Cancer Day 2018: a personal story

After my sister and I were told by her doctor that she had advanced cancer and only a few weeks to live, we never again spoke about her disease. Had we done that, the tears wouldn’t have stopped. From that day until she died she laid in bed looking death in the eye knowing that her cancer wasn’t reacting to treatment. What haunts me is her fear to leave her two small boys behind, probably the worst thing a mom could ever face. I wished I had told her how much I admired her bravery. I wished I had thanked her more for all the wonderful things she did. No two people are alike and we grief differently. The grief may come and go like ebb and flow, or it may hit you like a high speed freight train. I now know how important it is to frequently tell our loved ones that they will not be forgotten, especially when facing cancer.

World Cancer Day, an annual event on 4th February, educates us that cancer has affected everyone on this planet, with 8.8 million deaths worldwide in 2015 according to the World Health Organization. This day also drives home the need for information, prevention and cancer management. Scientific research has shown that 90-95% of all cases of cancer are contributed by environmental factors while 5-10% by an inherited gene. We need to invest in awareness programs to provide correct information by debunking false claims that appear everywhere especially on social media. Many types of cancer are preventable. We need to reduce the high risk factors and change our lifestyle: let’s quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, eat healthy, exercise, reduce excess weight, sun exposure and pollution. Also, we need to reduce the suffering and deaths caused by cancer, by providing effective and affordable programs in early diagnosis, screening, treatment, and care. Private organizations such as Princes Wilhelmina Foundation have been doing a fine job combatting (the burden of) cancer in Curaçao. As Member of Parliament I introduced legislation against second hand smoke but more action and leadership are needed from our officials.

My personal journey gave me the chance to learn how to best support a loved one with cancer. It has made me aware that in almost all cases, cancer is avoidable and treatable if we make the right choices.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Intriga polítiko, divishon religioso: 70 aña 1é Konferensia Mesa Rondó

Mayan nos ta konmemorá 70 aña di e Promé Konferensia di Mesa Rondó (RTC) na Ulanda ku tabatin komo tema: “deliberashon entre teritorionan Ulandes pa yega na un Reino nobo”. Den e artíkulo aki mi no ta trata e kontenido tékniko, sino e konteksto kolorido di e konferensia na kua historia nunka a dediká sufisiente atenshon.

Introdukshon
Porta pa outonomia a habri na 1942 ora Reina Wilhelmina a anunsiá ku despues di guera lo start un era nobo den kua e kolonianan lo haña mas di bisa. For di e momentu ei a instalá vários komishon pa delineá e direkshon nobo. Tabatin diferente kontakto entre di Willemstad i Paramaribo, pero Indonesia, preparando pa independensia, no tabatin e nesisidat pa partisipá. Sin duda e protagonista den e proseso pa outonomia tabata e polítiko di Curaçaosche Rooms Katholieke Partij (CRKP), Moises Frumencio da Costa Gomez (Dòktor), sostené pa e briante hurista yu di tera, Willem Charles de La Try Ellis. Riba 26 mart 1947 Staten ta nombra Dòktor komo representante Antiano na Ministerie van Overzeesche Gebiedsdelen pa asina aselerá nos outonomia.

Bataya religioso pa forma parti di delegashon di Antia
Na ougùstùs 1947 a anunsiá ku e RTC lo tuma lugá na sèptèmber 1947. Mes ora pelea a start tokante afiliashon religioso di e delegashon Antiano. Un sentimentu fuerte tabata ku apesar ku e gran mayoria di pueblo tabata katóliko no mester nombra hopi katóliko pasombra nan ta ‘ménos desaroyá i sivilisá’. Beurs, un korant no-katóliko i pro Partido Demokrat (DP) a defendé e ponensia aki. E korant katóliko i pro CRKP, Amigoe, no tabata di akuerdo, pero mester a rekonosé derota: Katólikonan a haña solamente un (1) representante, mientras ku e otro shete (7) miembronan tabata di sea partidonan no-katóliko òf di e gruponan Ulandes i Hudiu.

Partido Demokrat (DP) ta pone kuchú riba mesa
Manera e fecha di e RTC a bira konosí, DP a start ku ponementu di pia pa su rival Dòktor loke a trese duda den partipashon di DP. Efraim Jonkheer, lider no-katóliko di DP i ganadó di elekshon pa Staten na 1945, a mira kon Dòktor -intelektualmente superior i ku konosementu vasto di ‘politiek Den Haag’- tabata haña tur mérito pa e kambionan na kaminda. Pakolmo e relashon entre Dòktor i su partido a deteriorá di tal manera ku e tabata sinti su mes mas na kas ku Komité di Pueblo (KdP). Jonckheer mester tabata sa ku si Dòktor lanta su mes partido, e lo a bira un menasa grandi. DP a hunga su papel di ‘rebelde’ i a trese algun punto sino fono i a eksihí ku si “Ulanda no rekonosé nos outonomia, ta bandoná e RTC.” Despues ku Staten a bai di akuerdo ku e kondishonnan di DP, e partido a deklará: “Otro triumfo di DP”. KdP a dal bèk den su foyeto ku DP ta bai e RTC “pasombra ta KdP a pone pia abou”.

Deseo di Ulanda pa e skohe kandidatonan di Antia Ulandes
Despues di vários intento, Staten riba 2 desèmber 1947 a bai akuerdo ku e siguiente delegashon. Kòrsou: Moises Frumencio da Costa Gomez (CRKP), Efraim Jonkheer i Stephanus Werenfridus van der Meer (DP) i Alex Curiel (sin partido). Aruba: Jan Hendrik Albert Eman i Juan Enrique Yrausquin (di Arubaanse Volkspartij, AVP). Boneiru: Lodewijk Daniël Gerharts (sin partido). Islanan Ariba: William Rufus Plantz (sin partido). Gobièrnu Ulandes for di un komienso a solisitá Staten pa proponé 16 kandidato for di kua Ulanda lo a skohe e 8 integrantenan Antiano, pero e petishon a keda rechasá. Dor di tur rèkmentu di kakiña polítiko e RTC a skùif pa yanüari 1948.

Un mayoria di delegashon Antiano ta yega RTC lat
5 miembro di e delegashon Antiano a disidí di tuma un ruta largu i kostoso pa yega Ulanda. Ku avion nan bula bai New York riba 14 yanüari, keda 4 dia pa despues via barku bai Southhampton, Inglatera i via tera yega London. Na London no por a haña buelo pa Ulanda. Dòktor i Curiel ku ya tabata na Ulanda, a logra posponé e RTC ku algun dia. Finalmente a charter un avion pa Schiphol riba 23 di yanüari. E delegashon a risibí hopi krítika pa e aventura aki. Na apertura di e RTC riba 27 yanüari tur miembro tabata presente, inkluso Indonesia komo opservadó.

Fiesta te mardugá i luho
Apesar ku tabatin algun limosin na disposition di e delegashon Antiano, miembro Alex Curiel, segun algun korant, a okupá hinter un ‘suite’ den hotel i a bai Ulanda ku 2 Buick nobo for di Kòrsou pa su uso personal. Un mayoria na Kòrsou a desaprobá e akshonnan di Curiel. Tambe a sali den notisia ku algun miembro tabata bishitá famia na lugá di traha i ku un miembro a bai keda serka amigunan den un otro suidat apesar di tabatin hotel reservá. Pa koroná obra, a raportá fiestamentu di e delegashon, inkluso unu ku a kaba tempran mainta, “Curaçao fuifde tot half vijf”.

Walkout’
Despues di vários seshon tras di porta será, riba 16 di febrüari a tene e promé reunion públiko di e RTC. Van der Meer papiando tambe na nòmber di Eman, Yrausquin i Jonckheer tabata di opinion ku no a sigi e mandato di Staten loke a pone ku nan a bandoná sala. Da Costa Gomez i Gerharts públikamente a kritiká e desishon di e 4 miembronan. Riba 27 di febrüari Jonckheer, van der Meer i Yrausquin ta bandoná e RTC i Ulanda.

DP ta denunsiá Reino i lanta deseonan di Venezuela pa aneksá ABC
Despues di a bandoná e RTC, DP a organisá protesta kontra Ulanda i a manda telegram pa pidi Nashonnan Uní i Organisashon Panamérikano (ku despues a bira Organisashon di Estadonan Amérikano) kondená Ulanda. Esakinan no a hisa e petishon for di tera. Mayoria di pueblo a desaprobá e akshon di DP. Pa e delegashon Antiano ku ainda tabata na mesa, esaki tabata un traishon. Venezuela a tuma bon nota di loke DP a hasi i a probechá pa durante un enkuentro di e Organisashon Panamérikano di 30 mart-2 mei 1948 argumentá ku e islanan ABC ta pertenesé na Venezuela i ku ta ora pa nan bira Venezolano.

Alegria pa Dòktor i Kòrsou, desapunto pa Jonckheer i Kòrsou
E RTC ta tèrminá eksitosamente riba 18 di mart 1948. A logra inkluí tur punto Antiano demostrando ku Dòktor tabatin rason pa bisa ku ta na mesa bo ta prevalesé i no ora bo bandoná esaki. Despues ku e tres miembronan a bandoná e delegashon Antiano, Dòktor a haña mas espasio pa elaborá riba su vishon pa un Reino nobo. E a introdusí su proposishonnan hopi avansá pa un konstitushon nobo ku e a yama Statüt. E aktitut di DP a pone Dòktor su popularidat krese enormemente. Poko despues di e RTC e a lanta Partido Nashonal di Pueblo ku un aña despues ta gana elekshon.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Lista di fuente

Nationaal Archief Curaçao
Beurs, 4 augustus 1947
Beurs, 2 december 1947
Amigoe, 18 december 1947
Dr. Kasteel, A. “De Staatkundige Ontwikkeling der Nederlandse Antillen (1956)”
Elsevier Weekblad, “Negen Mannen en een Vraagteken”, maart 1948
De Surinamer, 2 maart 1948

Fotonan: Di man robes ariba den direkshon di oloshi: da Costa Gomes, Jonckheer, Gerharts, Eman i Yrausquin

Aruba’s move towards Venezuela commendable

Earlier I questioned the unilaterally imposed blockade by Venezuela when it closed its borders with the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (ABC). I believed then and still contend that it was a flagrant violation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Blockades are not new, but the reason given for doing it, doesn’t cut the mustard.

Today I read in a local newspaper that the Aruban Plenipotentiary Minister in The Netherlands in an informal conversation with the Venezuelan Ambassador in The Hague, showed his deep concern for the blockade and its consequences. I believe this to be an excellent move by the Aruban Government. The island has shown it will not sit and wait for Venezuela to make a move that may never come.

There are two major problems with the recent border closure by Venezuela. It ignored the required route indicated by the WTO to achieve this. And, the measures were not in accordance with Article XXI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which allows the usual rules be broken to blockade another party for national security reasons. The Venezuelan President clearly stated that the blockade was “in retaliation of smuggling of [..] gold and copper.” I seriously doubt that, even if it turns out to be true, smuggling by the ABC islands (population of 300,000) could threaten the national security of Venezuela. Incidentally, Article XXI of the GATT has in the WTO’s 24-year history never been used to impose trade sanctions. Both Venezuela and the ABC islands are parties to the GATT.

If it were up to me, I’d take the Aruban step even further. I’d have a statement by the Kingdom of The Netherlands in support of the ABC islands sent to the WTO to formally inform the members of the actions taken by Venezuela. A farther-reaching measure would be to file a formal complaint with the WTO against the blockade. The WTO allows for further actions, but I still believe in a diplomatic solution. Even if it’s forced by the WTO.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Maduro’s Venezuela on the brink blames 3 small islands

Maduro should face the music, not blame the ABC islands

Give credit where credit is due. Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro has perfected his teflon-coated presidency: He sees to it that nothing sticks to him, just like a teflon non-stick frying pan. He always uses his standard operating procedure to scapegoat foreign actors in order to shift attention away from his policies that has brought so much human misery to Venezuela. His victims include Colombia, Mexico, U.S., Chile, Guyana and Spain. Add now to the list Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao (ABC), three small islands in the Caribbean with a combined population of 300,000.

He’s accusing ABC of being “the mafias that steal Venezuelan assets which severely affect the quality of life of his people.” In a televised address last week, Maduro halted all flights and ship traffic to ABC for 72 hours, demanding that ABC take appropriate measures. During consultations held over the weekend with Venezuelan representatives to talk about those measures, ABC reminded Venezuela that if any thing, it takes two to tango, i.e. to smuggle goods. At the end of the day all parties agreed to a joint effort to curb contraband and to seek final approval from their respective governments. Maduro is however the only one who refuses to sign. The blockade remains.

But why? Could it be that the smuggling of gold and copper via ABC is probably being run by the top brass of the Venezuelan armed forces? Could it be -as I strongly suspect- that the ultimate purpose of his blockade is not to combat contraband but to keep Venezuelan citizens caged in by not allowing them to leave like brutal leftist dictatorships have done or are still doing (East Germany, Cuba, North Korea)?

Reasons for Venezuelans to leave are many. Medical supplies and food are scarce. Petróleos de Venezuela which took over a program to ensure Venezuelans have enough food to eat have only been able to distribute 25% of the food. At one port alone, 3,257 containers with a total of 122,000 tons of rotten food were found. Calls for investigations into the case were ignored. Caracas, the capital, has been ranked as the most violent city, in a non-war zone, in the world. Poverty rate in this once high middle-income country is now more than 80%.

Really? Are ABC the culprits? Not even the biblical David could have pulled this one off. But seriously, the human despair is not a question of cold statistics. I know. I have friends and family members, including a half brother, living in Venezuela. Their suffering is real just like that of millions of their compatriots. Many are willing to risk their lives fleeing their crisis-wracked country on unsafe boats. Last week a total of 6 dead bodies were found on the north-east shore of Curaçao. Venezuelans looking for a better life. Maduro will do his country a big favor by working tirelessly to bring back hope for its people instead of chasing his perceived enemies.

Regarding the embargo imposed by Venezuela, I’m convinced that the (unilateral) way the border was closed by Venezuela impeding the flow of trade, is a flagrant violation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Even in the case of blockades, there are rules and procedures to be followed which according to me was not done in this case. Recently Qatar filed a complaint against a group of Middle East countries and Kyrgyzstan against Kazakstan for what they consider illegitimate blockades. I don’t believe we should launch an official trade dispute at this moment. I ‘m convinced however that we should inform the WTO’s dispute settlement body about Venezuelan’s treatment of ABC regarding trade. Hopefully Willemstad, Oranjestad and The Hague have a listening ear.

One thing is certain. The human crisis in Venezuela has turned our strong historically friendly ties upside down. I continue to believe in dialogue and diplomacy. I am convinced that good relations with our Southern neighbors will be reestablished once Venezuela has resolved this human crisis. I hope this will happen sooner than later.

Willemstad, Curaçao

‘Shithole’ comment part of a racist agenda

As a human being I’m deeply disturbed and frankly repulsed by the reports about the recent use of derogatory language by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, regarding El Salvador, Haiti and 54 African countries. Calling them “shithole nations” is especially offensive to me as a Caribbean citizen of African descent who has spent many years living and working in development aid on the African continent. I admit that his vile comments felt like they were directed to me personally. It was hurtful.

Like many, I was however not surprised by Trump’s racist language. To be surprised would’ve meant a gross overestimation on my part of who he really is. I read his résumé, so I know what to expect. After all, when you’re pushing a racist agenda, racist comments come all too easily.

I don’t envisage the U.S. president apologizing or, God forbid change his behavior. What I do hope is that every human being with a sense of humanity and compassion denounce these highly offensive statements. And, you don’t need to be black, from Africa or the Caribbean to take offense at what he said. Today the people from El Salvador, Haiti and 54 African countries were targeted, tomorrow it could be other groups like the Aborigines, disabled, Native Americans, Albinos or even people from Curaçao. I sincerely hope that our local leaders will speak out. Their conspicuous silence so far on this matter is disconcerting.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Maduro’s Venezuela on the brink blames 3 small islands

I get it. On your watch 85% of your population now lives in poverty, you have the highest inflation and second highest homicide rate in the world. Thousands are fleeing, you’ve been kicked out of Mercosur and your Beijing friends are refusing to lend you more money – a sign that even they are fed up. Your approval rating hovers around 20 percent and you know you will never measure up to your predecessor who recommended you for President of Venezuela. I get it. Drastic measures need to be taken.

And, that’s exactly what Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, did. Not by trying to heal his self-inflicted wounds but, by announcing a 72-hour closure of the border with the ABC islands (Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire). He called these islands “mafias who are waging war on our electricity, and stealing our copper and gold”. The ABC have a combined population of 300,000 whilst that of Venezuela is 32 million.

I will not accept this moronic ploy of Mr. Maduro to hide his ineptitude to create a situation where human dignity and democracy can be restored in Venezuela. Further, what kind of moral authority does this president who has been accused for crimes against humanity have to call our islands ‘mafia’? I can guarantee him that the boats arriving here illegally from Venezuela do nor carry contraband gold and copper, but hundreds of hungry and hapless Venezuelans fleeing food shortages and abysmal poverty in Venezuela.

That is not to say that there is no contraband between his country and the ABC. However, in order to resolve these issues I recommend Mr. Maduro to put on his big boy pants and start a constructive dialogue with the ABC in order to seek durable solutions. Curaçao is ready to discuss with Venezuela. That is, whenever the Venezuelan President is done with his favorite entertainment, playing the blame game.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Now forward after GZE’s smoke and mirrors

Once again it’s been demonstrated that history is full of moments when people should have easily seen what was coming – like when petroleum apprentice Guangdong Zhenrong Energy (GZE) was chosen to operate the Curaçao refinery, only to later confirm that this Chinese state enterprise was just smoke and mirrors. I’m not going to repeat my countless warnings we should have taken heed of, but will refer below to my past articles.

What’s past is past. Mistakes were made, but we must move forward. This means looking for serious, experienced, financially sound actors that are environmentally and socially responsible to shape the future of our refinery. We must however neither forget the past nor ignore the lessons learned from this GZE episode.

1. We should realize that we can’t afford the kind of division we’ve seen so far in Government, especially the power struggle between the Prime Minister and his deputy. Instead of having political surrogates twist themselves into knots to deny this political row, the coalition must resolve it. Division weakens us.

2. This failed episode is a tragic tale of GZE zeroing in on what opportunistic politicians want: economic miracle without meaningful structural reforms that stand in the way of sustained growth. Modernization of the refinery is no substitute for the much needed policy reforms, however unpopular they may be.

3. What’s past is past, but in the spirit of truth and transparency, this GZE chapter needs to be investigated in order to understand what went wrong, learn from these missteps. Actors need to be made responsible for their actions.

4. We must use all resources available locally, via the Kingdom of The Netherlands and internationally to identify capable partners and to assist us during the ensuing negotiation process.

5. Complete transparency and relevant information from the beginning to the end of the refinery project is a must as is outreach to all stakeholders which must get the opportunity to voice concern. This will reduce distrust.

6. Keep the dialogue going with the Chinese. No party wants to rush to arbitration. And, China as the largest foreign investor in Latin America and the Caribbean, may still want a role in the refinery project or other investment opportunities here. We should not burn our bridges behind us.

Willemstad, Curaçao

 

WHAT PRICE ARE WE PREPARED TO PAY?

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GZE goes belly-up in Myanmar, are we next?

GZE, a wake-up call we’d better answer

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LESSONS FROM MYANMAR