Second Chamber to Windward Islands
THE HAGUE – Nine members of the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will visit the three Windward Islands from July 11 to 15.
Key components during this extraordinary visit will be the reconstruction of St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma and the situation in St. Eustatius after the Dutch government took over the island’s public administration.
The delegation, headed by Committee Chairman Alexander Pechtold, will arrive in St. Maarten on Wednesday, July 11. The official visit to the island takes place the following day, Thursday, July 12. On Friday, July 13, the delegation will be in St. Eustatius, followed by Saba on Saturday, July 14.
Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party is one of the nine delegation members. He has already visited the Windward Islands several times. This time, there are pressing matters on the islands that suffered extensive damage from last year’s hurricanes, especially St. Maarten.
“St. Maarten is a point of concern. The island is still vulnerable after Hurricane Irma. We want to see with our own eyes how the reconstruction is progressing and how prepared the island is for this hurricane season,” Bosman told The Daily Herald.
“If another hurricane comes, are the shelters ready to receive people? Has security been taken care of? What kind of precautions were taken to secure health care and medication, and is there sufficient food and water on the island?” Bosman asked.
However, a far more important question for Bosman was whether people had a roof over their head this hurricane season. The state of the hospital and the airport are also important in light of this hurricane season, he added.
Asked about the reconstruction process, which many find to be progressing too slowly, Bosman said this was mostly a matter of the St. Maarten government itself. “St. Maarten has to come with the plans, they are setting the priorities. St. Maarten has a big role in this. Naturally, we will provide support if asked, but we cannot do that for them.”
In anticipation of the visit to St. Maarten, the Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations will meet with a delegation of the St. Maarten Progress Committee on Tuesday, July 3. The Progress Committee will provide a technical briefing on the areas in law enforcement that the committee monitors.
In St. Eustatius, the parliamentary delegation will be informed about the reconstruction efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but the focus will be on the effects of the drastic Dutch intervention in February this year and how the island, its government and people have been doing since.
The delegation will meet with Government Commissioner Mike Franco and his team. “We want to know whether there have been changes, whether progress has been made and in what way the population has benefited from the intervention,” said Bosman.
The delegation welcomes talks with the people. “We want to hear from them how things are doing. Has there been progress for them?” Bosman said it was important to involve the people in the process to strengthen the public administration and clear backlogs. “If people have concerns, they should be able to share these with Commissioner Franco. It has to be two-way communication.”
The Kingdom Relations Committee was originally scheduled to have a debate with State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Wednesday. However, it was decided to defer this meeting until after the delegation’s visit to St. Eustatius. The meeting is now set for September 13, after the summer recess.
In Saba, the parliamentary delegation will be updated on the reconstruction projects after the hurricanes, which have been more or less completed. “We want to hear how things are going on Saba,” said Bosman, who lauded the island’s crisis and disaster management, which was highlighted at the annual congress of the Association of Dutch Municipalities VNG in Maastricht on Tuesday.
Also part of the delegation are, besides Chairman Pechtold and Bosman, Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP), Joba van den Berg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Antje Diertens of the Democrat D66 party, Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA, Nevin Özütok of the green left party GroenLinks, Stieneke van der Graaf of the ChristianUnion and Henk Krol of the 55 Plus Party.