July 27, 2020 WILLEMSTAD - On behalf of 22 citizens of Curaçao, Lucita Moenir Alam and Brede Kristensen handed a letter for Undersecretary Knops to the Representative of the Netherlands, Erwin Arkenbout. In it they argue for workable and sustainable relationships between the Netherlands and Curaçao.
The 22 are very concerned about the developments taking place in the relations between the governments of Curaçao and the Netherlands. In doing so, they argue that the family and friendship ties between European and Caribbean Dutch are as strong as ever, but that the current tensions in relations at government level have an impact on their daily lives.
“We write to you without any pretension of scientific reflections or historical analyzes of the extensive documents now on the table. We do this in a personal capacity and as citizens of Curaçao, “ according to the authors.
The letter is intended to give Undersecretary Knops their views on the current crisis in Curaçao and on the way to overcome it. They want to share his deep desire to cooperate constructively in order to get out of the broad and deep crisis.
The main question for them is: “What will the residents, and especially the generations to come, benefit from? The answer becomes more urgent as the current Covid pandemic spreads, international relations change rapidly, and a global climate crisis is approaching, which will hit Curaçao faster and harder than many of us think possible.”
According to the 22, it is soon clear that the “Hague” reform proposals and conditions touch on fundamental democratic norms and values. “Opinions are therefore divided about the Dutch approach.”
The 22 argue that Curaçao is entering a socio-economic-financial ravine. “The economic contraction, unprecedented unemployment figures, increasing poverty and hunger, have become so acute that advocates from various sectors, including education, healthcare, agriculture, culture, are increasingly turning directly to your or other Ministries.”
In their desperation, those advocates, according to the 22, do not care much about “jurisprudence,” whether it concerns matters of the “countries” or Kingdom affairs.
“We all recognize that successive Curaçao governments have achieved very little to strengthen the pillars of our economy, improve the functioning of the government, get the finances in order, tackle corruption and develop adequate education and social policy. The inability of administrators is an eyesore for us and many others here in Curaçao,” the letter said.
They appreciate that in recent months the Undersecretary and many in the Netherlands, including their own diaspora, have expressed concern about the growing group of socially weak people for whom the Covid crisis is likely to be the final blow.
The letter-writers note that many, citizens and migrants/refugees, are for the time being dependent on food aid from the Dutch government and the government of Curaçao.
“But food aid, at least on this scale, should be finite. Perspective must be found for a future in Curaçao and for all strata of the population, the future must be hopeful, but also realistic and confident.”
A look in the rear-view mirror is a prerequisite for this, say the 22. Not only to explain the causes and consequences of distressing governance for decades, but above all to see - also with the necessary self-criticism - how it should then proceed.
“Both government and citizens must be able to be measured in order to contribute to the necessary changes. Our small scale and the culture of fear of proclaiming independent, and even contradictory, opinions prevent the formation of a new and necessary mind-set for progress. We must overcome this hurdle with all of us.”
Swallow or choke
The letter continues with the observation that the Reform Plans have led to the Rhuggenaath cabinet presenting the population with two options: whether or not to borrow from the Dutch government.
“It seemed for a moment that it was only possible to borrow under the conditions of” choking or swallowing “, which the Dutch should of course never do to each other,” said the 22.
“Fortunately, during the Kingdom Council of Ministers on Friday, July 10, it became clear that conciliatory language was still possible and that the future can be considered constructively, albeit after some serious accusations were made.”
According to the letter writers, this has created “a good perspective on dialogue, rationality and workability”. “Creative solutions must now be sought diligently, in short, homework must be finished. To this end, open, realistic and mutual respect must be negotiated in the very short term so that decisions can be made.”
The people of Curaçao must be involved fully, honestly and therefore without electoral motives and/or other agendas,” said the letter writers.
“Only with honest and knowledgeable information will sufficient support be created for the necessary cooperation in change processes. The focus must be on sustainable economic and social development and care must be taken to ensure that the debate does not again get bogged down in endless discussions about political structures.”
The 22 do not elaborate on the technical details of the reform plans in the letter, but they already see concerns, such as the lines of accountability, balanced mechanisms, clarification of tasks and powers.
“In itself, the idea of setting up a separate entity (a ZBO) to ensure that Dutch funds are well spent, in view of the experience facts known to us, is worth considering. But this entity should consist of European-Dutch civil servants as well as capable and politically neutral persons from the three Caribbean countries.”
The 22 recommend the Secretary of State to house the new entity in the region, for example on Bonaire, “so that the vital contact with interested parties, both governmental and non-governmental, is as effective and efficient as possible.”
“In our view, watching and thinking with the help of a “long remote control” from the Netherlands poses a major risk of failure. Rethinking, therefore, seems to be warranted,” said the letter writers.
“In the interest of both our countries, we encourage the Rutte and Rhuggenaath governments and the parliaments of the Netherlands and Curaçao to continue the recently pursued dialogue, critical but constructive, in order to achieve the urgently needed workable and sustainable cooperation. The ultimate goal must be to ensure together and in the spirit of the Statute, the realization of a Kingdom with a resilient Curaçao capable of meeting the challenges of the future.”
The 22 letter writers end their call with what they call “Nelson Mandela's wise words:” It is so easy to break down & destroy. The heroes are those who make peace & build.”
The 22 signatories of the letter are:
- Lucita Moenir Alam
- Brede Kristensen
- Elfrid Aniceto
- Ronald Antonius
- Maritza Becher
- Eric Carl den Brabander
- Rob van Buiren
- Harry Canters
- Marco Cheis
- Jeltje Christiaan-Anema
- Sita Finessi
- Petra van der Geest
- Vianney Granviel
- Fred Hoeben
- Leo Hooijer
- Annet Kooistra
- Marjorie de Kort
- George Lichtveld
- Melva de Palm
- Steven van der Kwast
- Ruben Suriel
- Ieteke Witteveen