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Fifty Year Statuut - Population

Dr. Nilda Arduin, 2004

In a previous essay the realm of the Dutch kingdom was discussed to be according to art. 60 of the Constitution of 1815, not only the Netherlands, but also a few "colonies and assets". Note that not the overseas territories, but the overseas "communities and assets" (Dutch: "volkplantingen en bezittingen") were considered to be making up the realm. As such, the citizens who had emigrated from the mainland to the overseas territories, and remained subject to the mother country, the Netherlands.

Compare in this respect the definition of "a colony" as being"a dependent political community, consisting of a number of citizens of the same country, who have emigrated there from to people another territory, and remain subject to the mother country".

It was not until 1922 that the Dutch Constitution changed to include as part of the kingdom not only the Netherlands, but also the overseas territories ("colony" as: "territory attached to another known as the mother country, with political and economic ties"). Interesting would be to know to what extent the establishment of the Shell in Curacao in 1916 played a role in mentioned amendment to the Constitution.

Though the law of December 1892, declaring who was considered Dutch, provided that all those born from parents who lived within the kingdom or its colonies to be of Dutch nationality, nonetheless explicitly excluding natives of Indonesia from this definition, the law distinguished between nationality and citizenship. Note that Indonesia was considered an asset and not a colony. The nationality issue was resolved for Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles by the time the Charter (1954) was formalized; nationality then became a kingdom affair, and the law of 1892 as amended, became a kingdom law.

Statistics indicate that the population of the Netherlands Antilles almost increased 600% between 1863 (32.756 inhabitants), the year of the abolition of slavery, and 1960 (approx. 192.538 inhabitants), while the Windward Islands (W.I.) experienced a notable decrease in mainly the male population over the period 1920 - 1960 (Source: Encyclopedie van de Nederlandse Antillen). Though the population of African descent at time of the abolition of slavery by far exceeded the amount of European nationals on the Netherlands Antilles, education, social status and economic power were privileges of the last mentioned group.

The socio-economic gap was not significantly closed in the period leading up to the enactment of the Charter. The contrary, the establishment of the Shell (in 1916) brought a new wave of European Dutch nationals to the island of Curacao, to take up top positions in the oil refinery, as well as occupy middle management and the higher positions in practical all sectors of the Antillean society. Migration in the period 1920 - 1960 has been one of the main factors of population growth in the Netherlands Antilles, as a result of the establishment of the oil refineries in Curacao (Shell) and Aruba (Lago).

Statistics of the population by nationality indicate that in 1947 one third of the registered population in the Antilles were non-Antilleans. An Antillean was considered to be a person of Dutch nationality born in the Netherlands Antilles, or born Dutch living in the Netherlands Antilles for a period of minimum ten years. (Source: Encyclopedie van de Nederlandse Antillen).

The Shell brought apart from European Dutch, an influx of people from the British Caribbean islands, Suriname Dutch nationals and Portuguese to Curaçao. The Lago attracted many persons from North and South America to the island, as well as Antilleans from the W.I. Statistics show that in 1954 the amount of voters on Aruba coming from the W.I. was even larger than the total voting population over 20 years of age in the W.I.

The boom experienced from the oil refineries furthermore brought to the islands: Askenazki Jews, not to be confused with the already established Jewish families originated from the South of Europe, Syrians, Lebanese, Indians and Chinese. A point of saturation was reached in the fifties, resulting in many Antilleans leaving the shores to establish themselves in the Netherlands. The period after 1960 is characterized by a vast migration to the W.I., and to a lesser scale to Bonaire.

Though Statia was considered the economic gem of the W.I. during earlier centuries, the development of the tourism industry on Sint Maarten, caused a population explosion on this island during the past forty years. It has been established that in 1969 at least 85% of the population of the Netherlands Antilles was of African descent.

According to the Population and Housing Census of 2001 conducted by the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Netherlands Antilles (CBS), the main nationalities registered on the islands are in order of quantity: Dutch, Dominican Republic, Haitian, Jamaican, Colombian, Guyanese, American, Venezuelan, Indian, Surinam, English (U.K.), Portuguese and, Chinese. Foreigners making up approx.16% of the total population of the Antilles.

Remarkable however, is that Sint Maarten counted approx 39% foreigners in 1960, and in 2001 the percentage of foreigners on Sint Maarten counted 50%. (Population and Housing Census 2001/Sint Maarten total population by nationality, age group and sex). Considering the visible large contingent of persons of Indian descent on the island, it is rather interesting to note that Indian nationals form only 1.6 % of the population on Sint Maarten according to the Population and Housing Census of 2001. This leads one to prudently conclude that the fast majority of Indians living on Sint Maarten are naturalized Dutch.

Statistics gathered by the CBS need to be thoroughly studied, analyzed and made available for deliberation as we move to the next stage of our development. The level of education, the burden on our infrastructure, the distribution of economic power and actual contribution by participants in our communities to the coffers of our islands are among others important analyses to be made. The distance between the born here's and belong here's is narrowing. I believe that the gap needs to be closed in a real effort to together survive as a nation; not however, without considering the realities of the past, which still affect our communities today.

I applaud voices like Damou Rawdani expressing the importance of participation and cooperation by all who belong here, as well as a willingness to integrate. We can no longer afford the luxury of personal and political bias. Apart from the Department of Social and Culture affairs, I suggest that we look in the direction of the Nation Building Foundation to bring parties together, organize think tanks and seek the goodwill and support from governments in coordinating our efforts.

Sint Maarten just observed May 21st, the date assigned by the United Nations to recognize Cultural Diversity, Dialogue and Development in countries worldwide. UNESCO's assistance may be sought to guide us on our way. We need to define "the people" of our nation, unless we establish that Sint Maarten already did so -consciously or unconsciously- when "the people" of Sint Maarten executed their right of self-determination in the referenda of 1994 and 2000.

Fifty Years "Statuut", the Charter of the Dutch Kingdom, it is time that we realize that everything is politics, but that politics is not everything. We need to survive together in this part of the kingdom.