What really is the status of the 3 small Islands of the Netherlands Antilles after the dismantling of the 5 Island Federation? The promise made to improve functioning of these Public Entities, has seen some resistance and the birth of a series of constitutional pitfalls.
Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba – the Caribbean Netherlands – have acquired a new status as special municipalities. This means that they are part of the Netherlands itself. On 10 October 2010, the government of the Netherlands took over the task of public administration from the Government of the Netherlands Antilles.
As “special municipalities”, the islands are officially considered “public bodies” (openbare lichamen) under Dutch law. Their status has been laid down in an Act of Parliament (Wet Openbare lichamen BES). The Netherlands’ other public bodies are the national government, the municipalities, the provinces and the water boards.
Dutch and Antillean legislation
Antillean legislation has remained in force after 10 October 2010, except in those cases where an island municipal law has replaced an Antillean law. It would be impossible to simply introduce the entire body of Dutch legislation in one go. Because Dutch laws were created for the situation in the Netherlands, introducing them all at once on the islands would cause confusion. Dutch legislation will therefore be introduced in stages, with careful consideration being given to the situation on each island.
Changes for the inhabitants
As from 10 October 2010, when the islands became municipalities of the Netherlands, the inhabitants of the Caribbean Netherlands have the same rights as Dutch citizens. They have naturally retained their own culture, which is unique to them. They will also have access to new or improved facilities.
- a universal health care insurance system;
- better health care facilities (specialist hospitals, more ambulances);
- better educational facilities (remedial programs for pupils with learning disadvantages, additional training for teachers, new teaching methods, new school buildings);
- social housing for low-income individuals and families;
- clean drinking water;
- one new organization combining the police, fire-fighters and ambulance service, with a central dispatch center;
- a new currency, the US dollar (introduced on 1 January 2011);
- stepped-up security at airports and ports;
- The right to vote in parliamentary elections in the Netherlands.