VRCurassow

Curaçao Island

Politics

promises
Vote for option "A"
YOU and your conscience
PAR 1993 chutzpah




What's in Store?

After a Suriname referendum resulted in their autonomy and Aruba island opted for status aparte in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, our politicians optimistically thought the Netherlands Antilleans would want independence as well.

After almost 25 years of anarchistic freedom and liberty to act as they wanted to, our political Leaders thought the time was ripe to sucker us into voting for complete independence and a referendum was held. Actually, they had already decided among themselves that Curaçao would become completely independent, when they were advised that the people had to vote on such a radical change, by means of a referendum. But they fell flat on their faces when we overwhelmingly voted for continued ties with Holland (it didn't help us much). With the single exception of the Democrat Party, all politicians had advised us to vote for option D:

referendum 1993THE REFERENDUM IS YOUR BUSINESS!
A. remain part of the Netherlands Antilles
B. become an autonomous country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
C. become part of Holland
D. become an independent state
choice 1993

However, a foundation PAR (Pro Restructured Antilles) was established which started pushing for option A. Much to the chagrin of the politicians, the public did so vote; not merely with an overwhelming majority, they also turned up to vote in about twice as large numbers as for regular elections. The example of what had happened in Suriname after that country went independent in 1975 may have been of some slight help here (40% of the population went to live in Holland). We had much fun watching our Leaders on TV that night, all perplexed and dazed - they had never expected this; not even 5% had voted for their "independence" option. So much for their contact with the, not regular voters, but people. One of the many things I learned in my action against the Tax Persons, where later P.M. IJs was my counterpart, is that being a liar and schemer does not necessarily make you a good politician — you need still other 'qualities'. The best they could do was sheepishly admit that, as this was the wish of the people, they would fulfill it.
PAR was then turned into a political party and won the coming AN elections easily. Their first PM was Pourier, a former Tax person, once called makamba chupadó (sucking honky) by a colleague. Minister of finance was Etienne IJs - another former Tax person. After a couple of months, he became a deputy in the local Curaçao island government, and was replaced as minister by Harold Henriquez, definitely not a politician, who after a matter of weeks discovered the country was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and called for measures. Same teetering was caused by the totally irresponsible ways of former governments.

The reforms (stop me if you've heard this before) consisted of raising taxes on virtually everything - like 40% import duties on automobiles! Shortly after that same Pourier was installed as PM, I chanced to run into him on a supermarket parking lot, fondly admiring his brand-new expensive yuppie-mobile. He could afford it, by then: Besides their salaries, they also raised their pensions, already quite exorbitant. (If you have been a minister for 3 years, you get a pension. If you become a minister in a later government, you get the pension twice.)
We got a 5% purchase tax. Some 40 cents on each guilder spent go to the government in some form of taxes.As a predictable result the economy ground to a halt, which left the government with less than when it started.
The dilemma is this: This is like a pre-glasnost government bureaucracy. About 60% of registered voters actually take that trouble; it's a fair guess because the rest have given up all hope that it will make any difference. Those who do vote are for a large part government workers, who at election time even get days off for campaigning. As you'd expect, most politicians come from the bureaucracy. When you have done something for a political party, you will be rewarded with a government job, or one in a government-owned company like utilities, telephone company UTS or ALM Antillean Airlines as a matter of course. Or you will become a driver for a minister, whatever.
In July 1995, when reductions started, the island goverment still had 3673 employees, about 1 per 10 taxpayers; by July 2003 this had been reduced to 1401. In May 2004, nine months of FOL government had accomplished nothing but a new increase of 172 new employees, at least: details on April aren't in yet, and in March alone 37 were hired.) However, it is hard to get official figures on the amount of bureaucrats in service of the country; makes one wonder. A reasonable 2004 estimate is about 4000 government workers in Curaçao (1 government worker, island or country, for less than 9 voters.) It's not entirely clear if 31 charpersons are part of the quoted figure of 172 new employees. They were first fired en then re-hired.
This privatization cost the government 4.2M guilders, presumably per year. By re-hiring them 1.2M was saved. The average cost per worker, now, is 100K guilders/year, say US$56K. They probably make some $13K in salary/year each. As these guys don't need an office, that means they are supposed to spend well over $40K/year on mops, buckets and soap? That's not so easy to believe.

Under IMF pressure, reinforced by Holland cutting practically all financial aid, the government supposedly started to clean up its act. After at least 9 years of steady deterioration, the economy actually grew in 2002 - with 0.7%! In 2003 it was 0.5%, but Government grew with 4%.


A New Referendum
As it turned out the politicians (including PAR!) in their presumptuous arrogance for years have been plotting silently, secretly, stealthily, surreptitiously, and conspiratiorally for a future autonomous Curaçao. Again, according to newspaper Amigoe they have first voted for a motion on autonomy, and then will hold another referendum in April 2005. Watchdog organization Kousa Komun warns that this may have to be postponed as there has not been sufficient preparation: Only at the last moment the politicians decided to hold a referendum - just like last time. They hope and wish to avoid a re-run of the 1993 disaster. That self-same PAR, now all for it, has had members of parliament for some 8 years now who presumably have discovered how autonomy would be to their personal advantage. One thing that gives hope is that they can't agree among themselves how to cut up the cake. Rather negative news is that Holland, finally getting a government together in May 2003 after an eight month struggle seems to have given in on this. The good news is that Holland also states that if a helping hand has to be extended, the Antilles will have to give up some of their precious autonomy. You see, if they remain independent, there is much less control on their ways of making money. Small wonder our Venerable Leaders are getting nervous now that the Date of Doom approaches!
Corruption is rife.
The director of Dutch and Antillean contractor De Antillen N.V. declared in a 2004 interview with Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that his firm had paid bribes to all Antillean P.M.s since 1970.
A sewage processing plant built here turned out to be twice as expensive as in England. A 1 km stretch of road cost as much as a road built at the same time right across Taiwan, through the mountains (at least 125kms long). The much-touted mega-pier for tourist ships ended up twice as expensive as planned; although it's not nearly used to capacity and business actually got worse since 9-11, they still think of building a second one. The Central Bank's new building had to become twice the size the bank itself figured it needed. I personally know a man who took a suitcase full of money to Holland for a contractor. And an interior decorator who maintains she has seen lists, black-and-white on paper, how much kickback for a certain project went to which persons. And so it goes on. And on.

Curaçao flag
Curaçao flag

Small wonder people have been leaving in droves for e tera friew, the cold country - Holland, while they still are Dutch citizens and have a Dutch passport. And where they won't have to vote on a referendum every ten years to safeguard their future. (When in 1975 Dutch Guyana became independent Suriname, 40% of the population left for Holland, never mind the referendum.)
In September, the people of Bonaire island in a referendum overwhelmingly opted for a direct relation with Holland, while St. Martin has already chosen for an Aruba-like status aparte. Saba, St. Eustatius will shortly have their own referendum, and finally Curaçao another one in April 2005 (if we make it). Holland tried for years to push us out, a sentiment most of the Dutch people wholeheartedly agree with. Then, it seemed to prefer to deal with one state, the N.A., instead of six megalomanic island states, each with its own wee P.M. and ministers. The latest attitude seems to be, Dutch politicians now would prefer that as it makes Holland much more powerful and overwhelming.
Voting Logically
as if it really mattered


They're Getting Nervous!
(Good)

But They Won!
(Bad)

What Happens Next?

With the Second Referendum steadily creeping up on us, some politicians wanted to have mere kids of 16 and up vote. But, sorry, the legal age is 18. Upon hearing this, deputy Lak exclaimed that he couldn't believe it: In that case, his esteemed colleagues in Bonaire and St. Eustatius who did lower the age would have done something illegal! Unimaginable, of course. (Note: people there voted for stronger future relations with Holland, dumb youngsters and all.)
Legal or not, the motion was after all accepted and 16 year olds can vote; mainly because PLKP and PNP sudddenly decided to join the opposition here. A fine new brawl ensued immediately when PAR used the word payback to characterize this change of heart.
When the politicians decided to change the order of four options on the voting paper, putting their own favorite option of status aparte on top, the Referendum Commission came out with a statement that all this tended to decrease the international acceptance of the referendum as an act of auto determination by the people. Also, allowing youngsters to vote could result in the referendum being judged to be of less importance than regular elections.
The commission actually contemplated stepping down, but mercifully decided it would be better to stay on and keep at least some measure of influence on the proceedings.

There have been several web forums on that referendum. One cost €10/year to participate in very hifalutin Dutch. I understand politician Suzy Rõmer, who was kicked out as a P.M. shortly after the first referendum, was one of the moderators. Some people do have learning problems.
Another moderator seemed to be writer Frank Martinus Arion. To quote one of my favorite movies, I can't understand this man, Steve. After becoming a famous writer in Dutch he came back to Curaçao and started a school in our Papiamentu language. He, maybe just the tiniest bit jealous, recently expressed his disgust that all Dutch journalists went by politician Stanley Brown to interview him. My impression was, they all stopped by Martinus! Brown inverted all his political opinions in the last ten years and now rigorously opposes independence; he thinks the Papiamentu cult ridiculous as it is an uneconomical language. Martinus holds our future relationship with Holland should be on a LAT (Living Apart Together) base. As Wodehouse remarks about another well-known writer, Shakespeare: Sounds fine, but doesn't mean a thing.

Watchdog organization Kousa Komún thinks it a good idea to have Antilleans staying overseas vote as well, just like Dutchmen living in Curaçao can vote in Dutch government elections. Fearsome!
In the last week of 2005, island government moved to install a commission on the new constitution for País Kòrsou (Curaçao Country). A large majority (13-6) failed to see how this possibly could be interpreted as an anticipation of referendum results and, therefore, as an attempt to influence these politically.

After the 2005 Referendum

Sold and Betrayed


It Couldn't Happen Here
or, Famous Last Words
One of the more bizarre right-wing affairs of the [1980s]

On the night of April 27, 1981, at a marina along the wooded north shore of Lake Pontchartrain near Slidell, Louisiana, federal agents swooped down on ten men about to board a boat bound for the tiny, impoverished island of Dominica, 2,000 miles away. On the boat were weapons, including machine guns and explosives. Among the group were two Canadian right-wingers, a former Kansas police chief, and assorted Klansmen, including Black, at the time Imperial Wizard of the large Knights faction.
Dominica, only [46 by 26 kms] with seven thousand inhabitants, had a moderate government opposed by some members of the small army still loyal to the imprisoned former Prime Minister, Patrick John.
The ten mercenaries, some believing they had been hired to fight communism, were to slip ashore at Roseau, the capital, attack the island's police station, and depose Prime Minister Mary Eugenia Charles. Patrick John, a black man who had led Dominica to independence from Great Britain, allegedly offered the mercenaries tax-free concessions to the island's resources in return for their help.
[...]The FBI's code name for the investigation was "Bayou of Pigs."
The Silent Brotherhood, Kevin Flynn and Gary Gerhardt, NY 1990
Patrick John was later jailed for malversations. Strikes a familar chord.


Any government anywhere is a thing of exquisite comicality.
Joseph Conrad, Nostromo

Errol Bakoba and the finger
politician Errol Coba
after election victory


Like they said in the 2002 Johannesburg conference discussions on democracy:
"We are your leaders. Why don't you do as we tell you?"
New Scientist

A book you may wish to read:
Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind
Lewis Feuer

"We may vote for a Boss once every four years"


Democratic elections are popularity contests - Larry Niven



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