It was remarkable, the gift that we received after the meeting with politicians from the Kingdom, last week on Sint Maarten: a memento with a picture of the court.
Of course, this is the oldest and also the most beautiful building on the island, but the parliamentarians of Sint Maarten cannot escape the irony, because so many of them are currently the subject of a criminal investigation. On the island I noticed how many politicians are angry with me, because on TPO I have so often criticized the political situation there. But on the street, I was approached quite differently: people came to me with a big smile and encouraged me to continue my criticism. Many people from Sint Maarten say that they are happy that I dare to mention the problems they do not dare to speak about on the island themselves.
I needed that support for a while, because the meeting with the parliamentarians had made me quite gloomy. In high tones and with big words the Netherlands was blamed for almost all problems on these islands, while Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are autonomous countries, with their own government and their own responsibilities. This is increasingly the case in the Kingdom: problems that the islands have caused themselves must be resolved by the Netherlands. But if we intervene and try to tackle abuses, we get the reproach of racism and colonialism and the accusation that we want to take over the government. I can assure everyone on Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten that this is absolutely not the case. The opposite is true: the less we have to interfere with the islands in the Lower House, the better we have that.
Many parliamentarians from Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten blamed the Netherlands for the problems on the islands with the refugees from Venezuela. But as much as we would like to, we cannot do anything about the terrible dictatorship in that country. In the corridors, island politicians admitted that many Venezuelans had ever come to their country as cheap laborers to work in construction or tourism. These are therefore not refugees, but people who have been consciously and illegally taken to the islands by companies, something the local government has always tolerated and has never acted against. A number of politicians from Curaçao demanded that we now send aircraft to take the thousands of Venezuelans. After criticism on our part, this week a more serious request came and we can see how we could help the island.
Politicians from Sint Maarten were angry about the slow reconstruction of the island after Hurricane Irma, for which the Netherlands has made more than 550 million euros available. But later it turned out that unwillingness and ignorance on Sint Maarten itself lead to postponement and delay. The Netherlands wants to invest 100 million euros in the reconstruction of the badly hit airport and Schiphol is happy to help with the recovery, but some politicians on Sint Maarten do not want this help, because our country wants to monitor the spending of that money and demand good governance from the airport. The Netherlands is regularly approached internationally if things that go wrong in the prisons in Curaçao and Sint Maarten, or the refineries in Aruba and Curaçao, or if public finances get out of hand on the islands. But if we do intervene then politicians on the islands become angry.
Last week I noticed that with more and more Members of Parliament, the love for the Antilles is in danger of being churned, because we can never really do it right. If the Netherlands does nothing about the problems on the islands, politicians get angry, but if the Netherlands does intervene, many politicians on the islands will become even more angry. Last week I talked to various parliamentarians from Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten informally and then they also admit that it cannot go on like this. It is high time to make new appointments. Let Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten indicate what they prefer to do themselves, then the Netherlands will not interfere anymore. The islands can also let us know what we have to do, but let us also take responsibility and do these things in our own way. The Kingdom is dead, long live the new Kingdom!