Published On: Fri, Jun 26th, 2020

What does commonwealth mean?

Letter - St Maarten News - PeopleDear Editor,

A commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with ‘republic’. The noun ‘commonwealth’, meaning ‘public welfare general good or advantage’, dates from the 15th century.

Originally a phrase (the common-wealth or the common wealth – echoed in the modern synonym ‘public wealth’) it comes from the old meaning of ‘wealth’, which is ‘well-being’, and is itself a loose translation of the Latin res publica (republic). The term literally meant ‘common well-being’.

In the 17th century, the definition of ‘commonwealth’ expanded from its original sense of ‘public welfare’ or ‘commonweal’ to mean ‘a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state’. The term evolved to become a title to a number of political entities including the countries: Australia, The Bahamas, Dominica, Certain U.S. states and territories, and international bodies such as the Commonwealth of Nations and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Commonwealth of Nations, generally known simply as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 54 member states, nearly all former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organization are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states. Member states have no legal obligations to one another, but are connected through their use of the English language and historical ties. Their stated shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law are enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter.” (source: www.wikipedia.org)

In summary; one can conclude that there is no specific format what a ‘commonwealth’ should be and how it is structured. That is a matter of mutual agreement between those involved. This poses the question if the wording of the structuring of the cooperation (the title of the organization) in itself can solve problems between countries or territories. It seems more of importance to have a mutual understanding and a clear agreement what those entities involved want to regulate about mutual responsibilities, cooperation, input and output and their enforcement. The history in The Netherlands Antilles shows that the wording (title) of this cooperative body is not solving problems per se. Being just a municipality of The Netherlands does for example not mean automatically that with that title all problems of St. Eustatius (or Bonaire) were solved at once.

G.B. van der Leest (resident SXM since 2012)

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