LITTLE BAY--The use of Kingdom Consensus Laws by the Dutch government as a mechanism to exercise greater control over the islands in the Caribbean part of the kingdom was one of the topics that took centre stage during tripartite discussions among representatives of the parliaments of St. Maarten, Curaçao and Aruba on Tuesday.
The Parliament representatives were joint in their view that the laws are being inappropriately applied to control the islands, as in the case of the interest rates being applied to the COVID-19 loans if the islands do not adhere to conditions set by the Dutch.
“We won’t let all our strategies out of the bag because they [the Dutch – Ed.] might start planning on how to oppose them as well, but for now the discussions were around the Dutch government using Consensus Kingdom Laws in order to bring you to your knees and I feel personally it’s about reeling back in the so-called power they have lost through the disintegration of the Netherlands Antilles,” St. Maarten delegation leader William Marlin said at a press conference held at Divi Little Bay Resort following the meeting.
“When you had the Netherlands Antilles you had one centre – Willemstad – and through that you controlled them all.”
From left: Some members of the St. Maarten delegation at Tuesday’s press conference (Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani, Rolando Brison and William Marlin) and the Aruba delegation (Edgard Vrolijk and Hendrik Tevreden). Not in photo, but present at the press conference was Curaçao representative Amerigo Thode.
Some members of the St. Maarten delegation during the meeting.
Marlin said that since 2015 St Maarten was being pressured by the Netherlands. “Actually I think it was when the agreement was signed for St. Maarten to establish an Integrity Chamber. Initially, they wanted it to be a Consensus Kingdom Law, then it was … an instruction and then the St. Maarten government at the time agreed okay, ‘we will do it’ and they entered an agreement.
“When I became Prime Minister, I had always been against and I continue to be against the manner in which it came about. It is not about having an Integrity Chamber, it is the fact of having an Integrity Chamber controlled by Holland and that reports to Holland. Then it’s not a St. Maarten Integrity Chamber, it is a supervisory body imposed on us,” Marlin told reporters at a press conference held at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort following the tripartite meeting on Tuesday.
He said a consensus Kingdom Law is being used in Aruba’s case to renegotiate other points and pressure that island into accepting higher interest rates. Marlin insisted that the “manner in which these things are done is unacceptable and should not continue,” a sentiment that he said had been expressed recently to the Committee for Financial Supervision CFT.
Aruba Member of Parliament (MP) Hendrik Tevreden concurred with Marlin.
“I completely agree with Marlin. For us as Aruba … it’s a regression. We feel that they use that as a control mechanism because the point of the Netherlands is if we do not accept the … RFT, then we have to pay a higher interest rate and that means that Aruba, as you see now, is the only island that has an interest rate for the COVID pandemic loans of 6.9%.
“This is actually the interest rate that you will get on any international market and that’s what we feel is against the spirit of the law of article 36 of the Charter and we feel that we as kingdom citizens – part of the kingdom – as Aruba, we should be able to get a better understanding, better agreement and better interest rate on this situation.
“It is not a loan that has been used for the everyday situation of Aruba, but it is a loan that specifically went to sustain the Aruban community in a difficult situation of the COVID pandemic, so by saying that we do believe that the Netherlands used it as a control mechanism … it’s a regression to go back to that situation that we came out of since 86 already and lost that autonomous, financial autonomous status as an island,” Tevrede said in giving his personal opinion.
The Curaçao representative, Amerigo Thode, believes that the Netherlands is doing business with the loans by borrowing at a low interest rate and lending the funds to the islands at a higher rate.
Marlin said the agenda for the tripartite meeting had been lengthy, touching on issues such as giving feedback on agreements on the previous tripartite meeting; discussion on a timeline regarding the dispute regulation; the frequency and accessibility of air traffic between the islands; and the democratic deficit particularly in regard to the use of consensus kingdom laws as a means of control.
Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley also made a presentation about the hospital alliance public health exchange between the islands of the Caribbean and the Netherlands. Ottley also fielded questions on the initiative.
The parliamentarians also focused on the reorganisation of the tax systems as based on the country packages and discussed possible pathways that can be followed to achieve poverty alleviation.
Parties also agreed that the next Inter Parliamentary Kingdom Consultation IPKO meeting will be held in Aruba on February 19, 2024. They also agreed on several agenda points to be included in those discussions, including taxes, religion and revamping of the tax system.
A Contactplan Presidium meeting between delegations of the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten and Suriname was also held on October 23. The Contactplan is a parliamentary platform of the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao, St. Maarten, and the National Assembly of Suriname to discuss topics of mutual interest.
The last Contactplan consultations were held in February 2019 in Suriname and have not been held since. For that reason, the countries deemed it necessary to meet on a Presidium level to chart the way forward as it regards the Contactplan consultations.