Sint Eustatius was de belangrijkste doorvoer- en handelshaven van de West Indische Compagnie. Het eiland werd in de achttiende eeuw ook wel de Gouden Rots genoemd. Het was verreweg het rijkste koloniale bezit in de west en via Sint Eustatius hielp Nederland de Amerikanen in 1776 met hun oorlog tegen de Engelsen. Een Amerikaans schip werd er zelfs begroet met elf saluutschoten, die door Amerika prompt werden geïnterpreteerd als de eerste erkenning van hun onafhankelijkheid.
Maar hoe kijken de Sint Eustatianen aan tegen hun fiere koloniale verleden. Pieter-Bas van Wiechen ging naar het eiland en maakte de documentaire ‘De koloniale kater van Sint Eustatius’.
This book occupies a special place among the numerous publications and events marking the 50th anniversary of the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is critical, steers clear of platitudes, and opens up new prospects: rather than losing themselves in reminiscences, the writers set out to define the tasks that lie ahead. Repairing the Kingdom, globalization, imagination, reforming and reinventing the Kingdom of the Netherlands – those are the watchwords – linking the contributions to this book. Without losing sight of historical realities (including the distressing fortunes of Suriname) the writers are more concerned – strikingly so – with the future. And they naturally avoid fixing their gaze narrowly on the islands themselves; instead, they take in the ocean that washes their shores, as it were – an ocean that links them to continents near and far and that has in a sense given the Caribbean island communities their open identity. Any comparison of the relative prosperity and well-being of the islands in the Caribbean demonstrates that those in a constitutional relationship with a larger country overseas are doing far better than the independent island states.
Autonomy as watchword
Even so, during the period in which the Kingdom Charter came into being, the primary aim was to maximize the autonomy of the Netherlands Antilles and of Suriname – which at that point had yet to achieve independence. Until 1955 the Kingdom of the Netherlands found itself under heavy pressure in the United Nations to comply with its obligation to decolonize. At the end of that year, exactly twelve months after the signing of the Charter, the Kingdom’s reporting obligation was lifted, in recognition of the decolonization of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles.[i] In this context, it makes perfect sense that the Charter was seen first and foremost as a document enshrining the autonomy of these territories. The enumeration of Kingdom affairs was construed as exhaustive, although scope was created for adding policy areas in mutual agreement, and for regulating certain matters jointly in Kingdom acts. The Charter also provides a broad framework for statutory or voluntary cooperation in arranging matters that, in principle, fall within the scope of the autonomy of the three countries of the Kingdom. This made the Kingdom of the Netherlands into an asymmetrical federal state, one of whose constituent parts or ‘countries’ – the Netherlands – accounted, and still accounts for the vast majority of the Kingdom’s population, its economic potential, and its institutional structure. In spite of this disparity, the equality of the Netherlands Antilles, Suriname (until 1975) and Aruba (since 1986) as other countries of this Kingdom is engraved in stone in the Charter.
A changed world
Fifty years on, the Charter remains almost unchanged but the world about it has been transformed. A world of separate national societies divided by heavily guarded borders in which independence was cherished as the highest ideal has given way to an acknowledged interdependence among states, from the largest to the smallest. This new pattern of international relations is still evolving. The old system of sovereign states as the supreme political structures ‘cannot cope’ with numerous transnational problems, some concerning garden-variety crimes (transnational mafias and cybercrime) and many concerning non-security related issues (environmental degradation and pandemics that know no borders).[ii] But new modes of international governance are still in development.
One of the most noteworthy changes is in the relationship between people and the multiplicity of dimensions of their everyday world. The formation of nation states was the result of a process of demarcation that involved not just the state and its laws but also the people subject to them. The 1950s witnessed, on the one hand, the formation of national states taking the place of colonial administration, and on the other, the first efforts to transcend states – preoccupation with borders which was often rooted in hostility – for instance, the founding of the European Communities.[iii] The Charter exhibits traces of both these trends: on the one hand, the autonomy it grants to the overseas territories appears to be a giant leap towards independence; on the other hand, the decision to link the three countries in an enduring confederation indicates that separatism is not necessarily the overriding force. A year before the Charter’s adoption, the Dutch Constitution had been amended to permit the transfer of certain powers to international agencies and to accord priority to applicable legal norms originating in the international arena. Read more
The Kingdom Of The Netherlands In The Caribbean. Repairing A Not So United Kingdom ~ Can It Be Done?
How come there are so many problems in the Kingdom of the Netherlands nowadays? Are there any options to change things for the better? Can the Kingdom be repaired? What should be considered? These are the questions that are dealt with in this paper.
Uneasiness with the Charter’s anniversary; why celebrate?
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of Het Statuut[ii] some uneasiness has surfaced, both in the Netherlands as well as overseas, about how this occasion should be marked. Is it a time of celebration and, if so, how and what should we celebrate?[iii] Some authorities are concerned that the anniversary of Het Statuut could become a testimonium paupertatis of the operations of the Kingdom in the last 15 years, adding another obstacle into the problematic state of the Kingdom’s Caribbean affairs. Others maintain that the Kingdom’s Charter has served the Caribbean countries well.[iv] In the Dutch press, it is often reported that the Netherlands Antilles are a lost cause; a Caribbean democracy that has turned into a Dutch banana republic (sic) in the West Indies.[v] Over and again, irritation and frustration with the Antilles has been expressed in Dutch media.[vi]
But also the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles did not mince words when depicting (in April 2004) the crisis the Netherlands Antilles is experiencing: widespread and profound poverty, too many school dropouts with no prospects, a drugs trade that is increasingly derailing civil society, too many murders, muggings and burglaries and a frighteningly high crime rate.[vii] The number of homicides on Curaçao is staggering and 30 x higher than in the Netherlands. Instead of a positive celebration, the Charter’s anniversary could painfully highlight the instability of the Kingdom for the Caribbean countries and thus mortgage any attempt to redesign the relationships for years to come. There are several different accounts of why the state of the Kingdom is as it is. Here we explore some of these views.
How come there are so many problems nowadays?
In recent years, social degradation, especially on Curaçao, high Antillean crime statistics in the Netherlands, an unbearable public debt, and outdated doctrines of autonomy and self-help (zelfredzaamheid) have cast a worrisome shadow over the operations of the Kingdom. Crimes, such as international money laundering and the drug-trade, have been gaining a foothold in places outside the control of the dominant formal powers. International terrorism can now be added to this list. The small island states are vulnerable to all of these opportunistic dangers as well as to environmental damage by international corporations. The drugs trade to satisfy consumer demand in Europe and the USA has pervaded Caribbean society. In 2001-2003, flights from Curaçao to Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, were literally loaded with both traffickers and drugs.
Mismanagement and neglect of the welfare systems in the Netherlands Antilles have long driven strong migration to the Netherlands. Free migration is seen as a lifeline on the Caribbean islands, it is one of the Kingdom’s most valuable assets. Yet this strong migration to an overseas social paradise has sharply driven up the Antillean share in the Netherlands’ crime and unemployment statistics. So-called Antillengemeenten have sprung up, leading to calls in the Netherlands to close its borders to these migrants in future, or at least to Antilleans with a criminal record at home. The Dutch – Antillean relationship has become: ‘sensitive, unequal and laborious’.[viii] There are various ways of interpreting this state of affairs in the Kingdom. Read more
The Kingdom Of The Netherlands In The Caribbean. The Kingdom Charter (Het Statuut): Fifty Years In The Wilderness
In this paper[i], the author will approach Kingdom relations from a socio-historical perspective. The point of departure is, as one writer puts it: ‘The Caribbean was the least exotic, the most Europeanized and the least deserving of independence’.[ii] An analysis of the socio-historical factors underpinning the Kingdom then leads to the conclusion that the only two islands to achieve Separate Status in the Caribbean, Anguilla and Aruba, only achieved it by violence, or the implied threat thereof. This leads to the final conclusion that the present approach of conferences and papers will, taking the past into consideration, probably not lead to the desired constitutional changes. The aimless wandering in the desert will persist.
During a conversation some time ago à propos of Separate Status, former island council member, and prominent St. Maarten businessman Vincent Doncker flatly stated: ’unless we are prepared to fight and shed blood for separate status it will not happen’. This seminar from that perspective is itself questionable. Constitutional change is fought for with blood and bullets, not polite lectures and garden parties. One of the most insightful comments along that line came from dr. Nilda Arduin. ‘All the reports’ she stated, ‘will not accomplish anything unless there is a change of mentality and people really start to want and desire constitutional change’. Along those same lines, Drs. Leopold James of the St. Maarten Nation Building Foundation has persuasively argued that before separate status, or for that matter, any status can be achieved, there must be a process of Nation Building. By this, James means to say, a desire of the people to identify themselves as a separate people or nation, distinct and apart from others. Unless this desire is stimulated and nurtured, the population will remain apathetic and lukewarm towards any constitutional change, no matter how much the political leadership exhorts them to embrace it and talks up one or the other status, whether it be Kingdom Island, Separate Status, Country within a Country, FISSA, or tragically, independence. There is no popular outcry for constitutional change. During the last elections in St. Maarten, Separate Status was never mentioned by any party. Rather, it was sprung upon us, while we quietly were going about our business. Apart from the leader of government, who has a vested interest in Separate Status, and is a very courageous lady, I have never heard any other member of the Executive Council spontaneously express the faintest interest in Separate Status.
It is frequently, if not reliably, said that the Caribbean is the most reported-on area of the world, Irene Hawkings wrote in The Changing Face of the Caribbean. That was in 1970. Within the Caribbean I am certain the Netherlands Antilles occupies a special place as a world record holder in the production of reports. It is within this context that the recently issued report, proclaims with false courage: ‘The time is now, Let’s do it’. Perhaps, its authors suspect only too well what will be its fate. A spot on some library shelf along the 800 or so other reports on constitutional change, gathering dust. The Antilles have cried wolf too often to be credible. On December 13th, 1975, for example, premier Evertsz solemnly declared to the Antillean parliament, that the first phase of the realization of Antillean Independence was about to begin, with the regulation of the internal structure amongst the islands.[iii] This is exactly what the ‘Let’s do it’ report is still trying to report on in 2004, some 30 years later. This is rather odd for as recently as 1993 Payne and Sutton (Modern Caribbean Politics) held that modern politics in the Caribbean has been concerned with the achievement of political independence. A new political party, Movimiento Antias Nobo of Don Martina was founded to guide the process announced by Evertsz. The MAN is now a shambles. After the 1993 referendum, another political party that was supposed to carry out the wishes of the people, the PAR of Miguel Pourier was founded to carry out the restructuring.[iv] It came to nought. In an emotional farewell lecture, entitled ‘The Constitutional Restructuring of the Netherlands Antilles: Not words, but deeds’[v] presented on Friday, June 5th 1995, professor A.B. van Rijn, of the University of the Netherlands Antilles, stated: ‘Disappointment will be disastrous for people’s faith in politics. Not only that, but social peace and the investment climate are at stake’.[vi] Society yawned apathetically at his speech. Life continued pretty much as before. None of his predictions came true. Hirsch Ballin created a stir in 1990 with his ‘Sketch of a Commonwealth Constitution for the Kingdom of The Netherlands’,[vii] which in turn caused more ink to be shed in various publications and articles, most notably by Fernandes Mendes and Bongenaar (Uni ku UNA). The ‘Let’s do it’ report therefore has a long pedigree, going back to the van Poelje reports of 1948. Van Aller writes about a ‘a dizzying number of models’ [viii] with regard to the reports and studies on constitutional reform carried out over the past 50 years. The latest report is but a mish mash of all previous reports with little new to add. Van Aller surveying this state of affairs, writes: ‘(…) one can conclude that restructuring had yielded little. Theory had produced many models, but in politics hardly any attention was paid to them’.[ix] The wandering in the dessert continues. Read more
The Kingdom Of The Netherlands In The Caribbean. The Politics Of Autochthony And Economic Globalization: Seamy Sides Of The Same Coin
True human progress is achieved not so much by the application of ideas thatare original as by ideas whose application brings more human beings together toshare a richer and fuller life.
John Blacking (1969: 60)
What this essay is about
After 50 years of the Kingdom Charter, the people of Sint Maarten want change. They want their country to gain a separate status within the Dutch Kingdom. A status that will be similar to the one Aruba currently enjoys; one that grants them direct access to the Netherlands, circumventing the bureaucracy of Curaçao. In this essay I argue that the success or failure of their representatives to achieve this goal will depend on how these engage the politics of autochthony, one of the dominant modes of thought of our times.
This mode of thought finds expression in the columns of mainstream public intellectuals in the Netherlands and on Sint Maarten who talk about the loss of ‘authentic culture’ and the cultural alienation of the autochthons. The loss is blamed on the onslaught of globalization, both from within and from without. The intellectuals on the right blame the working class newcomers (Third World globalization agents from within), while those on the left favor presenting us with a secret complot of North American capitalists pulling the strings of the Bush regime (the First World globalization agents from without). It is an odd combination, surreal, but it is one that is effective in a time of anti-Americanism and anti-multiculturalism.
Mainstream public intellectuals in the Netherlands enjoy the respect of the masses as well as the elite. Think of Paul Scheffer, Bas Heijne, Jan Mulder, and Theo van Gogh.[i] Many Dutch people eagerly read their columns, which are increasingly spiced with autochthony. Their success has to do with the fact that those who write well are highly regarded, the vast majority of the Netherlanders can claim to be autochthon, and the idea that Holland is the most tolerant of all Western countries is well ingrained in the minds of most. Many autochthons have imbibed the idea that the US could learn a thing or two from the Dutch, and not the other way around. Unable or unwilling to see the strong economic links between the US and the Netherlands, sentiments of anti-Americanism can proliferate without a sense of hypocrisy. It can be found in the left and in the right of the political spectrum. To strengthen their cause of anti-Americanism, which they equate with anti-capitalism, leftist intellectuals appeal unwillingly to the idea of Dutch exceptionality. Conservative intellectuals appeal to this same idea to warrant their appraisal of working class newcomers. Newcomers should thank God that they have the privilege of living among the tolerant Dutch. They should shed their cultural expressions as soon as possible and become like the Dutch. Newcomer intellectuals such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali who sing praise to this supposed beacon of enlightenment strengthen their sense of Dutch exceptionality.[ii] It is almost a caricature when one observes leftists intellectuals countering those on the right by claiming that it is an aberration of the spirit of Dutch culture to be so intolerant towards newcomers.
The same division between conservative and leftist intellectuals is discernible on Sint Maarten. Leftists cry ‘shame on America,’ adding that the representatives in The Hague and Brussels are also puppets of global capitalists. Sint Maarten will not be healthy until it severs its ties with the Netherlands, joins the bandwagon of Third World states resisting capitalism, and salvages its true ‘autochthon soul’. Those on the right care little about global dynamics, blaming the working class and upper class newcomers for corrupting society. The autochthons are undergoing a process of cultural alienation, becoming strangers in their own country, and therefore they need to assert their right before all his lost. As is the case in the Netherlands, mainstream intellectuals on the left as well as on the right appeal to autochthony. Read more
I have read your paper and would like to address a few of the issues you have raised.
First of all, I have worked out a theoretical frame work that relies on a mathematical model to predict when autochthony would rear its head. Basically it states that every society has a given tolerance level for accepting outsiders. Once this level is breached, the reactions you describe set in. But there are other factors; different groups in the same society display different levels of tolerance to foreigners, depending on how much they benefit from foreigners or are threatened by their presence. In addition, there are differences in tolerance levels for different types of foreigners, depending on education levels, racial background and perceived integration prognosis. In addition, these tolerance levels change over time, within all the various categories. By assigning values to the different variables I mentioned and plugging them into an equation one can attempt to project just how many foreigners the local population as a whole can tolerate without creating social friction and resentment. Sure, we all belong to the human race, but still we need time to adapt to the changes the movement of people creates. By being sensitive to the tolerance level of the host country and showing understanding for the fears and anxieties of their hosts, prospective immigrants can make their adjustment much easier. They can also identify countries where their presence is more appreciated and avoid countries where tolerance levels are approaching the breaking point. It makes no sense to force oneself on others, no matter how much the Other is a member of the human race. Forcing the issue only creates friction and resentment.
Secondly, don’t many people still believe that there are distinct races? You state that differences in phenotype are but superficial adaptations to the environment: ‘Europeans, Asians, Australians, and Americans are disguised Africans’. Try selling this idea, i.e. that whites are disguised Africans, and experience the hostility the very idea provokes. Academics readily accept this theory. But it is with the same approach as evolutionists. They accept that we are descendants of apes, but it was all so long ago, so speculative as to render it nothing more than a vague abstraction. So too, should the idea of black as the proto-type of the human race be seen. Keep it safely in the outermost recesses of human existence. A long, long time ago. Most whites would be deeply offended by anything more immediate.
Thirdly, what do you mean with: ‘Employing the moral science of statistics’. Is statistics a ‘moral science’?
Fourthly, living on Sint Maarten, one can safely argue that ‘neo-colonialism’ is not an outdated concept at all, but alive and well. Classical colonialism was the exploitation of the colony for the benefit of the mother country. Neo-colonialism is the exploitation of the colony for the benefit of agents of the mother country, its most visible manifestation being technical and other forms of ‘assistance’. Technical assistants earn many multiples of what a similarly, or better qualified local can expect to earn, live in exclusive enclaves and in general enjoy a luxurious season in Paradise. Big infrastructural projects end up in the hands of contractors of the donor country and the colony or recipient country is little more than a transfer point for the money. Precious little real development ever comes from ‘technical assistance’ or ‘project grants and financing’ (see Gunnar Myrdal on this). Projects such as DEPOS’ are prime examples. Its prime beneficiaries are a coterie of Dutch technical advisors and contractors. This is the reality of the ‘new colonialism’ or ‘neo-colonialism’.
Finally, you state that no country can be truly independent within our global age. My idea is that countries do not seek independence in the classical term of the word but they want sovereignty. Only sovereign countries can collaborate on a voluntary basis, to achieve mutually beneficial ends. A country that is dependent, that has not achieved political independence, cannot enter into agreements with other countries on its own. First of all other countries do not recognize it and secondly, it is the mother country that enters into international treaties for and on its behalf. It is dependent. It cannot act on its own. Only a sovereign country is free to decide to join, say the EU. The EU does not enter into discussions with countries that are not politically independent.