Dutch MPs: "Working visits to islands are not leisure trips"

THE HAGUE - Several Dutch MPs flew to the islands recently with a delegation for work meetings with their Caribbean colleagues. But do such working visits to the islands actually yield something? According to senators, there is no question of "a leisure trip".

There has been talk in the corridors in recent months about the fact that the well-known faction leaders in the Netherlands prefer not to travel to the islands because of the image of "another leisure trip to the Antilles".

According to MPs, the image of "leisure trips" is incorrect. "You get up at six in the morning and go to bed very late after working visits and discussions with experts," says Ria Oomen MP. "It is hard work."

Various MPs believe that visits to the islands should be longer, such as the recent visit to Curaçao and Bonaire. "Nine days is much better than the regular short visits," said Oomen. She has been a member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament for five years.

Debate about poverty again

For D66 MP Carla Moonen, it was her first working visit to the islands this month. The delegation of First and Second Chamber members started on Bonaire, where they went into pairs in order to see what poverty does to people.

“Because I have also been to families living in poverty, I have a better picture than what I hear through the media. It really is that way," says Moonen.

The conversation about poverty is coming soon. The Dutch parties CDA, D66, GroenLinks and SP have again invited Undersecretary Tamara van Ark (Social Affairs) to the First Chamber.

According to Moonen, a visit to the Caribbean makes the difference to work towards solutions for the islands. “After such a visit, I can have a better debate with the Undersecretary. That is also our role as parliament."

Venezuelan refugees

Another tricky issue remains the Venezuelan refugee crisis on the islands. The delegation was allowed to see the detention conditions in Curaçao, in which undocumented migrants have to stay.

The Venezuelans are sometimes held there for weeks, receive legal forms in Dutch and the medical provision is also not in order.

"It raised many questions and the Curaçao MPs were there," says Moonen. “The advantage is that you can discuss these types of issues with each other immediately. You can see that in the agreements that are made."

More cooperation needed

When can the biennial Interparliamentary Kingdom Consultation (Ipko) be called a success? Not only by complying with the appointment list, according to CDA senator Ria Oomen.

Many political parties on the islands blame the Netherlands on everything, is what stands out for Oomen. "This does not contribute to the success of the Kingdom."

“I have the feeling that they think they can win voters with that. They forget to say that a lot of financial support comes from the Netherlands."

“We could still do more things together. For example, in the field of education and finance. How do you handle the income? And what could we learn from each other? That willingness is there in the Netherlands," says Oomen.

“On the islands, people mainly want to do everything themselves, I have the feeling. It is nice such an appointment list. But only when politicians try to make the Statute a success does it become a success. And of course, that does not happen overnight."

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