‘Respect referendum-result’

THE HAGUE/KRALENDIJK — During a conversation with the standing Chamber-committee NAAZ (Netherlands-Antillean and Aruban Affairs) in The Hague, the delegation from Bonaire argued for inclusion of an article in the WolBES (Law public bodies Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius) – which the Second Chamber will be discussing – stating that the result of a referendum on Bonaire will be respected.



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Island Council-member, Jopie Abraham (PDB) assured the committee-members that a referendum would be held soon.

On the other hand, Bonaire just might postpone the referendum indefinitely judging by a document, which the Board of Governors (BC) has drawn up and discussed with the committee. It is true that the BC justifies the desired referendum in that document by stating that the choice for integration had been made during the previous referendum of 2004, but simultaneously dreads further delay of debt reconstruction by the Netherlands. For that matter, organizing a referendum will take a few months but in the meanwhile, Bonaire will not be receiving any money from the Netherlands, and that could put the island in an intolerable position. The committee had stuck to their guns: no negotiations, no money. The Dutch cabinet crisis makes the situation even more complicated, although the BC also sees new possibilities for the islands of the Netherlands Antilles through the expected delay of the dismantlement process. The exact possibilities are not specified.

The delegation from Bonaire, consisting of Abraham as well as deputy of Political Structure, Marugia Janga (PDB) and independent council-member Anthony Nicolaas, had spoken with the committee about the referendum, and Bonaire’s desired political model of ‘free association’. The Lower Chamber will be discussing the WolBES as well as six other BES-laws tomorrow. Bonaire will accept the WolBES so as not to sit in the way of Saba and St. Eustatius, although the island-council prefers that the Lower Chamber declare the law controversial.

The BC attributes the impasse in the political reformations of Bonaire to the rigid attitude of the Netherlands. Yesterday, Abraham had fervently argued why the Netherlands should have more sympathy for Bonaire. Even though it is an island with only 15,000 inhabitants, it has the right to take its own decision on the future, said Abraham. He said he could not understand why the model of free association, drawn up in 1993 by former Minister-President Ruud Lubbers and Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin, is currently no longer negotiable, and warned the committee-members for the increasing tension amongst the island’s population regarding a dreaded take-over of Bonaire by the Netherlands.

Nicolaas accused the NAAZ-members of forcing the gay-marriage through on the BES-Islands, while ‘the island-inhabitants do not enjoy the same social rights and the same welfare level as in the Netherlands’. According to Ineke van Gent (GroenLinks), in this process it is a question of give and take, and nobody gets one’s way entirely.