Saba threatens to secede from Dutch Antilles

Saba, the smallest of the five Caribbean islands that make up the Dutch Antilles.
ANP, RNW

Saba, the smallest of the five Caribbean islands that make up the Dutch Antilles, is breaking off relations with the other islands, accusing them of frustrating the decolonisation process, its local government wrote in a letter to the Dutch prime minister on Tuesday.

The move was provoked by a decision by the national government of the Dutch Antilles to hold parliamentary elections in 2010 - the same year in which the country is set to be dismantled.

"When we heard about this it was clear to us that the Antillean government will never dissolve itself or that it will take a very long time. We can't wait for that to happen," island commissioner of constitutional affairsChris Johnson said. He is asking the Dutch government for assistance to move away from the Netherlands Antilles.

Six former Dutch colonies in the Antilles together formed an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1954, when a kind of commonwealth structure replaced the colonial relationship. In 1975 the Antilles got their own government and Aruba became independent in 1986. For years now, the Netherlands and the islands have been working towards a new constitutional set-up.

Saba, the smallest of the islands with just 1,500 inhabitants, opted to to become a Dutch extraterritorial municipality in 2010, as did St. Eustatius and Bonaire. They will have the same status as towns and cities in the Netherlands proper. The larger islands St Maarten and Curaçao are to become independent countries, just like Aruba, within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Saba government claims that Curaçao is dragging its feet by insisting on elections for the joint parliament of the six islands, even though that parliament will only be in existence for another couple of months. Deputy Johnson said it appeared that Curaçao, the largest of the islands with 134,000 people, is not all that eager to dismantle the Antilles group by October 2010.

In a letter to Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende, the Saba government says it intends to secede from the Antilles, in order to speed up Saba's move towards its new status as a Dutch municipality.

"We want to remain a part of the kingdom. But the Antilles have increasingly become a millstone around our neck and we want rid of that now," Johnson said. The deputy stressed that in a 2004 referendum no less than 86 percent of Sabans (555 votes) voted for a direct relationship with the Netherlands. Only 85 people wanted Saba to remain within the Dutch Antilles; five people voted for independence.

The letter will be presented to the special Dutch Commisionner for the governmental transition, Henk Kamp, on Tuesday.

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