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The Catalyst Project

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Fifty Year Statuut - The Kingdom of the Netherlands

Dr. Nilda Arduin, 2004

According to the Constitution of 1815, the kingdom of the Netherlands or Dutch kingdom consisted of the Netherlands and a few colonies and assets of the State (Dutch: "volkplantingen en bezittingen van het rijk"). According to the Constitution, the king was in supreme command of these overseas territories. These territories were the result of private commercial initiatives, starting with the capturing of a Portuguese fort in Ambon in 1605, the capturing of Curacao in 1634 from Spain, and the capturing of Suriname from the British in 1667.

The patent of the West Indian Company which managed the territories in the Caribbean terminated in 1792. Opposition in the Netherlands against the king's powers with regards to the overseas territories was then being expressed because of the effect these powers had on the European territory of the State. Congress (Dutch: "Staten-Generaal") had no control over the revenues collected in these territories.

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 between the kingdom partners. After the war Indonesia was however no longer interested to be part of a new order within the kingdom. The agreement subsequently signed between the united states of Indonesia and the Dutch kingdom, which 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, introducing among others ministerial responsibility, as a prelude to the "Statuut". Suriname insisted that the right of self-determination was included in the Charter (" Het Statuut"), which became an instrument of higher order than the then existing Constitution for the kingdom.

With the enactment of the Charter in December 1954 the term "Kingdom of the Netherlands" got a double meaning, namely one referring to the Netherlands as a state, and one referring to the relation between the parties forming the realm of the Dutch 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. The events of May 30th, 1969 in Willemstad, which called for military intervention from Holland, highlighted however the colonial situation within the kingdom.

Since these events, voices have been heard, both in the European and Caribbean part of the realm, for a change in the relationships within the kingdom, resulting in Suriname leaving the constellation in 1975 to become an independent state, and Aruba leaving the Antillean constellation in 1986. The fall of Cabinet-Pengel (January 1969) accelerated the independence movement in Suriname. Talks about restructuring the Netherlands Antilles in the years 1994 onwards, a new status for Sint Maarten since June 2000, and recent voices about re-evaluation of ties within the kingdom are therefore obviously nothing new.

Nevertheless Fifty Years "Statuut" calls for an in-depth analyses of our reality today. Can we, from Middle Region to the Lowlands, the born here's and belong here's, defend our choice for a separate status, outline the basis and the ground rules that we (supposed to) have set out for the new nation?

Fifty Years "Statuut" should prompt each one of us to get involved in determining our future. We need think tanks, not technical assistance from the Netherlands without Antillean counterparts, but aid to finance research teams to gather and or interpret statistics, and review our situation from a point of departure as we see it in the Caribbean part of the kingdom. That is, if it is our intention and goal to seriously determine the course of our future, our way!