PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — On October 2, 2022, the St. Maarten delegation returned from the Netherlands after attending the Interparliamentary Kingdom Consultation (IPKO). Member of Parliament Solange Ludmila Duncan was allowed to participate at IPKO for the first time as an independent member and will be submitting a full report to Parliament on her perspectives on the matters discussed and proposals for St. Maarten moving forward.
Duncan states that “the discussions at this year’s IPKO were extremely important given the time and circumstances that we are currently in. I believe that the current movement to recognize the impact of colonialism and the Netherlands’ slavery past on our societies are forcing Parliaments and Governments in the Kingdom to have open and honest dialogues about what, in my opinion, are foundational, complex matters. We are in a time in our history where local and kingdom consciousness need to be further developed. Consciousness is about deep self-awareness. The ways we see ourselves as a St. Maarten people and then as Dutch citizens should happen through a lens of truth and authenticity. This will always affect how we interpret and make policies and legislation concerning education, healthcare, poverty and inequality in this country.”
“On Day two of IPKO I was extremely impressed and inspired by the presentation given by Mr. Brindapan, on Rotterdam’s current quest to redefine itself as a post-colonial city,” added Duncan.
Mr. Mike Brindapan, who grew up on St. Maarten, is the Project leader for Dialogue & Education in the City Program Colonial & Slavery History of Rotterdam. On 14 November 2018, the Rotterdam City Council adopted a motion from then PvdA Councilor Peggy Wijntuin. The motion requested the Mayor and Aldermen to carry out research into the colonial and slavery past of Rotterdam. Since the adoption of the motion, the City has undertaken a number of activities including research, education of and dialogue with residents. On the International Day of Human Rights, on Friday 10th December 2021, the Mayor of Rotterdam apologized for the role of their predecessors in colonial times from the 17th century.
“I see Rotterdam not only as pioneer but also a potential partner for St. Maarten. I am proposing to the Committee for Constitutional Affairs and Decolonization (CCAD) that we reach out to the City Council to discuss matters of heritage, history, colonialism and best practices as it regards citizen engagement in on these matters. The fact that colonialism will continue to be a subject on IPKO agendas moving forward also reminds the Kingdom that St. Maarten’s Parliament is forward thinking in the work and efforts that have taken place in the CCAD over the two years.”
Although the Dispute Regulation was only discussed inside the tripartite meeting between the delegations of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, the proposals on decreasing the democratic deficits in the Kingdom offered new insights into improving kingdom relations and possibly developing a remodeled kingdom structure. “What is important is that the status quo of kingdom relations and decision-making needs to be adapted. I look forward to discussions in Parliament on the continued creation of a roadmap for an improved future.”
During IPKO a presentation was also made by the National Ombudsman on the difficulty that students are having in the Netherlands as it pertains to receiving their citizen service number (BSN), housing and health insurance.
“It is unfortunate and surprising that our students are facing more barriers to live in the Netherlands now than they did twenty years ago. Our Government and the Dutch Government should be in continuous discussion about improving the processes and policies that surround the transition of our students to Holland. In 2022 it should be easier not more difficult. I will be following up with the Government on this matter and researching the role of Parliament.”
“We need to reconnect with and engage our students not only in the Netherlands but all around the world in order to create knowledge networks. The argument to move back home shouldn’t be the only message going out. We should be asking the diaspora to help us to solve the country’s dilemmas through research and work from abroad.”
“Out of this IPKO will come increased committee work in Parliament but also increased oversight on Government to give attention to important subject matters like those mentioned above. I believe the people will be able to see and judge, especially where it concerns the alleged impact that IPKO has had on the budget according to the Minister of Finance, who returns value on investment and who doesn’t,” concluded Duncan.