Dutch Caribbean islands which want to leave the kingdom of the Netherlands only have to say so and it will happen, prime minister Mark Rutte said during a visit to the former colonies.
Rutte told the NRC newspaper that officials looked at him shocked when he made the surprise announcement during a meeting.
‘I said ‘if you want to leave and a majority of your people support that position, then it is possible. Give us a ring and we will arrange it’,’ the prime minister told the paper.
Rutte said he hoped the offer would prevent any further requests for financial support. ‘I told them that if we ever talk again about the way the state is organised then it will be if you want to leave the kingdom,’ the paper quoted him as saying.
The status of five of the six islands changed in 2010. Curacao and Sint Maarten are now autonomous countries while Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have the status of a local authority. Aruba has been independent since 1986.
Rutte has visited all six islands during his visit and has been outspoken in his criticism of the way three – Curacao, Sint Maarten and Bonaire – are being managed, the NRC said.
In particular he has instigated a ‘far-reaching probe’ into the integrity of government on Sint Maarten.
The island’s justice minister was forced to resign earlier this year after it emerged he ran several brothels. There has also been criticism of the €9,000 a month paid to parliamentarians. Sint Maarten has just 39,000 residents.
Other islands also have financial troubles. In September 2012 Curacao was placed under a formal compliance order by the Dutch government when its budget showed a shortfall of 153m Antillean guilders, of which nearly 100m guilders was needed to cover debts from previous years.
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