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Dr. Nilda Arduin, 2010
At the Round Table Conference held in March 1983 in The Hague, the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and the individual Island Territories of the Netherlands Antilles acknowledged the right to self determination of each island of the Netherlands Antilles. On October 30th 1998 the Island Council of the Island Territory Sint Maarten adopted a motion, resolving to among other things invoke the right to self determination and consult the people of Sint Maarten on the constitutional future of Sint Maarten.
The subsequent referendum held on Friday, June 23rd 2000 offered 4 options; Sint Maarten becoming a country within the kingdom of the Netherlands won. As a consequence of this referendum, a framework was put in place to execute the wish of the people. The framework included a new Constitution for the Country Sint Maarten, which come 10-10-10 will go into effect.
How did we get here?
It was not until 1922 that the Constitution provided the Dutch kingdom to encompass not only the European territory, but also Indonesia, Suriname and Curacao (read: Curacao and its dependencies), giving the pertinent institutions in these territories limited powers to regulate their internal affairs. This in accordance with the contemporary views at the time, that Holland had an obligation towards her people stationed in the overseas territories.
The events of World War II prompted Queen Wilhelmina on December 7th 1942 to announce a kingdom conference to discuss new relationships within the kingdom. After the war Indonesia (Nederlands-Indie) was however no longer interested to be part of a new order within the kingdom. The protocol subsequently signed between the United States of Indonesia and the Dutch kingdom, which then constituted of the Netherlands, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles, was notwithstanding protest from Holland unilaterally dissolved by Indonesia even before the new order within the kingdom was officially established in December 1954.
The Caribbean territories however preferred to continue ties within the kingdom, with greater autonomy and equal rights (Dutch: "gelijkgerechtigdheid") within the realm. As such two Interim Regulations (1949: Suriname; 1950: Netherlands Antilles) were enacted, as a prelude to the "Statuut", the kingdom Charter. Suriname insisted that the right of self-determination was included in the Charter, which became an instrument of higher order than the then existing Constitution for the kingdom.
A new era was born, without severing cultural and economic ties within the kingdom. The contrary, cultural and economic ties were somewhat intensified through development aid and economic preferences among the kingdom partners. As such Suriname and the Antilles were incorporated in various treaties between the European Community and other countries. According to the motherland, the Netherlands, the enactment of the kingdom Charter signified the end of the colonial period.
Question in an earlier articles series written by the undersigned, and published in 2004, was: Are we in the Caribbean part of the kingdom after fifty years of the Charter prepared and ready to accept full responsibility for our actions and institutions as provided for by article 43 of the Charter, i.e. taking care of, and guaranteeing fundamental human rights and freedoms, legal security and good governance?
The answer is clear, hence the choice of a separate status within the kingdom by Sint Maarten and Curacao. Failure to take decisive actions in the Caribbean part of the kingdom often resulted in the European partner taking the decisions, not necessary from a Caribbean perspective. Our cultural tradition of being oral societies, lack of trust and confidence in our own, combined with a culture of political patronage -perceived or real- should not be underestimated as sources of obstacle to take charge of our own affairs. These are issues that are in general rather ignored than faced, and as such difficult to overcome as a nation.
The combined Workgroup Financial and Administrative Relations within the Netherlands Antilles installed by the governments of the Netherlands Antilles, the island territories and the Netherlands, chaired by Mr. E.A.V."Papi" Jessurun, had its work cut out after the Referendum. The introduction to the first Interim report drafted by the Workgroup, dated July 1st 2004, was -like most of the many reports written regarding restructuring, and or new relations within the Netherlands Antilles, and or kingdom- very promising.
The report entitled "Geef sturing aan veranderingen, voordat veranderingen jou sturen" (Give direction to changes, before changes direct you) outlined the preliminary findings during the evaluation stage and points of departure. All islands were given an extensive questionnaire for self-assessment, included in the interim report. An inventory and analysis was made of all reform procedures of the past. Government models applied in foreign territories, mainly the United Kingdom, were also researched. Good governance as the key to an effective approach to the big problems that the islands and the Netherlands Antilles are facing, as well as for long term economic and social development, was the overall conclusion in the report.
From slavery to the kingdom Charter, the Maydays of 1969 and the "Friendly Anger" on Sint Maarten in 1974; from born there to born here's, nationality and citizenship; from colony to overseas territory; from "Curacao and its dependencies" to the Netherlands Antilles, being a partner in the Kingdom of the Netherlands; and now, come 10-10-10 the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles!
The people of Sint Maarten, after a failed attempt to restructure the Netherlands Antilles in the nineties- has voted to obtain a status as an autonomous partner in the kingdom. "The people" chose to maintain ties with its European heritage. Self-reliance though with the will to support one another as partners in the kingdom, the foundation on which the new order was established on December 15, 1954 still applies. "The people" of Sint Maarten will continue to have the right of self-determination, until according to international constitutional law it has exhausted this right.
In previous essays I argued, that the paper work alone will not bring about the results we hope for with the new status. Building a nation is not just socially right; it is a matter of strategy and economic survival. 10-10-10 is here; Did we do so during the past ten years? In the constitution of the UNESCO is written: "Since war begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed ". It therefore has to start with reconditioning our minds. Did we invest our energy to develop positive thinking to overcome our differences, and focus on our common goals?
If country within the Dutch Kingdom is an interim stage, which will ultimately lead us to becoming an independent state as many of us proclaim is the ultimate desire, then building a nation is a must in preparation for statehood. To execute the rights and duties assigned to a state, we need to have and use our manpower, and prepare our human resources to assume the responsibilities assigned to, and required of a state.
As many of our recently elected councilmen and -ladies, soon to be the first Members of Parliament of country Sint Maarten, stated, and I would like to single out Dr. Lloyd Richardson, a professional, who made his entry on the political stage: We have the human resources, let us make use of them, rather than alienating them. We have to consider our human resources to be our natural resource.
Through collaboration we can create and promote a strong nation. We need to create a sense of belonging for each one of the citizens living on the island. Sharing and combining our strengths in all sectors of our community from one group to another is a means to promote common welfare. I believe that we should get ready to reach the stage to build that strong nation where fraternity, sharing our strengths, our know-how, our experiences, and our expertise become our way of life.