PHILIPSBURG–The Parliament of Curaçao has not yet discussed a proposal from the Washington DC-based Coharis Law Group, which the Parliament of St. Maarten approached to assist with the completion of the decolonisation process of the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles and seeking reparations from the Netherlands.
The intention is to include Curaçao and Aruba in the process and each of the three countries is to pay a fixed fee of US $7,000 per month, which the law firm stated represents a 91-per-cent discount.
President of the Parliament of Curaçao Ana-Maria Pauletta told The Daily Herald on Thursday that no Member of Parliament has put in a formal petition to meet on the proposal.
“The Curaçao Parliament has not discussed this yet. We received the proposal and it’s for the Members of Parliament to indicate if they want to take part in the proposal. No member has yet put this into a formal petition,” she said, adding that it is up to MPs to request a meeting on the matter and as such she cannot give a date when it will be discussed.
Asked for her personal position on the proposal as an MP, she said: “I had the chance to see the proposal. We had a similar motion in the parliament that I voted against. But again, this proposal hasn’t been debated yet in the parliament.”
The move by the Parliament of St. Maarten to approach the law firm has come in for some amount of criticism locally, but Chairperson of St. Maarten’s Parliament Rolando Brison had said the presidium of Parliament has the right to engage in legal support and called concerns over the proposal, as being just opinions.
Brison had said the idea is to share the cost amongst the three countries once that is finalised, but he indicated that negotiations are still taking place with Curaçao and Aruba and the firm. “The proposal is just that – a proposal,” Brison had said.
The Coharis Law Group sent the engagement agreement for Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten to MP Grisha Heyliger-Marten on October 1 and she in turn forwarded it to Brison and first Vice-Chairperson of Parliament William Marlin. The proposal was also forwarded to Curaçao and Aruba.
In the retainer agreement, Peter Coharis stated that he was delighted that “the parliaments, political parties, foundations, individuals and/or other civil society members of Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten” had retained the law firm to work on the islands’ behalf.
The agreement also states a contingency fee, a percentage that will be paid to the law firm out of the reparations the Netherlands would pay, if awarded. The law firm would be paid a contingency fee of 0.085 per cent. The rest, 99.915 per cent would go to the countries.
In the agreement, it is stated that the law firm will provide legal services, including counselling, strategic advice, negotiations and similar services requested by the countries in protecting and promoting their goals and interests, and to achieve their objectives.
The first action would be to pursue efforts in the United Nations (UN) and international bodies. The law firm would assist the countries to reach out to the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
These UN bodies would be asked to examine and report on the situation in the three Dutch Caribbean countries. “By validating the political realities that the islands want addressed, a report of the Special Committee on Decolonization would be very effective to persuade the Dutch government to participate at a 2021 RTC [round table conference – Ed.]. Even the prospect of such an investigation and report would likely help persuade the Netherlands to participate.”
It was pointed out in the agreement that the July 2015 report by the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, based on its visit to the Netherlands and Curaçao a year before, merits a follow-up report, especially as it appears that the islands’ current concerns were not previously considered.
The basis for turning to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, an independent human rights expert appointed by the UN, would be an August 2019 report that “addresses the human rights obligations of (UN) Member States in relation to reparations for racial discrimination rooted in slavery and colonialism.”
The law firm would assist the countries in their efforts to attract regional and international support for the 2021 RTC negotiations, including organisations such as the Caribbean Community CARICOM and the CARICOM Reparations Committee, but also members of the Dutch government, Dutch parliamentarians and others.
The law firm would further assist Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten in reviewing the construction that has “prevented them from securing their rights and sovereignty”, and the “practical operation of various legal institutions within the Kingdom that have resulted in the ongoing denial of human rights” in the countries.
As for the RTC, the law firm would assist with the development of a strategy for the RTC negotiations, in the form of helping to structure the format, develop agendas, draft and review legal political reform proposals, and, if needed, direct support for the negotiation teams at the RTC itself. The end result should be the signing of an agreement with the Dutch government in July 2021.
The law firm will assist the countries to pursue damages from the Netherlands for the injuries and deprivations the Dutch inflicted on the islands and their people during Dutch colonialism and slavery, violations of the international legal obligations in the post-WWII period, and the legacy harms that will continue to injure the islands and their citizens for the foreseeable future.
Bron: Daily Herald