Why I write in English

People choose to write in another language for different reasons. When Irishman Samuel Beckett was asked why he wrote in French and not in English he answered: “More and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things behind it.”

While I will not compare myself with this literary master my reason for writing mainly in English (and not in my native Papiamentu nor in Dutch) stems from a deep-rooted need to communicate with the world. I guess this is why as a globalist I pride myself to consider the whole wide world as my playground.

Many a time while visiting or talking to foreign (key)players from all corners of the world, I’m convinced that there’s a void of scholarly and serious accounts in English about our country. Yes, the internet has plenty of information for (would-be) tourists, but aren’t we more than sand on the seashore? I started my blog precisely to fill this void. In my very first article I said that my goal was making sense of world events, especially those that directly impact our lives, pocketbooks, personal freedoms and the environment. Statistics provided by my blogging system indicate that my articles are read by thousands of readers from 97 countries so far.

And since I’m on the subject, I encourage more people to write in English. Especially certain press releases from Government should be translated to English. When I was State Secretary of Finance I often sent press statements in English to the Caribbean News Network which were often picked up by media outlets in Barbados, Jamaica and others. If we don’t we’ll remain stranded in information isolation.

So the group in my native Curaçao that goes around murmuring with a sense of indignation that I should write in Dutch is either missing the point or suffers from megalomania. By the way, the fourth largest group of visitors to my site are from the Netherlands. Actually all this is very simple. If it irritates you to read my articles in English, realize that you don’t have to. There are many non-English blogs out there.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

 

#MeToo Curaçao

As we reflect on Women’s Day this year, men and women can be grateful of the many strides we’ve made on women’s rights. Long gone are the days that Friar (Frater) Radulphus on behalf of the Church declared that women were too stupid to vote. Women no longer have to quit their jobs after they get married, they’re not excluded from entering professions like law and medicine and they can own properties in their own names. Yet, we remain a deeply male-dominated society where physical and mental abuse against women are daily occurrences in the workplace, at home and during social contacts. We cannot be complacent.

It is unmistakably obvious that these abuses stem from a deeply rooted disrespect for women. Society has condoned this behavior against women from the moment they are born trapping them in a pattern that’s difficult to break. Men and women are to be blamed for the lasting nature of this problem. Somehow mothers, fathers, family members, church, government and social leaders are quick to downplay abuse against women as “cultural”. We used the same lame excuse against universal voting rights 70 years ago and today we use it against LGBTQ rights. To think “that’s the way men are and we’ve to deal with it” may sweep the problem under the rug, but will not solve anything.

Parents, but especially women (because they spend more time educating our children) should stop raising boys according to the “boys will be boys” mantra which somehow entitles them to disrespect girls. Women should also be empowered by the #MeToo movement and denounce abuse. This movement started in the U.S. to denounce sexual misconduct by men with power over their victims but has since spread to many countries. In a large Kenyan hospital, women workers fed up with being harassed by their male colleagues when they breastfeed, started the first #MeToo in Africa. Sexual harassment crosses socioeconomic racial and cultural barriers.

Sexual misconduct by men with power over their victims in Curaçao is real and has been whispered for a long time. Some contend that we are too small for the potential social upheaval we’ve seen unfold elsewhere. Some women are afraid of being ostracized by society if they come forward. Fact is however that women everywhere -also from small countries like ours- have rights and ought not to be mistreated. I’m all for using the #MeToo movement as an empowerment tool. The implementation here will necessarily have to reflect our particular circumstances. Sexual misconduct, violence and injustice against women in Curaçao will -as history has taught us- not be solved in the short term or without disruption.

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Evaluá nos relashon ku Parlatino

Algun dia despues ku e miembronan di Staten a sinta riba 2 novèmber 2012, urgentemente lidernan di frakshon a keda yamá pa un reunion. Na e momento ei e gobièrnu nobo no a sinta, no tabata konosí ken ta koalishon i kende oposishon. E promé punto tabata pa proponé un kandidato pa Presidente di Staten ku despues di algun siman lo a baha pa traha lugá pa Marcolino Franco. Ora mi a kera ku e otro punto(nan) lo ta ‘aanwijzing’ o futuro di refeneria mi a keda babuká di tende ku tabata trata di un invitashon di Parlatino pa un biahe. Mi tabata e úniko lider di frakshon ku a vota kontra. Mi no a mira e relevansia ni urgensia.

Promé ku sigui ta bon pa tira un bista atras. For di den komienso di añanan 80, Antia Ulandes a hasi tur esfuerso pa bira miembro di Parlatino ku a forma na 1964. Den un reunion di Parlatino ku a tuma lugá na Bogotá den febrüari 1981, Miembro di Staten Roy van Putten ku a bai ‘lobby’ kuriosamente a bisa: “E úniko relashon ku Antia tin ku Ulanda ta e idioma Ulandes. Pero nos no ta papi’é boluntariamente, sino fòrsá”. Van Putten a kontinuá: “E Antiano di orígen Arubano, Boneriano i Yu di Kòrsou tin kontakto estrecho ku Latino Amérika pa motibu di historia, kultura i deporte. No tin ningun Antiano riba e tres (3) islanan ku no ta papia Spañó, adorá e mesun santunan, baila i kanta e mesun müzik”.

Ni e diskurso aki ni otro esfuersonan ku a sigi no a yuda. Parlatino na 1988 ta manda informá Antia Ulandes ku a rechasá e petishon pa miembresia permanente. Esaki a konsiderá ku un pais no-independiente no por a bira miembro. Apesar di e desapunto, Antia Ulandes no a entregá i despues di hopi kombensementu, Parlatino a akseptá nos komo miembro permanente na 1990.

Nos pais tin pues un historia largu ku Parlatino. E pregunta ta keda ki relevansia e relashon aki tin pa bida di e suidadano aki na Kòrsou? Ta masha normal ku despues di x tempu ta evaluá miembresia na organisashonnan regional. Algun aña pasá Gobièrnu (kier) a evaluá nos miembresia ku Association of Caribbean States. Pakiko no ta evaluá nos miembresia na Parlatino? Esaki sigur en bista di e miles di florin ku nos ta paga anualmente pa miembresia i e biahenan kostoso pa tur tipo di reunion. Staten ku semper tin boka yen di kontrolá Gobièrnu no mester tin miedu pa laga kontrolá su mes. Esaki sigur en bista di hopi reklamo den pueblo, no awe, pero hopi aña kaba pa loke ta Parlatino.

Den kuater aña nunka ami a biaha pa reunionnan di Parlatino. Mi no a mira e relevansia. Di otro banda mi no por a kombensé un mayoria pa sikiera evaluá nos partisipashon na Parlatino. Parlatino a para bira un derechi atkerí di e Miembro di Parlamento pa biaha. Mester bin un kambio.

Willemstad, Curaçao

The disappearing act of Plan B refinery Curaçao

The Multidisciplinary Project Team (MDPT) was installed by Decree on 29th November 2013 to be in charge of modernizing the oil refinery in Curaçao. This Decree also created a sub-committee to lead Plan B, the redevelopment of the area currently occupied by the refinery in case the refinery is shut down (terugval scenario t.b.v. een mogelijke sluiting van de rafinaderij en de socio-economische herontwikkeling van het gebied). In 2015 and 2016 the sub-committee presented its findings in Parliament. Noteworthy is that the head of this sub-committee was also the vice-Chairman of the MDPT.

The current administration has recently decided to dissolve the MDPT and put Refineria di Korsou (RdK), the owner of the refinery, in charge of looking for a new operator for the refinery. And just like that the redevelopment initiatives seem to have dissolved into thin air. There is simply no mention of it anymore. In any case it’s inconceivable that the RdK whose existence depends on finding a new operator should be trusted with looking for alternatives for the refinery.

Does this mean that the government is putting all its eggs in the modernization basket? Are we that certain that we will find an operator before the current lease with the Venezuelan state oil company PdVSA runs out? Or are we willing to extend the current lease with Venezuela until a new operator is found. And finally, shouldn’t the decision by now oil rich Guyana to freeze plans to invest in its own multibillion-dollar refinery be a writing on the wall for us?

For the sake of our future national development agenda, I sincerely hope that politicians and key players are not ignoring national interest for short-sighted gains. And, transparency goes a long way in these uncertain times.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Munisipio Kòrsou: 1828-1833

Nos ta konmemorá e aña aki algun fecha importante di nos historia polítiko: 80 aña demokrasia parlamentario; 70 aña di e promé Konferensia di Mesa Rondó i voto universal; i 190 aña ku e Konseho Munisipal a sinta. Normal, e fechanan aki lo a bin, bai sin mashá atenshon pa nan. Mi ta trata na yena e buraku.

Den dos referèndèm (1993 i 2005) Kòrsou por a skohe pa bira un munisipio Ulandes. Na ámbos okashon e opshon no a haña sufisiente akohida. Lokual hopi no sa ta ku entre 1 mart 1828 pa 15 aprel 1833 nos tabatin un gobièrnu munisipal. Promé ku sigi ta bon pa deskribí e konteksto polítiko den kua a krea un munisipio.

Na 1815 Inglatera a duna Ulanda e islanan Karibense bèk despues di vários aña di okupashon Ingles. Den mesun aña Ulanda a krea tres kolonia: Curaçao en onderhorigheden Bonaire en Aruba; Sint Eustatius en onderhorigheden Sint Maarten en Saba i por último, Suriname. Despues di tempu Den Haag a bin konsiderá e struktura kostoso i kompliká pa goberná. Na 1828 Ulanda ta konstruí un sólo kolonia konsistiendo di e islanan Karibense huntu ku Sürnam. ‘De West’ tabata goberná pa un Gobernadó General na Paramaribo. Den e struktura aki, Curaçao en onderhorigheden tabatin un Raad van Policie, na kabes un Direkteur ku mester a raportá na Paramaribo. Ambisiosamente a disidí di krea un otro nivel di gobernashon, esta un Konseho Munisipal (KM) nombrá ku un (1) Presidente na kabes, dos (2) diputado i kuater (4) konsehal.

E Konseho Munisipal tabata ubiká den Kas Munisipal kaminda awe ta e edifisio di K.N.S.M. den Heerenstraat. E promé presidente tabata Sr. H. Schotborgh i e di dos, Sr. Theodorus Jutting (wak foto). E tareanan di e KM tabata solamente di índole atministrativo i di kuido di iglesianan, kasnan di kuido pa hende pober, leproso o ku enfermedat mental. Den práktika sinembargo e KM tabata mas tantu okupá ku ponementu di preis máksimo pa pan, karni di baka, porko, karné i turtuga.

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E lokual a hasi e KM un ilushon pa esnan ku a kere den desentralisashon ta falta di outoridat pa aktua. Tur ‘desishon’ di e KM tabata provisorio te na momentu ku esaki keda aprobá pa Raad van Policie i despues esaki mester a bai te Paramaribo pa ratifikashon. Por konkluí ku siendo un munisipio, outomátikamente ta nifiká ku bo espasio pa tuma desishon ta limitá.

E KM a stòp di eksistí riba 15 aprel 1833. E miembronan a keda elegantemente gradisí pa nan servisio. Tur tarea di e gobièrnu munisipal a pasa pa e Raad van Policie ku despues a traha lugá pa Koloniale Raad.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Foto 1: Curaçao Ports Authority, Foto 2: bookandjournals online

”Van slavenopstand tot emancipatie”, N.C. Römer-Kenepa; De Curaçaosche Courant Maart 1828-November 1833; “Het  voormalig gemeentebestuur op Curaçao”, W.Ch. de la Try Ellis.

 

 

Dysfunctional union Curaçao & St. Maarten

Today, (16 February 2018) the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Monetary Union (ECCU) convenes for the 90th time. The ECCU was born in 1983 to assist members with their financial and economic development agenda and the good of the people. ECCU members are: St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, and St. Vincent & the Grenadines. While the cemetery is full of defunct monetary unions, the ECCU is only one of a handful of monetary unions that have survived for such a long time. Not by chance, but by choice. And, by painstaking coordination of monetary and macroeconomic policies of 6 different jurisdictions.

The monetary union between Curaçao and St. Maarten (CSMU), formed in 2010 has taken a different path than our Caribbean neighbors. One for the record books. First, the CSMU has since 2010 been using the currency of the dissolved Netherlands Antilles: the Netherlands Antillian Guilder (ANG). What we’ve also done differently than the other existing monetary unions is to not have any mechanism to discuss, let alone coordinate macroeconomic or social policies between the two countries. I questioned the very idea of forming this monetary union a decade ago. This decision was political and it was imposed by the Dutch government so I was outvoted and nearly thrown out of the political party I belonged to for going against the current.

Today St. Maarten and Curaçao, although legally together in this forced marriage, behave like a couple of happy-go-lucky bachelors. Each island has it own economic policy, tax code, budget management, labor policy and so on. As the years pass by, the two countries that used to belong to the Netherlands Antilles drift apart, each choosing its own path which is fine if they were not in a monetary union. No one considers this a priority as the ministers of Finance of these two countries have not convened in many years to talk about the union, let alone the need for coordination. This monetary union, lest there’s miracle, is doomed to vanish into oblivion.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Lying Dutch top diplomat endangers international affairs

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Halbe Zijlstra, recently admitted that a lie he had told in 2016 “was not a smart move”. Mind you that he didn’t lie about winning big in a poker game or catching that elusive Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. He lied about being in a meeting with Mr. Vladimir Putin in 2006 where the Russian President reportedly laid out plans to “create a Great Russia that would include Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states and possibly Kazakhstan.” Mr. Zijlstra was at the time a Shell employee. After Mr. Zijlstra was forced to set the record straight on his attendance at the meeting, he admitted he wasn’t even in the room, but borrowed the story from a source.

There’re some serious loose ends to his astonishing story. Mr. Zijlstra claimed he had told the story because of its “geopolitical importance” and presented it as his own in order to “protect” the source. It is unclear why he told “his story” during his party’s conference in 2016 whilst he could have gone to one of the many Dutch intelligence and security services to voice his concerns. What was his motive to childishly lie about it during a political gathering? To inflate his résumé or to deflect criticism for being inexperienced for the job? And, really do we think that Mr. Putin – a cunning strategist- would shoot his mouth off in front of foreigners about his grand expansionist plans?

In my opinion Mr. Zijlstra’s integrity has been badly hurt by these lies and cover-ups. Can he be trusted by his colleagues in the EU? In the UN Security Council where The Netherlands took a non-permanent seat earlier this year? And, since he is also responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs on behalf of Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten, I wonder how his tarnished reputation is going to play out for us here in the Caribbean. Especially now that we are locked in a dispute with Venezuela.

Perhaps more disconcerting is the reaction of the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr. Marc Rutte. Normally trigger happy to judge others, this time he casually brushed off this incident as a careless boo-boo. Point is however that Mr. Zijlstra is a self-confessed liar and is not worthy of his position as the Dutch Kingdom’s top diplomat.

Willemstad, Curaçao