. “I want to focus on what we can do together, explore areas where we can work together and how we can reinforce each other. We are together in one Kingdom covering two continents. I want to look ahead, search together for joint opportunities in all openness, find a future together,” he said, also aiming at the role of the islands as a hub function between Europe and Latin America. Plasterk is aware that it is not always good news in the Kingdom and that at times tension runs high, the most recent case being Curaçao which was ordered by the Kingdom Council of Ministers to get its finances in order. Still, every country has its own responsibility, said the Minister. “I don’t want toget into the responsibility of another country. Each country has its own government and responsibilities including arranging its own finances,” he said. But the Kingdom Government does find it important that agreements are lived up to. “Agreements were made and that means it becomes a joint responsibility,” he said, mentioning the Central Bank of Curaçao and St. Maarten. “It was agreed that there would be an audit at the Bank. It is logical that eyebrows are raised when it takes very long for this to materialise.” The new government on Curaçao has a big responsibility and is under enormous pressure to take essential and difficult decisions to cut cost, said Plasterk. “Cost reduction measures are unavoidable, also because it is crucial to ensure that there is trust in the economy. Without that trust, economic activities will cease and the country will end in a negative spiral. The new government awaits a heavy task,” he said.

Assuming a standoffish-attitude, Plasterk added; “It is not important what I think about this. Important is that it benefits the people and that decisions are taken by a solid government to restore trust. It is not about me but about economic growth.” Plasterk will visit six islands in seven days and the packed programme will leave little time for him to speak with the people even though he would have loved to do so he said when asked if he would have a meet and greet with the people similar to the gatherings that the visiting delegation of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament had last week. He promised that he would be return to talk with people.

Plasterk said he was aware that the decision of Dutch Minister of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Edith Schippers to cuts in the basic health care package for the Caribbean Netherlands will be a major topic on the agenda when he visits Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba next week. “I am sure that I will hear about it. The islands are part of The Netherlands and as Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations I am the one who they will come to with their concerns.” he said. However, his role is limited, said Plasterk. “I will listen carefully, but I am not the Minister of Public Health for the Caribbean Netherlands. Being the coordinating minister doesn’t mean that I will do the things myself. The ministries here have to do things in coherence as much as possible.” The Minister said that he is willing to help by referring the island authorities to the right place and by relaying the information to his colleagues. “It is important for the islands to know where they can turn to in cases like these. We shouldn’t send them from pillar to post.”

Source: “The Daily Herald” 2013-01-18

Independence for Statia, Saba is a complete Utopia, says van Dijk (PVV)

~ PVV Senator Peter van Dijk favours open, honest discussions ~

By Suzanne Koelega

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.”

Bizarre

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.”

More communication

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.”