THE HAGUE–Unacceptable, outrageous, disappointing, not amused. The four Parliaments in the Kingdom were unanimous in condemning the short letter of Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops in which he announced that a law proposal to introduce the Dispute Regulation would be forthcoming before the end of the year.
The delegations of the Parliaments of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, currently meeting in The Hague in the setting of the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPKO this week, reacted fiercely to the state secretary’s note which was sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament late Tuesday afternoon.
During the meeting earlier on Tuesday, the IPKO unanimously decided to ask the state secretary for clarification of his recent statement in which he had suggested that the law proposal to establish the Dispute Regulation (geschillenregeling) had been shelved for now as it was not a priority. In his opinion, there were more urgent issues such as the reconstruction of St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma.
IPKO Chairman and Member of the Second Chamber Alexander Pechtold set the tone when he introduced the agenda point of the Dispute Regulation on Wednesday morning.” I have to say that I am not very happy with this letter and I deplore the fact that it doesn’t get us any further,” he said.
Member of Parliament (MP) Giselle McWilliam of Curaçao said the letter was useless. She said she found it “outrageous” that there was an advice of the Council of State on the law proposal and that the Dutch government made up excuses every time not to submit the law proposal to the Second Chamber for handling, at which time the advice of the Council of State would be published.
“We are held hostage by the state secretary. This is not his project, but of the Parliaments and the people’s. We cannot accept this. We have invested a lot of time and effort as Parliaments in getting a Dispute Regulation materialised. We have been open, honest in the discussions and agreed to wait on the law proposal of the Dutch government and the advice of the Council of State. But apparently, we don’t count,” said McWilliam.
St. Maarten delegation leader Sarah Wescot-Williams said Knops’ letter was “a step back.” She said her delegation didn’t appreciate that the letter includes the suggestion that the Parliaments would give the Dispute Regulation higher priority than other urgent issues such as the reconstruction of St. Maarten. “We can very well divide our attention between the different priorities,” she said.
The letter that the four Parliaments decided to send to the state secretary referred to this aspect that Wescot-Williams mentioned. “We have taken note of the suggestion in your letter. The importance that all Parliaments in the Kingdom attach to a speedy realisation of a Dispute Regulation does not lead to a shortage of parliamentary involvement where it regards other topics of vital importance,” it was stated.
In the letter, the four Parliaments pointed out that “many years had passed” without a law proposal for a Dispute Regulation for the Kingdom reaching the Second Chamber, even though the Parliaments have repeatedly requested such, for example, through an adopted motion of Member of the Second Chamber Roelof van Laar of October 2015.
The Dutch Parliament had already asked to address this matter in 2010. The advice of the Council of State regarding the law proposal has been ready. According to the four Parliaments, it would benefit the progress and mutual relations if there were transparency on the content, considerations and next steps in the handling of the law proposal in question.
In the IPKO setting it was decided to request that the state secretary submit the law proposal to the Second Chamber no later than November 1, 2018. This would enable the Parliaments to discuss the law proposal during the next IPKO meetings in January 2019. The Parliaments also asked Knops to provide a reaction and an action plan for how to get there before June 18, 2018. Pechtold said this would provide the Parliaments with two moments to monitor the state secretary.
The Aruba delegation leader Ady Thijsen and MP Rocco Tjon made it very clear that the attitude of the state secretary to let the Parliaments wait for so long was unacceptable. Tjon said this matter confirmed what he said in his address on Tuesday, namely that the Dutch government had a habit of ignoring the wishes of the islands, tossing aside the principle of equality among the partners in the Kingdom.
Thijsen, who has been around as an MP for a long time and who has clamoured for a Dispute Regulation for years, emphasised that the Parliaments had followed all the procedures and done a lot of work to pave the way for this independent arbitration provision. “We have a consensus as four Parliaments. This is no way to deal with the Parliaments in the Kingdom. We have to send a clear message to the state secretary that this is completely unacceptable.”
Dutch delegation leader Ruard Ganzevoort added his two cents. “The Dutch delegation is not amused, to say it lightly. We understand that the state secretary needed some time to start up after his appointment, but this cannot continue forever.” He said the state secretary’s reaction “didn’t do justice to what has been decided at the IPKO and our efforts to build solid relations within the Kingdom.”
Senator Frank van Kappen provided the delegations with an overview of developments over the years regarding the Dispute Regulation. In his presentation he also delved into the legal aspects of the Dispute Regulation and explained the differences of opinion between the Dutch Caribbean countries and the Dutch government on this complex, politically sensitive matter.
Bron: Daily Herald