Nos Ke Boneiru Bek is pleased to present Bonaire's Green Paper, “Pursuing Political Equality and Relisting on the Non-Self-Governing Territories List of the United Nations”.
We wish to thank all those who have contributed to this historic document being prepared, especially Dr. Carlyle G. Corbin, St. Eustatius Constitutional Committee, St. Eustatius coalition and government, Mrs. Davika Bissessar WDTC foundation, and NKBB board members and others for their continued hard work and advice.
The situation and case of Bonaire is of high urgency, as the recently elected Dutch government has as a priority, and on its agenda, to finalize the process to definitely and for eternity annex, anchor and integrate the Bonairean peoples into their Constitution with unequal rights and where the Bonairean peoples will never have any democratic possibility for any change in the future. This is a unilateral, undemocratic process from the Dutch government and against the democratic voice and decision of the Bonairean people who rejected this status in the 2015 referendum.
The Green paper basically:
- emphasizes the importance of self-determination within the Dutch and international context
- highlights the fact that Bonaireans have systematically protested and formally rejected the annexation and integration imposed structure over the years
- examines the unusual circumstances surrounding the removal of the Netherlands Antilles from the UN list of Non-Self-Governing territories
- illustrates a viable course of action to comply with the inalienable right of the Bonairean people to self-governance and political equality
The paper will be a direct communication/information medium to help raise awareness and garner the support of the regional and international community and form a base to start the process of court cases against the Netherlands in the international and human rights courts and to fulfill the aspirations of the Bonairean peoples to be re-listed as Non-Self-Governing-Territories and fall under the guidance and protection of the United Nations Decolonization Special Committee to assure a just and fair process of self-determination and realize sustainable development and political equality for the Bonairean peoples.
James Finies, Nos Ke Boneiru Bek
Phone: +599 782 56 64
Bonaire's Green Paper
Green Paper of the Foundation Nos Kier Boneiru Bek :
“Pursuing political equality and re-listing of Bonaire as Non-Self-Governing-Territories of UN”
Executive Summary 2
Self-Governance; Right to Political Equality - Historical developments 5
Referendum 2004 and 2010 6
Protests and pledge of King Willem Alexander 6
Referendum 2015 and beyond Not independence, not integration, then what? 8
Self-governance equals political equality equals political autonomy Political equality
or Self-Governing Bonaire: elements of a draft constitution 10-11
Critical considerations 12
The Public Entity Status in the context of Self-Determination 13
The Evolution of Self determination 13
Does the Netherlands acknowledge Bonaire's right to self determination? 14
Deficits that exists within the Kingdom Charter: past and present 15
Bonaire re-inscription on UN List of NSGT's Re inscription 18
Concluding Comments: Challenges and Hopes 20
The draft proposed Green Paper examines the desires and rights of the people of Bonaire to achieve a political status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in compliance with their inalienable right to govern themselves with absolute political equality in accordance with international law. For this process to be just and fair, it is imperative that Bonaire is re-inscribed on the United Nations (U.N.) list of Non-Self-Governing-Territories (NSGT's) to ensure that the will of the people expressed in their 2004 , 2010 and 2015 referendums prevails.
The present Green Paper draws attention to the fact that Bonerians systematically and structurally through numerous protest actions, popular and scientific research and by other means have expressed their dissatisfaction and disagreement with the imposed imposed status of (partial) integration and political subordination, and have formally rejected the status in a popular referendum..
The Green Paper explains a self-governance model within the Dutch Kingdom, consistent with the expressed wishes of the people and in accordance with the guiding principles laid out in UN resolutions 1514 and 1541 (XV) of 1960. Also explained are the factors necessary for internal full self-governance that would provide for Bonaire to control its own internal affairs without external interference from the administering power, and to achieve absolute and legitimate political, economic and social equality between Bonaire, The Netherlands and other Kingdom partners.
This document provides an overview of political developments and events within the Dutch Kingdom between 1950 and 2016. It also constitutes a formal request by the undersigned to the UN Member States to do all that lies within their competences and authority to ensure that the Netherlands lives up to all its obligations under the UN Charter, the applicable General Assembly (GA) resolutions, and international laws and conventions regarding human, social, cultural, civil political and economic right; racial discrimination, decolonization and the right to self-determination of the people of the Dutch-Administrated Caribbean.
The document further clarifies that financing of the self-governing arrangement with direct links with the Netherlands and the other partners of the Kingdom would take place within the normal budgetary process of Bonaire. This would be consistent with an economic development plan based on the right of Development of the Bonerian people in combination with negotiable budgetary and other technical support and assistance to be provided by the Kingdom Government, Kingdom partners and relevant international agencies, as appropriate. Accordingly the essential condition for cooperation between the Kingdom partners would be based on mutually agreed terms is displayed.
The Green Paper reiterates the relevance of self-determination within the Dutch and international context,and the democratic deficits of the current public entity status, and examines similar deficits that exists within the Kingdom Charter. The Green Paper Paper concludes with the failure by the Netherlands to ensure and develop full self-government after the disputed discharge of reporting obligations towards the U in 1955, and the subsequent removal and de-listing of the Netherlands Antilles from the list of Non-Self-Governing-Territories of the United Nations. Short and medium terms actions are outlined to achieve re-inscription of Bonaire on the NSGT's list of the UN, including increasing of regional and hemispheric awareness of the inalienable right of the peoples of Bonaire to genuine self-determination.
Decolonization within the Kingdom of the Netherlands has been the subject of much debate and controversy, both within the United Nations (UN) and between the entities in the Dutch Kingdom, since the end of the Second World War.
Convinced that the right to self-determination of the population of Bonaire was not given it's proper meaning by the Netherlands when the islands achieved a new constitutional status in 2010 (Duijf & Soons 2011) , and seeing that neither the Government of the Netherlands, as a UN Member State, nor the current Government of Bonaire, is adequately addressing the issue. The non-governmental-organization Nos Kier Boneiru Bek (We want Bonaire Back) on Bonaire saw no other option but to bring this matter to global attention in view of the obvious consequences for the human rights of the Bonerian peoples.
Between June 18th and July 2nd 2016 a delegation of Bonaire consisting of Non-Governmental- Organization and the coalition government of St Eustatius visited New York for talks with diplomats of several Permanent Missions of United Nations Member States, and representatives of the United Nations’ NGO Branch. The purpose of the visit was to personally inform the UN Member States, and in particular those who are members of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization (C-24), of the ongoing state of affairs with regards to self-determination and decolonization in the Dutch Caribbean, and request their assistance and support in having it addressed in accordance with the United Nations Charter and General Assembly resolutions. (see annex A1)
On June 22, 2016 Mr. James Finies of Foundation Nos Kier Boneiru Bek and Mrs Davika Bissessar-Shaw of the We Dare To Care Foundation (Bonaire) based on their courageous efforts miraculously attended a panel discussion convened by the chair of the Special Committee on Decolonization during the “International Week of Solidarity with Peoples of the Non-Self-Governing-Territories”. Mr. James Finies of Nos Ke Boneiru Bek Foundation was able to participate in the questions from the audience to the panelists on the situation in the Dutch- Administered Caribbean and the relevance of the UN Charter and resolutions. He indicated that the 10-10-10 constitutional arrangements for the Dutch Dependencies, constituting of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius fall below the international standards and norms of full self-government under international law.
The local population of Bonaire defines self-government as the right to decide themselves what happens in their “house”, to be the boss in own house. Internationally, Self-Government is a right of the Bonerian peoples acquired through the United Nations Charter established in 1945, Chapter XI Declaration Regarding Non Self-Governing Territories under Article 73 and further defined in Resolution 1541 (XV) of 1960 of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Since the 1970's Bonaire has started the discussion on internal Self-Government as part of the Netherlands Antilles felt that it had not enough voice and power in the Central Netherlands Antillean government which was dominated by the majority of Curacao representation. Bonaire was longing for a separate, more autonomous relation with the Kingdom through a direct link with the Netherlands where it will gain more direct communication and direct access to the Economic and Development funds but staying in command and deciding its own affairs.
The right of self-determination of the people of Bonaire was undermined in 2010 when it was transformed into “Public Entity” in the sense of Article 134 of the Dutch Constitution not according to the international requirement as a “freely expressed wishes of the people acting with full knowledge of the change in their status”. This act has proven to be in direct violation of the right of the people of Bonaire to self-determination as required under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other pertinent human rights treaties and international instruments.
The Green Paper argues the case and right of the Bonerian people to a full measure of self-government and the international legal obligation of the Netherlands in compliance with wishes of the Bonerian peoples according to the results of the referendums of 2004, 2010 and 2015. Further the Paper highlights some of the key democratic deficits of the “Public Entity”status which are not in accordance with full political rights required under Resolution 1541 (XV) of 1960. Democratic deficits that exists within the Kingdom Charter will also be explored. Furthermore the Paper clarifies the fallacy of the adoption of UN Resolution 945 of December 15, 1955 relieving the Netherlands from its reporting obligations and de-listing the former Netherlands Antilles (including Bonaire) from the UN list of NSGT's according to the fallacy that the territories has achieved sufficient autonomy. The Green Paper proceeds to explain why re-inscription on the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing-Territories is needed.
Self-Governance; Right to Political Equality
On December 29, 1954 the Kingdom Charter was officially put into effect. This meant that the Kingdom of the Netherlands consisted of the Netherlands, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius). Each country would be autonomous in internal affairs under the new political constellation (see annex A2).
Due to increasing dissatisfaction within the Dutch Kingdom regarding the constitutional
arrangement, a series of referenda were held in the early 1990’s and between June 2000 and April 2005. On September 10, 2004, 33.3 % of eligible voters in Bonaire voted for a direct ties with the Netherlands (see annex A3). However, the contents nor consequences of this new status was not made clear. Amid the suspension of financial aid from the Kingdom as a punitive measure in the event that the people would reject the new status, a referendum was organized by the elected government of Bonaire and conducted in March 2010( see annex A4). The Referendum questions were:
"I desire that Bonaire shall have a direct tie with the Netherlands in the form of "
A: Association (Bonaire holds an independent position inside the Kingdom) or
B: Integration (Bonaire becomes a part of the Netherlands).
However, the referendum law was nullified by the Lieutenant Governor Mr. Thode of Bonaire and the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles Mr. Goedgedrag, both (non-elected) appointees of the Kingdom Government of the Netherlands(see annex A5). The annulment of the referendum, in part on the basis that the voter eligibility rules did not provide for sufficient settler participation, consequently denied the Bonerian peoples of the right to Self-Determination in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other pertinent human rights treaties and international instruments (Corbin 2010). This was followed by the inevitable dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on October 10th, 2010, the imposition of the Public Entity Status, and the reversal of autonomy.
A referendum was subsequently held in December 2010 to legalize the new implemented constitutional status with the question to endorse or reject (see annex A6):
"I agree that Bonaire has become a public body within the meaning of Article 134 of the Dutch Constitution: "Yes" or "No"
The result was that 86.85% voted against, rejecting the new status, but the referendum result was declared invalid because of being below the required 51% turnout being only 35.20%. The report of the United Nations electoral assistance unit which may have outlined irregularities resulting in the low voter turnout was released only to the Netherlands government, but never released to the local government nor to the Bonerian people despite several official requests by the Bonerian government made to the Netherlands government which is official member representing the Dutch Kingdom in the United Nations (see annex A7).
After this referendum which overwhelmingly rejected the new status of Public Entity the Bonaire and Dutch governments decided that the status Public Entity under article 134 would remain for the next five (5) years to be evaluated for effectiveness in 2015.
In 2012 despite the promised evaluation and the earlier rejection by the People of Bonaire of the new status, procedures were initiated in the Dutch parliament to formally annex Bonaire by adding it to the Dutch Constitution under article 132A. As a result of various protests, the annexation was postponed until after the 2015 evaluation and after a possible referendum( see annex A8).
The people of Bonaire never accepted the new direction as legitimate and justified, and several groups protested against during the course of the years, Awor Te Ora, Muhenan Balente, Bonerianonan Preokupa all organized protests to show their discontent with imposed laws and requesting a referendum. James Finies, a Bonerian citizen, convinced that all was not lost and who objected formally and officially to the government and governmental institutions to violation of human rights and self-determination rights(see annex A9), formed the action group Nos Ke Boneiru Bek (We want Bonaire Back) collected over 3500 signatures petitioning a referendum( see annex A10). On September 16, 2013 James Finies had a audience with the King of the Netherlands, Willem Alexander, and pleaded and petitioned personally for the right to self-determination and self-government and for a referendum for the Bonerian peoples to decide on the continuation of the current status earlier rejected but imposed nevertheless.
King Alexander agreed to the petition, and this was formally and officially re-confirmed in a letter by the Minister of Kingdom Relations Mr. Plasterk who indicated that(see annex A11):
“the people of Bonaire have the right to let their voices be heard and that all acquired and inherited rights are indivisible and respected by the Cabinet.”
The Bonaire government after unanimously agreeing on a new referendum based on this official recognition of the Dutch government of the right of self-determination of the Bonerian peoples sought to hold a new referendum but it was postponed indefinitely. postponed indefinitely (see annex A12). Mr James Finies of Nos Ke Boneiru Bek with support of a group of courageous determined people started a 24 hour non-stop protest walk over the entire island through all neighborhoods of Bonaire, on November 10, 2014 as a protest action commemorating 180 years of a slave rebellion on Bonaire lead by slave Martis di Catalina Janga. The protest ended at the entrance of the Government Building, where Finies and a group of followers continued the protest with a day and night vigil. Despite a order from the Lieutenant governor Mr. Rijna to stop the protest and vacate on December 3, 2014, where hundreds of Bonerians came out to support Nos Kier Boneiru Bek and defended the Bonerian peoples right to expression and manifestation and did not stop the protest and stayed 222 consecutive days demanding a referendum (see annex A13). An agreement was ultimately reached and signed by the new government coalition parties, and the referendum was held on December 18, 2015 with the question (see annex A14 & A15) :
Do you agree with the current status, which is a direct link to the Netherlands? Yes or No?
The result was that 5040 voters representing 65.55% of the eligible voters turnout of 61.59% voted No thus and again rejecting the imposed Public Entity constitutional status( see annex A16) . This result was further ratified as a binding legal democratic decision by the democratic elected representation the island council (see annex A17). After the referendum two parliament seat-holders declared themselves independent (due to a deficient parliament system) and withdrew their support from the coalition. A new coalition government and opposition was formed with the new government not seeking to implement a process to advance the results of the 2015 referendum.
In the meantime Bonaire is experiencing significant settler immigration from the Administering Power into our island Bonaire without limitation to all European Dutch citizens from Europe, who enjoy voting rights in our local election after 90 days. Consequently the immigration influx rate has risen to over 400% consisting of Dutch Europeans and only 25% of returning Bonerians. This is leading to a cultural degradation of the indigenous Bonerians with an explosive increase in the death rate to over 60% after the Dutch rule and policies were implemented.
Our case is of high urgency as the recent elected Dutch government in the process of being installed in the spring of 2017 has as priority the finalization of a process to irreversibly annex Bonaire and integrate the island through a process of “anchoring” into the Dutch constitution under the Public Entity which offers only unequal rights (see annex A18). This is a unilateral undemocratic process from the Dutch government and against the democratic voice and decision of the Bonerian people who rejected this status in the 2015 referendum.
Thus, the people are currently being governed by a status which they have summarily rejected in a democratic process endorsed by their elected government.
Not independence, not integration, then what? Self-governing Country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands?
The Bonaire people in all the referendum never chose for independence nor integration, and the choice of direct link or ties with the Netherlands was envisioned by both the political parties and leadership as a form of association rather than a form of integration(see annex A19).
Because Bonaire was never completely decolonized. Resolution 945 of December 15, 1955 only released the Netherlands from its obligation to report and took Bonaire (as part of the formerly Netherlands Antilles) from the list of NSGT. But all of the other obligations of the Netherlands from subsections (a) through (d) under the Article 73 remained. The Bonerian peoples still enjoy the protection of Article 73 of the Charter of the United Nations that obligates the Netherlands under subsection ( (b) "to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement."
Bonaire has the right to a full measure of self-governance and the Netherlands has the obligations to cooperate to develop and comply to realize the right of the Bonerian peoples.
Self-Governance equals Political Equality equals Political Autonomy
Many international experts have identified various models of political autonomy between large states and their former colonies. Among them, noted scholar, James Crawford stated in 2005 that “there is a wide range of choice, particularly in the case of autonomy, which can cover a spectrum of possibilities from virtual independence to virtual integration. The people concerned may be- and have a right – to be free.” He further states that such arrangements were the result of “negotiations with respect to an individualized arrangement mutually agreed by territory and administering power”.
The governance model of autonomy has been raised by the Netherlands in the context of a transformation to a commonwealth structure composed of Holland and the present respective autonomous countries of the Caribbean (Aruba, Curacao, and St. Maarten). This was raised as early as 1990 by Dutch Minister Hirsch Balin who presented a framework for a commonwealth constitution which called for the islands of the autonomous country of the Netherlands Antilles to be divided into two separate autonomous countries comprised of Curacao and its neighboring Bonaire as one autonomous country; and the Windward islands of St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius as the second autonomous country (Duiff & Soons, 2011).
The actions of Balin reflected political discussions underway at the time towards the transfer of power to the overseas territories. Indeed the former Netherlands Antilles had already been described by Hillibrink (2008) as a constitutional association with the Netherlands.
Bonaire's right to political autonomy within the realm of the Kingdom is based on
United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 1541 which recognizes that overseas territories are free to choose for an autonomous arrangement with their former colonial power, or with any other independent state (see annex A9). It can be therefore argued that an political equal or political autonomous arrangement with the Netherlands, based on the guiding principles laid out in resolution 1541 (XV) of 1960, is feasible within the existing framework of the Netherlands Kingdom, and would be consistent with the expressed wishes of the people of Bonaire as expressed in the 2004, 2010 and 2015 referendum.
Political Equality or Self-governing Bonaire: elements of a draft constitution.
Based on the Bonaire referendums of 2004, 2010 and 2015 and the rejection of the Boneriano peoples of not voting in the 2012 and 2017 Dutch Parliament Elections and the peoples' choice not favoring independence nor integration, the logical status in compliance with international law is a form of association with the Netherlands. NKBB is advising the same model as Sint Eustatius is seeking for three main reasons:
it meets the international criteria and standards according to international law and United Nations of self-government
it facilitates a quick and swift transfer to a new legal status giving the Bonerian peoples a sign, a status of hope to unite back as the people after almost 15 years of hardship, and starts the righteous path of sustainable development of Bonaire
Bonaire has the right on a self-governance arrangement that complies with Resolution 1541 (XV, Principle VII) which recognizes that the self-governing arrangement should be one which respects the individuality and the cultural characteristics of the territory and its people. Bonaire therefore views the following elements of a Bonerian Constitution:
a) Bonaire as an self-governing country would remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands;
b) The Kingdom would consist of six, rather than four, equal kingdom partners: Aruba,
Curacao, St. Maarten, Sint Eustatius (based on same grounds as Bonaire to be politically equal) Bonaire and the Netherlands;
c) The citizens of Bonaire would retain the Dutch Nationality consistent with the nationality of the other autonomous countries of the Kingdom;
d) Bonaire would have its own Constitution detailing its government structure consistent with the constitutions of the other autonomous countries of the Kingdom;
e) Bonaire would exercise legislative and executive power over its internal affairs.
Accordingly, the Kingdom Government would have no authority to annul or enact legislative or administrative acts regarding internal matters of Bonaire.
This does not preclude the provision of technical and other assistance which may be provided to Bonaire by mutual consent;
f) The timetable for the devolution of powers from the Kingdom to Bonaire as an self-governing country within the realm of the Kingdom shall be determined by negotiation.
At the request of the Bonaire Parliament (created by the constitution) one or several of the Kingdom partners may temporarily assume responsibility of identified competencies for a defined period while the capacity is developed for the competency to be administered by the Government of Bonaire, after which time the temporary competencies would be phased out over a transitional period mutually agreed upon;
g) Any decisions regarding internal tasks, temporarily executed by one or several of the Kingdom Partners , would require the approval of the Bonaire Parliament;
h) Bonaire shall be represented by a Minister Plenipotentiary in the Kingdom Council of
Ministers in a similar fashion to the ministers plenipotentiary of other autonomous
countries in the Kingdom;
i) There would be the establishment of a joint mechanism for the resolution of disputes between the Bonaire Parliament and the Kingdom Council of Ministers, regarding Kingdom Matters affecting Bonaire to ensure mutual respect and cooperation as reflected in the Kingdom Charter;
j) The role of Governor, whose appointment would be confirmed by the Parliament of Bonaire, would serve as the representative of the Kingdom Government, and shall have no authority to unilaterally intervene in the internal affairs of Bonaire, including in the areas of supervision and legislation. This would not preclude the provision of advice and consultation, by mutual consent, between the Kingdom and Bonaire;
k) Since the Governor’s duties would be limited to serving as the representative of the Kingdom, the appointment would be made by the Kingdom, but subject to confirmation by the Bonaire Parliament – see preceding paragraph;
l) Bonaire would establish a budget of revenue and expenditure, according to its budgetary rules as approved by the Bonaire Parliament;
m) Bonaire would establish a financial supervisory mechanism to monitor compliance with its financial obligations and in accordance with its budgetary rules;
n) As a self-governing country Bonaire would have the authority to join, in its own right,
relevant international organizations as a member, associate member, or observer, as appropriate, including but not limited to sub regional and regional groups such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and relevant economic and technical organizations of the United Nations. Bonaire will maintain its current “Overseas Countries and Territories”status with the European Union.
organizations including regional, sub-regional and United Nations organizations to gain the necessary training to meet the demands of the new status. Similar assistance in capacity building may be requested from the Kingdom Government on the basis of mutually agreed terms;
1. The level of resources available to support the assumption of competencies (internal affairs)
2.The prevailing economic situation. In this connection, a comprehensive economic development strategic plan would be developed in consultation with relevant private sector and civil society stakeholders . It is anticipated that the conduct of the Government of Bonaire's internal affairs will be financed through its budgetary process consistent with the comprehensive economic development strategic plan. It should include the identification and retention of current and future revenue generated by the economy of Bonaire. In this structure, all tax revenues generated locally would flow into the coffers and back into the economy of Bonaire. The official currency of Bonaire would be determined by Bonaire with the help of the appropriate experts;
A review of the applicable consensus laws would be undertaken by Bonaire, and one or more of these laws may remain in place, by mutual consent, for a defined transitional period on the basis of 1) a clear definition of areas in which said laws would apply, 2) the exact nature of said laws and 3) a mutually agreed “sunset clause” bringing an end to the consensus laws;
The activities of the Dutch Government Organization (RCN) would be gradually eliminated and transferred to the local Bonerian government and resulting in a cost savings to the Kingdom with such savings designated, by mutual agreement, for budgetary support to Bonaire as outlined above;
As Bonaire transitions from the present status into an self-governing status, it is of paramount importance that a program of economic and technical assistance be negotiated in conjunction with the Netherlands, Kingdom Partners and relevant International Organizations.
The Public Entity Status in the context of Self - Determination
At the creation of the League of Nations in 1920, the right to self-determination was of paramount importance. According to Corbin (July 2012) the international community tried to deal with the dilemma of their territories after World War I which had not achieved full self- government through the self-determination process.
Self- Determination as a principle was a term used in the Atlantic Charter (1941) in which President Roosevelt of the United States and Prime Minister Churchill of the United Kingdom declared that “Territorial adjustments must be in accord with the wishes of the people concerned”. The self-determination concept eventually became part of the UN Charter, the first legally binding document that recognized the right to self- determination (Harris 2004, p.112). Article 73 of the UN Charter created the obligation of countries which administer territories to develop self-government in those territories. The notion of ‘self-government’ at the formation of the U.N. was largely undefined, and other instruments were needed to give further elaboration (Corbin July 2012) such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which state: “All people have the right of self- determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development” (See Annex A20).
These provisions are particularly important for Bonaire because article 1 (3) of the UN
Charter grants people of non- self- governing territories the right to freely determine the political status. Administering territories such as the Netherlands are obliged to promote the right of self- determination in conformity with the UN Charter (Duiff & Soons, 2011).
According to various scholars, the right to self- determination is generally seen as a norm within International Law. Issues of self- determination are addressed in various review bodies of international human rights mechanisms including the Human Rights Committee, the Human Rights Council, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the European Court of Human Rights et al.
When the Kingdom Charter was created in 1954, no explicit mention was made of the right of self- determination for the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles, of which Bonaire was a part. However, the Netherlands, at the time assured the General Assembly that it would not prohibit the overseas territories from leaving the Kingdom constellation if they desired. The islands’ right to self- determination was formally recognized at the Round Table Conference in 1981, whereby the Netherlands recognized each island’s right to self- determination (De Jong 1989, p.76).
In spite of the Netherland’s acknowledgment of the islands’ right of self- determination, there has been ambivalence on the part of the Netherlands. After some years of discussion if after the 10-10-10 political arrangements Bonaire remained its right to self-determination, Mr James Finies in a personal plea and petition to King Willem Alexander assisted by Minister Plasterk on November 16, 2013, King Willem Alexander and Mr Plasterk confirmed and promised that the Netherlands will respect the right to self-determination of the Bonerian peoples and will help Bonaire realize its self-government in the Kingdom and restore peace and happiness for the Bonerian peoples such we will continue the reconciliation en healing process and keep building together on a united and prosperous Kingdom. This promise was confirmed in official writing by the Dutch cabinet, by Minister Plasterk in letter dated January 8, 2014 adressed to Mr James Finies of NKBB .(see annex A11) This was the first time after the 10-10-10 arrangements that the Dutch government confirmed officially that the Bonerian peoples remained all their inherited and acquired self-determination rights in the fullest context and the right to exercise these and that the Dutch government will respect these without limitation. However after the peoples of Bonaire have spoken clearly in the referendum of 18 December 2015 rejecting the actual status , the Dutch government did not respect the democratic decision of the Bonerian peoples and has unilaterally started the process of embedding the public entity of Bonaire in the Dutch constitution. Such action, as was the establishment of Bonaire as a public entity on October 10th, 2010” (See Annex A12) is in direct violation of the people’s right of self- determination.
It can therefore be concluded that while the Netherlands acknowledges the island’s right of self-determination, the nature of an self-governing arrangement for Bonaire would have to be carefully negotiated consistent with the international standards of full self- government.
According to UN Resolution 1541 (XV) (1960), internal self- government can be achieved by:
UN Resolutions 1514 (XV) and 1541 (XV) clearly established the standards for political equality for territories wanting to achieve self- government. Bonaire was transformed by the Kingdom into a Public Entity in the sense of Article 134 of the Dutch Constitution; however the Public Entity Status does not comply with the minimum standards of internal self- government in accordance with said UN Resolutions, due to the following:
Lower social and economic benefits have been implemented on the BES islands as opposed to any Dutch Municipality in Europe (see Annex A22). The inequality that exists between the inhabitants of the BES islands and citizens in the metropole was also confirmed in a report written by the Christen Unie in September 2011, and is not in accordance with international law. Additional democratic deficits were further confirmed in the evaluation report of the “Spies Committee” (J.W.E. Spies ET. Al, 2015).
Deficits that exists within the Kingdom Charter: past and present
The Kingdom Charter was put into effect on December 15, 1954, whereby Queen Juliana characterized the Charter as a monument of power, that strength of mind, self- control and wisdom can produce in the midst of turbulent times (Klinkers & Oostindie, 2003). As a result of the Kingdom Charter, the Kingdom of the Netherlands currently consists of ‘four equal partners’, which in the words of the preamble would ‘take care’ of their own interests autonomously, manage communal affairs on equal footing, and accord each other assistance (Klinkers & Oostindie, 2003).
In spite of the information listed above, various scholars have made reference to the democratic deficits that exist within the Charter, when compared to Principle VII of Resolution 1541:
The Kingdom Government has the authority to intervene in the affairs of the autonomous countries.
The Kingdom Government also appoints the Governors in the autonomous countries who hold extensive powers to block their legislative and administrative acts (Oostindie and Klinkers, 2003)
The current autonomous arrangement that St. Maarten and Curacao ‘enjoy’ can be seen as an example of ‘minimum autonomy’ in light of the issues listed above but also in light of the fact that five (5) (Kingdom) Consensus Laws have been implemented as a means of guaranteeing ‘good governance’ within the Dutch Kingdom. This has led to a significant decrease in autonomy in these islands. One such Consensus Law relates to the financial supervision for Curacao and St. Maarten. There is a board of financial supervision for said islands that consists of 5 board members, who are appointed by the Kingdom Government, upon the recommendation of the Dutch Prime Minister. This example once again illustrates that the ‘autonomy’ that exists within the Dutch Kingdom today, is not in accordance with UN Resolution 1541 (XV, principle VII).
Bonaire's Re-inscription on UN List of NSGT
The Dutch colonial presence within the Dutch Caribbean (Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius), Suriname and Indonesia dates back to the eighteen century, whereby the islands were used are trade centers for the Dutch Empire. Slavery within the Caribbean territories was abolished in 1863 – long after England (1834), France (1848), and Denmark had taken this step (Oostindie & Klinkers, 2003).
Indonesia became independent in 1949, against the backdrop of new emerging attitudes towards the decolonization of colonial territories among Western states. Dutch decolonization policies, which did not run smoothly, led to the creation of the Kingdom Charter in 1954, after Indonesia obtained its independence. At its inception in 1945, the United Nations regarded the issue of decolonization as one of its important functions. Resolution 66 (I) of 14 December 1946 listed the original 72 Non- Self- Governing Territories including the former Netherlands Antilles and Suriname (which later became independent in 1975), and further refined the concept of self- government. As a result of said resolution, the Netherlands had promised to transmit information to the UN regarding the islands economic, social and educational conditions as listed in article 73 (e) of the Charter (see Annex A24). In regards to developments surrounding the Kingdom Charter, the Netherlands, on March 1955, ‘in pursuance of the terms of Resolution 747 (VIII)’, informed the Secretary General in writing of the constitutional developments leading to the promulgation of the Kingdom Charter on December 29, 1954, comprising of the Netherlands, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. The Netherlands enclosed a copy of the Charter together with an explanatory note. The Netherlands explained that its territories had attained a sufficient measure of self- government (even though the people were not directly consulted). This led to intense debates regarding the role of the Governor. Many countries (including Iraq and Guatemela) were not convinced that Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles had attained a full measure of self-government in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter and in particular the factors laid out in Resolution 742 (VII) (see Annex A25) and other relevant UN Resolutions. Despite the contentious circumstances surrounding the above- mentioned developments, the vote to cease the transmission of information, in accordance with article 73 (e) was approved (with 21 votes in favor, 10 against and 33 abstentions), effectively removing Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles from the list of non- self-governing territories on December 15th, 1955 (Blackman, 2016).
Official UN documents revealed that many countries did not consider that the Kingdom Charter had met the standards for decolonization adopted by the UN General Assembly two years earlier, and which would be laid down in Resolution 1541 a few years later (Hillebrink, 2012). The Netherlands used Resolution 945 as justification that the islands had been decolonized, however, said resolution “does not affirm that the former Netherlands Antilles had received a full measure of self- government under Article 73(b). It merely removed the requirement of the Netherlands to regularly submit information regarding its colonies to the UN under Article 73 (e) but the Netherlands remained all the other obligations under article 73 a to d. It preserved the UN authority to decide whether a Non- Self- Governing Territory (such as the Netherlands Antilles, then and Bonaire now) has attained a full measure of self- government” (see Annex A26). Resolution 945 contained also two amendments submitted by Uruguay and India and which were agreed and adopted, which have effectively blocked the Netherlands from claiming that The Kingdom Charter is an internal matter (thus no longer a concern of the U.N) which falls under article 2 : 7 – The non-intervention clause- of the UN Charter. Both Nations explained their amendments by stating that the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam did not have a full measure of self-government, and to make matters absolutely clear, Uruguay explained that: “The amendment was intended to offer the peoples of the Netherlands Antilles and Surinam a safeguard, an opportunity of coming at a later date to knock at the door of the United Nations, should the need arise” ( D. Brison 2017)
As was stated in previous chapters, the establishment of the Public Entity status was not in accordance with the relevant UN Resolutions. It was also argued that, based on the information provided above, the then Netherlands Antilles should not have been removed from the UN list of Non- Self- Governing Territories.
The Civil Society Organization , Foundation Nos Kier Boneiru Bek, with the backup of over 3500 signed petitioners and the official letter from the Dutch government, Minister Plasterk confirming the right of self-determination of the Bonerian peoples and that the Dutch government will respect these, the foundation requested the Bonerian government to have Bonaire re-listed on the list of NSGT 's of the United Nations. Hereafter the island council passed a motion and decision to request the Netherlands to re-list Bonaire on the UN list of NSGT(see annex A27). The governor sent a official letter with the request and a follow up to the Minister of Kingdom Relations Mr Plasterk , but was never answered and executed. (see annex A28)
In light of the information provided in this document, Foundation Nos Kier Boneiru Bek, with the support of various other Civil Society Organizations and the political representatives of St Eustatius believe there is sufficient rationale for the re-inscription of Bonaire on the list of NSGT's. Some of the proposed short- and medium term actions towards re-inscription, as were listed in the position paper entitled “THE RIGHT TO SELF- DETERMINATION OF BONAIRE AND SINT EUSTATIUS: ACHIEVING A FULL MEASURE OF SELF-GOVERNMENT BY 2020 (Blackman 2016 see attached) are included here:
Formal hearing of delegations of the Netherlands, Bonaire and St. Eustatius (inter alia NGO’s Nos Ke Boneiru Bek and possibly Brighter Path Foundation and Pro Statia on St. Eustatius) in consultative processes of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (PFII), and other international organizations dealing with human rights- related issues
A comprehensive plan of approach toward regional engagement and the move towards re-inscription along with increasing regional awareness of Bonaire's situation and incorporation of the above- mentioned action points, will be further worked out in consultation with advisors, in a separate document.
By seeking UN re-inscription, Bonaire's right of self- determination will be monitored by the international community, thereby requiring the Netherlands to sit at the constitutional table with Bonaire to discuss (the move towards) full internal self- government, as was expressed by the people in the 2004, 2010, 2015 plebiscites, and in accordance with the relevant UN Resolutions.
Concluding Comments: Challenges and Hopes
Does Bonaire have the right to choose its own status and end the current unilateral display of power and control by the Dutch Government? Does Bonaire have the right to demand a legitimate form of self- government that meets the standards set out by the various UN resolutions? It is to be hoped that the arguments presented in this Green Paper have answered these questions and that a flame will be ignited in the heart of the reader towards the fight against human rights violations committed against small island countries whose people have not yet attained a legitimate form of self- government, whereby the people of said island countries under the protection of the relevant UN resolutions and international conventions, may freely determine their own destiny. The peoples of Bonaire are at a critical crossroads in their history at the moment. Without the attention of the international community international community, the Bonerian peoples remained unprotected. Left unchecked, the open and unlimited Dutch- European immigration rate of over 400% since the referendum of 2004 with the accompanying political and economic rights (including voting rights within 90 days of arrival), the Bonerian peoples will become a minority in their own land. Without the assistance of the international community, the world will witness the disappearance of The Bonerian people.
The desire of those persons within the Dutch Kingdom, regarding the achievement of a full measure of self- government based on political equality and respect, in the absence of external domination and control, is also acknowledged. In facing any great obstacle, unity and solidarity MUST be supreme. Since the removal of the Dutch Caribbean from the NSGT list of UN in 1955 our story has been hidden from the world. At the moment we have no other choice left either to give up and disappear and become a sad chapter in the future history books or stand up fight for our rights. We are all born equal in dignity and rights and as such the Bonerian people have the inalienable right as any other People to be free and equal.
“There is no power in the world that can stop the forward march of free men and woman when they are joined in solidarity of human brotherhood.” -Walter Reuther
A1: Report international press EFE, UN Visit
A2: Statuut voor het Koninkrijk
A3: Referendum Bonaire September 2004
A4: Referendum Bonaire March 2010
A5: Annulment referendum Bonaire law by Lt Governor Thode and Governor Goedgedrag
A6: Referendum Bonaire december 2010
A7: Bonaire government request Holland for UN report December 2010 Referendum
A8: Request Bonaire government to postpone anchoring after evaluation and referendum 2015
A9: Formal objection citizen James Finies to the new constitutional status
A10: Petitioners signatures requesting a referendum for Bonaire
A11: Petition James Finies, NKBB to King Willem Alexander for referendum and self-government
A12: Decision island council referendum 2014
A13: Letter/order Lt governor Rijna to stop NKBB day and night vigil protest for a referendum
A14: Agreement NKBB J Finies and new coalition government for referendum 2015
A16: Decision island council referendum Bonaire 2015
A17: Decision island council ratification referendum results 2015
A18: Final law / 2nd reading anchoring BES islands into Dutch Constitution
A19: 1541 (XV) Principles which should guide Members in determining whether or not an obligation exists to transmit the information called under article 73 e of the Charter
A20: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) & International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
A21: Formal petition of NKBB J Finies against embedding of Bonaire in Dutch Constitution
A22: The Daily Herald , June 22, 2016 pages 1, 8, 11
A23: The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean. Constitutional In- Betweenity: Reforming The Kingdom Of the Netherlands in The Caribbean page 6
A24: Chapter XI: Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing-Territories, Article 73
A25: Resolution 742 (VII) Factors which should be taken into account whether a Territory is or is not a Territory whose people have not yet attained a full measure of self-government
A26: = see A20
A27: Decision island council, 2014, re-listing Bonaire as NSGT
A28: Letter(s) Bonaire government to Minister Plasterk requesting Bonaire's relisting as NSGT
Corbin, C.G. 2012 Self-Determination after 10-10-10
Corbin, C.G. 2010 Self-Determination or Annexation? The case of Bonaire
Duijf & Soons 2011, The Right to Self-Determination and the Dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles
De Jong, H.G., Aruba: A separate country within the Kingdom of the netherlands on it's way to independence. Netherlands yearbook of International Law, Vol.20, 1989 p.71-89
Oostindie, gert & Inge Klinkerss, Decolonizing the Caribbean, Dutch Ploicies in a Comparartive Perspective. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2003
Spies, J.W.E., Soons, A.H.A., Thode, G.A.E., Verhey, L.F.M., Weekers, F.H.H. 2015, Joined together for five years': Conclusions
Hillibrink S (2008) The right to self-determination and post-colonial governance: The case of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba (p.p. 139-168). The Hague: T.M.C. Asser Press
Hillibrink S (2012) The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean. Constitutional In Betweenity: Reforming The Kingdom of the Netherlands in the Caribbean in the Caribbean. Http://rozenbergquarterly.com/