Saturday , June 3 2023

Full house at lecture by Oostindie, Veenendaal

Kingdom relations specialists Gert Oostindie and Wouter Veenendaal of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Carib­bean Studies KITLV drew a large audience during a lec­ture at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Rela­tions BZK in The Hague on Thursday.

KITLV Director and pro­fessor at Leiden University Oostindie and academic re­searcher Veenendaal, a lec­turer at Leiden University, provided an overview of the developments in the King­dom based on recently pub­lished scientific articles and two surveys of 1998 and 2015 in the Dutch Caribbean.

Gert Oostindie (left) and Wouter Veenendaal (right) who gave a lecture at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations in The Hague on Thursday, with Saba Island Gov­ernor Jonathan Johnson. Also present was St. Eustatius Government Commissioner Mike Franco (partly visible at the left). Suzanne Koelega photo.

Veenendaal presented some remarkable results of the recent field research that he did in the Dutch Caribbe­an as part of the larger Con­fronting Caribbean Chal­lenges study, and compared the two surveys. The major­ity of the population on the islands supports Dutch in­volvement in fighting crime and the right to assume resi­dency in the Netherlands.

However, many people are less enthusiastic when it comes to Dutch supervision of the island governments and meddling in autono­mous, internal affairs. And the people’s perception of the respect that Dutch poli­ticians have for the islands totally collapsed between the first survey in 1998 and the second one in 2015.

The ideological resistance against the Netherlands in­creased the most in the Ca­ribbean Netherlands, espe­cially in Bonaire and St. Eu­statius, which is remarkable, as these islands are public entities of the Netherlands.

According to Veenendaal, the “Heart versus Head” di­lemma was clearly shown in the surveys.

Oostindie spoke about in­dependence, a desire that has been dwindling on the islands in the past years. “Independence is no longer considered a real option since the ’90s,” he said, not­ing that since 1983 when St. Kitts and Nevis became in­dependent no other islands had attained country status in the Caribbean.

Veenendaal mentioned the increased polarisation in politics which is mainly visi­ble in Bonaire and St. Eusta­tius and the political instabil­ity on those two islands. The Caribbean political culture often concentrates on one central political person. Poli­tics is made personal and it is defined by a strong hierar­chy with the concentration of power belonging to a few persons.

He remarked that politi­cians often got the blame for being involved in conflicts of interest and doing others a favour in return for political support, but there was also much pressure from voters on those same politicians to get favours in return for their support. “I voted for you, so now you have to give me a job,” Veenendaal quoted a politician from St. Eustatius, whom he had interviewed for his research, as saying.

Oostindie brought up the 1954 Kingdom Charter, which he referred to as a “product of a failed decolo­nisation of Indonesia.” He said the Charter had not been adapted even though Indonesia and Suriname had long attained independence. “It remained the same, while the context is a different one.”

According to Oostindie, the fictions in the Kingdom are autonomy, equality and reciprocity when consider­ing the asymmetry in size and authority between the Netherlands on one side and the islands on the other. He called on the Netherlands to stop selling fictions and to refrain from setting unreal­istic norms which the islands can never meet.

The relations in the King­dom after 1990 are marked by the recognition of the non-sovereignty of the over­seas countries, the demo­cratic deficit and the cul­tural differences, a greater involvement of the Nether­lands in areas such as finan­cial management, integrity in government, migration and the integration of the Caribbean Netherlands.
This results in accusations of colonialism. “Sometimes it seems that the discontent on the islands grows with every euro that the Dutch govern­ment spends there.”

Oostindie made a case for a broader cooperation within the Kingdom. “We can’t get away from broadening our collaboration.” He men­tioned climate change and sustainable development goals (SDGs), education, culture and science as pro­spective areas of coopera­tion.

“This also fits within the Charter. That demands po­litical vision and courage.” He said the Netherlands should invest in the islands, while the islands should stop accusing the Netherlands of neo-colonialism every time the former mother country gets involved.

The Daily Herald.

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