St. Maarten delegation leader and President of the St. Maarten Parliament Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani during his opening speech at the IPKO in Curaçao on Tuesday morning.
WILLEMSTAD--The Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPKO opened in Curaçao on Tuesday with a call for more collaboration and understanding within the Kingdom to face mutual challenges.
The Kingdom needs to display unity in every aspect, said Chairperson of this IPKO, President of the Curaçao Parliament Charetti America-Francisca. “Dare to get closer, to better understand each other. Deep down, people are not very different from each other. I hope that during this IPKO, together we will look for solutions to the various challenges that we face. This is our responsibility as the people’s representatives. Looking at the agenda topics, we can conclude that there are major challenges in the Kingdom.”
America-Francisca said that in all parts of the Kingdom, there were increasing challenges with migration. “We need to learn from each other how to deal with that.” The Dutch slavery past and the colonial history are a key topic on the agenda of this IPKO. “In our shared history, the slavery past goes hand in hand with colonialism. That is why it is important to discuss during this IPKO how this still continues to affect the current society.”
Leader of the Dutch delegation and chairperson of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament Mariëlle Paul mentioned the recent death of Senator Peter Ester, who, as a member of the First Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations, attended various IPKO meetings. “Peter always said: ‘Sharp on the content, soft on our relations.’ I see as our calling to get to work in the coming days in Peter’s spirit,” said Paul.
Paul mentioned a number of challenges, such as the effects of the Ukraine war, high inflation and the high cost of energy. In addition, the Kingdom is faced with complex issues like climate change, migration flows, poverty, a shortage of housing and a tense labour market.
“It is very clear that we can only deal with these challenges if we work together: younger and older generations, governments, expert organisations, the private sector, political parties of various ideologies and all parts of our Kingdom,” said Paul.
“It is my fierce hope and that of the Dutch delegation that we will utilise this IPKO to, through an open dialogue, work on a greater understanding for each other’s positions and ideas. Only on that basis, we will be able to tackle the joint challenges and to solidify opportunities in the interest of all citizens of our Kingdom,” said Paul.
St. Maarten delegation leader and President of the St. Maarten Parliament Sidharth “Cookie” Bijlani spoke of the IPKO as “a platform for dialogue and collaboration”. “The IPKO is an opportunity for us to come together and exchange ideas on issues of mutual consent. It is the forum where we share our experiences, our challenges and our successes.”
According to Bijlani, the IPKO presents an opportunity for all delegations to engage in “meaningful discussions”, to learn from one another and to identify ways and means to work together to promote the well-being of citizens and the development of the societies in the Kingdom.
Bijlani said it was important to continue to work on the democratic deficit that exists within the Kingdom and to discuss the reforms that Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are implementing as part of the country packages, and whether these are indeed benefitting the countries.
“As we embark on this journey of dialogue and cooperation, I urge us all to keep in mind the values of mutual respect, understanding [and – Ed.] inclusivity while discussing the important topics on our agenda. Let us embrace diversity and seek common ground. Let us work together towards our shared goals that will benefit the people that we serve,” said Bijlani.
“I look forward to having good and constructive discussions with all of you the coming days to reinforce our contact and sustainable relations,” said leader of the Aruba delegation and President of the Aruba Parliament Edgard Vrolijk.
Vrolijk said that while the mutual regulation, the democratic deficit, the dispute regulation, the slavery past and colonialism would be the main topics of this IPKO, for Aruba the biggest question would be how to eliminate the democratic deficit, thereby solving many bottlenecks in the Kingdom.
Aruba several years ago already presented a solution for this democratic deficit which offered sufficient possibilities to tackle it, Vrolijk pointed out. Aruba’s proposal was adopted in the Second Chamber, but so far, it is status quo “because it is about the balance of power within the Kingdom, which has led to a lack of decisiveness.”
Vrolijk said it was difficult to process the after-effects of the slavery past and colonialism if the countries in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom were constantly faced with the colonial history in a “modern jacket”, in the format of Kingdom laws.
“The authority of the countries is transformed into a Kingdom responsibility whereby the countries lose ownership. How can we deal with the slavery and colonial past, decrease the democratic deficit if decisions are taken 9,000 kilometres away without taking into consideration the ownership, the will, the autonomy, the say and the input of the countries?” Vrolijk asked.
After the speeches by the delegation leaders and a short break to take a group photo, representatives of the individual delegations gave an update on the developments in their respective countries. For St. Maarten, this was Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison. The IPKO is held at Dreams Resort, and will continue until Friday, when the agreements list will be signed and a joint press conference held.