Time doesn’t heal, it lessens the pain: Year two


Exactly two years ago I lost my mother. And then, after a few weeks, I lost my younger sister. What I’ve learned is that time doesn’t heal all wounds as is commonly assumed. Time however lessens the pain of loss. Over time I’ve seen a shift in the way I grief. It’s not less hard, but a different kind of grief in which I mourn for both loss and acceptance. No wonder it took me more than a year to clean out my mother’s room and closet.

When I was around four years old I understood that things changed with the death of a first-degree relative. My mom, with the passing of her mother, started wearing only black. I remember her telling me that according to the church (she was a devout Catholic) the first year after death of a close relative, is referred to as deep mourning. Only all black or all white dresses were appropriate. Half mourning is the next period of six months of mourning. Black with white trim, or white with black trim, is considered the standard for dress. Light or second mourning, also lasting six months, is the final stage. Clothing is characterized by mild colors, including greys, mauves and other soft pastel colors. 

As a child I noticed the colors, not her sadness. She was very brave as was most probably her mother when she went through the same hard times. I guess that’s why mothers are so special and loved. I also know now that no church or person can tell you how you should feel or how long you should mourn the loss of loved ones. I had the opportunity after the passing of my mother and sister to go on assignment in various Asian and Pacific countries. Being away from it all was therapeutic. For others who have had a loss, it may not have been. 

You shouldn’t compare yourself with those whom you know have had a loss. The coworker who’s smiling at happy hour only a few weeks after his wife died? He may have been crying every day on the way to and from work. The family member who thinks that you should “move on” after a few months has no idea what this loss feels like, or what feels right for you. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect to quickly recover. Be patient with those who don’t understand. At the end of the day I’d rather feel this pain than feel nothing.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Moshon di deskonfiansa kontra Minister Plenipotensiario:1950


Den un reunion di Staten di Antia Ulandes riba 30 yüni 1950, un moshon a keda entregá pa frakshon di Arubaanse Volkspartij (AVP) pa baha e Minister Plenipotensiario na Ulanda, Sr. Michael Gorsira. Segun e miembro pa AVP, Sr. Geerman, e no tabatin konfiansa den e Minister Plenipotensiario ni tampoko den su kapasidatnan pa representá Antia.

Rason pa e deskonfiansa tabata segun AVP e echo ku Sr. Gorsira tabata komportá su mes komo un partidario di Democratische Partij (DP) i ku e no tabata na altura di e berdadero deseonan di kada isla pa loke ta trata struktura estatal. Segun Sr. Geerman, Sr. Gorsira lo a hasi deklarashonnan indebido na Ulanda bisando e.o.: “Staten di Antia Ulandes no ta representativo”. 

Miembro di Staten pa Katholieke Volkspartij (KVP), Nicolaas Debrot, a sali na defensa di Sr. Gorsira i a yama e moshon: “.. een prul, je reinste kolder en ongemotiveerd.” E a kòrda AVP ku e posishon di un Minister Plenipotensiario no ta polítiko sino unu netamente atministrativo pa kua Gobernadó ta responsabel. Lider di DP, Sr. Jonckheer, a bisa ku Sr. Gorsira no tin nada di haber ku DP i ku no por tin kuestion di partidismo. 

Algun dia despues, na momentu ku mester a trata e moshon, hopi miembro a bandoná e sala di reunion di Staten ku konsekuensia ku no tabatin korum pa votashon. Mester remarká ku e susesonan rònt di Sr. Gorsira a tuma lugá den un periodo sumamente tumultoso den nos demokrasia parlamentario. Na Kòrsou e rivalidat entre di Dòktor da Costa Gomez i Efraim Jockheer tabata kandente i oposishon di e otro islanan pa ku Kòrsou tabata hopi visibel te na e ekstremo ku tabata kompará Dòktor ku Hitler. 

Pa loke ta trata Sr. Gorsira, esaki a bisa ku Staten no tin nada di bisé. “Mijn positie is geen andere dan die van een ambtenaar. Ik ben door de gouverneur benoemd en ben alleen aan hem verantwoording verschuldigd. Men kan een ambtenaar van wat men zou kunnen noemen de diplomatieke dienst nu eenmaal niet in een parlement wegstemmen.” Sr. Gorsira ta keda den su posishon te ora e keda nombrá na 1951 komo e promé Gezaghebber di Kòrsou. 

E kaso di 1950 ta kasi idéntiko na e kontroversia ku e Minister Plenipotensiario durante di e gobernashon 2012-2016. Konstitushonalmente Staten no por kore ku un ámtenar, tampoko e representante na Ulanda. Na 1950 Gobernadó ku ta esun ku a nombra Sr. Gorsira a opta pa no kit’é. Durante 2012-2016 esun ku ta responsabel pa e Minister Plenipotensiario, e Minister Presidènt, tampoko a opta pa tuma medida. 

Willemstad, Curaçao

Fuente: Het Nieuws: Algemeen Dagblad, 5 juli 1950; Amigoe di Curaçao, 11 juli 1950; Historisch Archief Curaçao

Will Brexit help Curaçao?


The long-standing Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) Decision will again be renewed in 2020. In accordance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the 23 British, Danish, Dutch and French OCT are associated with the EU. The core of the OCT Decision is preferential access to the EU market and participation in global trade. In my first article I’ve made the case that we have failed to profit from the preferential EU market access. Recently we saw headlines stating that the new OCT means more money and prosperity for Curaçao because of Brexit. Is this true however?

The premise is that since there are 12 British OCT, Brexit will mean that the current aid programs will be the last for these territories and consequently more money for Curaçao. The first caveat is that we know almost as little about the plan for Brexit that’s concrete as we did that morning after the referendum itself. Options now range from ‘hard’ to ‘soft’ exit with lots of uncertainties. Fact is that the outcome of Brexit is unknown and too early to draw conclusions. 

The British OCT are currently scrambling to cope with an unknown Brexit which may isolate them, especially in trade matters. Brexit means to officially leave the EU, which in turn means that the British OCT will have no trade agreement with it. When Brexit happens, Britain will have no formal trade agreements with any country, having subsumed its authority for trade matters to the EU. This is why the House of Lords EU Committee wrote to the Brexit secretary seeking assurances that it might replace any of this “lost” EU funding for the exiting British OCT. It has also been reported that these territories will on their own negotiate with the EU for an aid package not far from the OCT Decision which will terminate at the end of 2020. The exit of the United Kingdom (UK) from the EU will likely mean withdrawal of UK funding from the European Development Fund (EDF) however. Brexit looks more like a double-edged sword.

The poorest EU countries (Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia) are not keen to see funds that they are in dire need of, go to former colonies of some of the richest EU members. Additionally, the likely accelerated accession of Montenegro and Serbia to the EU and that of Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia later on, will undoubtedly put pressure on available EU funding. In any case, all the (soon 27) Member States must agree with the new OCT Decision for it to be official. That could be tricky.

Whatever the result of Brexit, I don’t think that available funding for Curaçao is going to be the main problem. Of concern should be the fact that we have been consistently negligent by not submitting relevant projects for EDF financing. We are passing up millions of Euros that could have gone to development projects. Earlier this year the EU gave us a deadline to submit proposals for durable projects. It seems that our first priority should be to increase our capacity to design and implement projects that are in line with durable human and environmental development.

Willemstad, Curaçao

The dark side of living longer


Some years ago, out of the blue I drew up a chair and sat down at a table with a group of elders in a supermarket cafeteria. Today I’m a regular at these weekly encounters so much so that an unannounced absence on my part would undoubtedly raise concerns. While sipping coffee with the group I listen to stories, many of which are repeats from previous weeks, about their past accomplishments and jobs and also complaints about the current generation. Some of them struggle from time to time with wanting to return to their “glory days”. All by all they’re aging gracefully, in general very upbeat, with no discernible major health or money problems. 

So it was a surprise last week to all of a sudden hear one elder person say that it did not make a lot of sense to continue living. The person apparently was told recently by the doctor to stop eating various types of food as a preventive health measure. The person questioned what sense it makes to live on if you can’t eat what gives you satisfaction. “Am I asking for too much?” the person wondered whilst looking away, obviously unwilling to lock eyes with anyone sitting at the table. It became quiet around the table. No one offered any answers. 

My mind drifted immediately to my mother who in the last stages of her life also told my sister and I that she was ready to go. It was as if she told us to not do anything to prevent her desire to cross the great divide. Questions that lingered at that time and still remain unanswered today: Are we investing in pricey science to keep people alive who do not want to live? Should we do anything to keep people alive?

In an article in The Straits Times, a leading Singaporean newspaper, it was reported that the number of elderly people taking their own lives reached a record high last year. According to the U.S. Centrals of Disease Control, elderly people had the highest suicide rate in the U.S.. And this seems to be the case in most developed countries.

But I digress. Why does a person who is seemingly healthy have these thoughts? According to experts many seniors fear becoming a burden, social disconnection, and the inability to function in daily life. Not being able to eat what you always ate, does probably prevent you from leading a normal life. Especially when you’ve had to adjust to many other changes, be it social, physical and mental that comes with aging. This can and does cause depression. Depression in the elderly is rarely detected much less addressed because that behavior is considered – even by the elderly person suffering from depression- as just part of growing old. To make things worse, the elderly today grew up in a time when depression and other mental disorders meant being stigmatized, much more than today. Accepting depression is for this group difficult. More education and effort are needed to notice when something’s not right with our elders. As the population in Curaçao ages, we need to quickly invest in policy changes regarding the elderly. We need to invest more in their mental health.

Willemstad, Curaçao

1941: E aña ku solamente un partido a bai elekshon dor di bòikòt religioso



Bo ta na altura ku tabatin un elekshon na Kòrsou na kua solamente un (1) partido polítiko a partisipá? Esaki a sosodé riba 17 novèmber 1941, e promé i úniko biaha den nos historia. E motibu no tabata union di pensamentu pasombra nos tabata den e di Dos Guera Mundial, pero hustamentu pa un sentido di division nunka ántes bisto riba nos isla.

Na e promé elekshon pa Staten (20 desèmber 1937) a partisipá tres (3) partido polítiko. Por a vota solamente hòmber di 25 aña pariba, ku a paga belasting, gana por lo ménos Naf 100,- pa luna i tin un sierto nivel di enseñansa. Staten tabata konsistí di 15 asiento di kua 10 (6 pa Kòrsou) skohé i 5 nombrá pa Gobernadó. Repartishon den Staten tabata 8 katóliko i 7 no-katóliko lokual a trese  diskushonnan eterno i hopi bataya. 

Miembro di Staten pa Partido Katóliko, Dòktor da Costa Gomez, a introdusí un lei nobo i a baha e rekesitonan pa vota. Ku esaki mas hende di e pueblo katóliko por a vota. Si na 1937 na Kòrsou 2.,030  por a vota, esaki a bira 2,453 na 1941.

E no-katólikonan tabata furioso ku e kambio. Un kantidat di 56 suidadano den un karta a urgi Gobernadó pa para elekshon di 1941 argumentando ku: siendo den di Dos Guera Mundial mester evitá un elekshon ku por asentuá e diferensianan entre gruponan;  i  ku no por tin elekshon mientras un sensura di prensa (yüni 1940 pa sèptèmber 1942) tabata vigente. Gobernadó Wouters a rechasá e petishon sinembargo.

Pa pone preshon i salbaguardiá poder di e no-katólikonan, a lanta Vereniging tot behartiging van de staatkundige, economische en culturele belangen van het gebiedsdeel Curaçao. Intentonan pa forma un partido no-katóliko no a prosperá sinembargo. E asosashon seguidamente ta pidi pa tur partido no-katóliko bòikotiá e elekshon di 1941 tambe pa ningun no-katóliko pone su mes riba un lista polítiko. Na kabes di e organisashon, e dòkter médiko W. Maal ku komo redaktor di e publikashon “Curaçao” tabata fulminá kontra katólikonan i tambe e korant pro-katóliko, Amigoe.

Partido Katóliko tabata pues e úniko partido ku a partisipá na e elekshon na 1941. E seis miembronan di Staten skohé pa Kòrsou, tur katóliko, tabata Sres. Sprockel, da Costa Gomez, Römer, Désertine, Ellis i Kroon. Di e miembronan skohé pa Boneiru, Aruba i Islanan Ariba, solamente 1 tabata katóliko. Mas aleu Gobernadó a nombra 5 miembro di Staten di kua 2 tabata katóliko.

Final di kuenta Staten tabata konsistí di 9 katóliko i solamente 6 no-katóliko. E bataya polítiko feros di hopi aña basá riba religion, a keda definitivamente ganá pa katólikonan. Polítika for di e momentu ei praktikamente no a keda hibá mas a base di e mesun fervor religioso di ántes. Desunion no a desaparesé sinembargo, pero a kontinuá a base di otro divishonnan real òf kreá.

Willemstad, Curaçao

The OCT Decision (LGO Besluit) and Curaçao: A questionable performance


The long-standing Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) Decision will again be renewed in 2020. In accordance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the 27 British, Danish, Dutch and French OCT are associated with the EU. The core of this Decision is to promote preferential access of the OCT to the EU market and participation in global trade. Has the OCT Decision accomplished its objectives? I’ll discuss this relevant question in a series of articles. 

During a recent foreign trade mission, a Curaçao Minister stated that Curaçao -because of its OCT status and beneficiary of the OCT Decision- is “an interesting export hub to the EU”.  He’s neither the first nor the last person to (mis)use our EU associate status as a sales pitch. The reality is however that currently only 7 companies in Curaçao (including the oil Refinery) make use of the OCT-Decision. These are hardly figures that are going to excite potential investors out there. The relevant question should be: “why is this the case?”

Disconcerting is that at the Ministries of General Affairs and Economic Development there is practically no information and no qualified personnel to guide entrepreneurs who are interested in using the OCT Decision to export. In the private sector the situation is not much better. Support for our business community is critical as the rules, regulations and prerequisites for using the OCT Decision are rather intricate. Lack of knowledge and information no doubt contributes to the low use of the EU preferential program for OCT.

Many OCT Decisions ago, it was decided that our priority should be improving our competitiveness. It makes sense because what good is it to have a nice preferential facility to export goods and services, if you don’t have a competitive good or service that consumers want in the EU? As far as I know, no government has ever taken on the reforms and changes needed to make us more competitive within the context of the OCT Decision. Logically because reforming outdated economic structures (labor regulations, productivity, migration policies and the education system) is taboo for most politicians. Additionally nothing has been done to remedy our noncompliance with WTO which makes it impossible to have trade agreements with other countries, exactly the opposite of what the OCT Decisions have been stressing for years. This is the crux of the problem.

In Parliament, as Curaçao was getting ready for the renewal of the OCT Decision in 2014, I warned that we are not going to accomplish much lest we brought about changes. With the exception of the Fair Trade Authority legislation in 2016, no necessary structural changes were made. Hopefully our Ministers will realize, especially when they are giving flashy powerpoint presentations on foreign trade missions, that the dream of making our island an export powerhouse -with or without the OCT Decision- will remain an illusion if we don’t take the necessary steps to be more competitive and WTO compliant.

Willemstad, Curaçao


Minister Blok, a disgrace

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok had people at his Ministry look for a multiethnic, multicultural society, where the indigenous population still live . . . where they live in a peaceful, societal union”. According to Blok, they could not come up with any.

This made Blok conclude in a bizarre rant that there are no peaceful multicultural societies in the world and that human beings “deep in our genes” want to live in “a defined group”. Further, he said that he was not able to see the difference  between a Hutu and a Tutsi and then went on to call multicultural Suriname, an ex Dutch colony, a failed state and that migrants of color would be “beaten up” if they moved to Warsaw or Prague.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler explored “truths which stand out so openly” (similarities to Blok’s “deep in our genes” claim are freighting) that led him to conclude that North Americans who stick to their Germanic group have a superior humanity and culture than “Central and South America, where the predominantly Latin immigrants often mixed with the aborigines (indigenous peoples, Alex Rosaria) on a large scale”.

Blok can’t distinguish Tutsis from Hutus? He should find out how his collegues ex-colonial masters in Berlin and Brussels successfully managed to accomplish this. German and Belgium colonial policies always privileged the minority Tutsi over the majority Hutu because they believed the Tutsis looked more “European” than the Hutus because they were taller and had “finer noses and facial features”.

Suriname a failed state? Failed because of their rich multi-ethnic composure? He can’t be that ignorant. What about the Islands in the Caribbean, including my mother country, Curaçao, he represents as Kingdom Minister? Apparently he hasn’t noticed how multicultural we are and especially how proud we are of this?

Hope that someone tells Blok that multiculturalism does not result in conflict. Stupid and ignorant people like him making these stupid and ignorant remarks, does. Blok is not ignorant. He did not mess up or use the wrong words. It wasn’t until he got exposed that he tried to cover his tracks. Blok is an extreme right-wing populist who sells self-serving interpretations to descibe and vilify groups that are physically unlike him. Blok is unworthy of continuing on as the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Willemstad, Curaçao