The discussion still stands: The following is an article published under the title, “The corona virus clearly exposes a structural problem in the relations between the Netherlands and Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Relations are actually governed by a distinct colonial element: The rendering of favors.” I found it very interesting, forgive GOOGLE translate, it is a good read.
By Aart G. Broek
May 6, 2020
Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten asked the Netherlands for hundreds of millions of euros in support to cope with the financial and economic consequences of the corona virus – that is to say, as a gift.
This is not their legal right. This is a call for ‘solidarity’ with the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and thus the money would be ‘justified.’
Without donations, the islands will perish and will not be saved for the time. Dick Drayer, a correspondent on the islands, rightly observes: “In Curaçao, 50,000 people are in danger of falling below the poverty line” (NOS, April 16, 2020).
The motherland believes it should act in terms of loans, and this with significantly smaller amounts than asked for. The Netherlands already covers many costs, including the islands’ judicial and law enforcement needs, regularly. Donations in kind are also made often; manpower and equipment are flown in to be used as a gift.
The plea from the islands for solidarity, and the answer from the Netherlands, loan not gift, is already causing a major conflict on the political, administrative level (Trouw, April 8, 2020). In the Dutch media, The Hague administrators are being questioned for their (alleged) heartless behavior (de Volkskrant, April 15, 2020).
The Statute, must regulate relationships
The legal document that formally regulates mutual relations within the Kingdom is the Statute, a decree governing the arrangement. It was signed in 1954 and regularly updated thereafter. After October 10th, 2010, the Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of four “countries”: Aruba, Sint Maarten, Curaçao and the Netherlands. The islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (the BES islands) have been added to the Netherlands as a “public body,” a king of protectorate, and have been given the name, Caribbean Netherlands. The Statute rules the constitutions of the respective countries within the Kingdom.
The BES islands are described as “a kind of municipalities”, but they are not: They have much less say than any municipality in the Netherlands. The conditions imposed on island administrators are stricter than those imposed on municipal administrators, and the ability of the Dutch to adjust and intervene in internal affairs is greater than in municipalities.
Autonomy affected by inability
Aruba, Sint Maarten and Curaçao are also practically not “countries” in the political sense, because some essential elements cannot be fulfilled by those entities, such as the issue of the Dutch passport, foreign relations and defense.
(Islanders carry Dutch passports, not their own, and all their foreign relations and defense needs are on the Kingdom’s account).
We call the islands “autonomous”, but in many respects they are absolutely not and they have become less and less independent over the years. They have not been able to sustainably cope with their increased challenged.
Every day, this inability to sustain the autonomy is illustrated by inadequate fight against crime, overwhelming environmental problems, failed education, intolerable (inter-island) infrastructure, failing to enforce human rights, all forms of violence, lousy civil service, faltering child protection, high unemployment, fraudulent health care, needy health care, and uncontrollable public finances across island societies.
Wait and see what the Netherlands does
In everyday aspects, the Statute makes the locals second-class citizens of the Kingdom. It is difficult to stick to the status of this “public body” and above all to the so-called “autonomous country” definition, because in practice it is always a matter of waiting to see what the Netherlands will do.
Wait and see whether and how the Netherlands intervenes when island government entities, local service and the Central Bank threaten to fall into the wrong hands; when the administrators completely lose sight of reality when drawing up the island budgets; when education and health care collapse due to lack of adequate policy; when air and water pollution demonstrably cause death; when refugees are at close range and a virus from faraway places overwhelms healthcare; and so on.
The Statute speaks of equality, independence and reciprocity among countries, but in fact these relations are dominated by a typical colonial element: The rendering of favors. The Caribbean islands are begging serfs of the Netherlands. The Kingdom Relations lack a well-developed and transparent system of rights and obligations, as well as – inevitably – a proper dispute settlement.
Thoroughly spelled out rules create mutual expectations and thus prevent conflicts. More importantly, justice and its enforcement strengthen mutual trust between people in a society. This is exactly what the rendering of favors doesn’t do. A coexistence based on favors feeds mutual mistrust and thus hinders or prevents true collaboration.
Coronavirus makes the favoritism-based relationship visible
Favor-driven coexistence strengthens the building of facades, and evasion of responsibilities, as one assumes the role of victim imbued with feelings of inferiority. In short, the Netherlands shames the islanders, often filled with the best intentions. And now, the corona virus makes what we recognized for a long time, visible.
Reducing and eventually eliminating the shameful favor relationship begins with establishing a common goal. If equality, well-being and prosperity were the main goal of living together in the Kingdom for all the people of the kingdom, then it would be obvious to choose for an administrative construction whereby the islands become true municipalities and together they become a Dutch province. It must be recognized that only with the full integration of the islands into the Netherlands, a level of desired welfare and prosperity, and secure financial resources, could be guaranteed.
With this full integration, the favor-ridden relationship is eliminated, as it is clear to both parties what can be asked, and is expected. Both parties can finally approach each other as equal partners, without shame and (possible) guilt.
Setting course for equal and equitable Dutch citizenship
A choice has to be made. In or out? Or you become independent and, like Suriname, face your own destiny, as happened to that country in 1975 – including an aggressive push of Venezuela, an expanding and neo-colonial China and a merciless Latin American mafia. Or you wish for a Kingdom without colonial favor relations and with a full participation in a democratic system?
The wheel must be turned. We must vigorously and purposefully set course for equal and equitable, same Dutch citizenship. It is the only remaining option to deal with the colonial leftovers within the current Kingdom.
Abolish the Statute and declare the Dutch Constitution the Kingdom’s Constitution. Make the Caribbean islands into one province of six municipalities according to the Dutch model. This need not frighten either party, as long as this inevitable development is well prepared and guided with mutual care and respect. The time for a “Think tank review of kingdom relations” has come.
Aart G. Broek is a sociologist and literary specialist, specialized in the Caribbean, especially the Netherlands Antilles. This article is adapted from his presentation at the conference 65 Years Statute, The Hague, December 2019.