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Apr 24th
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No Democratization without Decolonization

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In case you haven't heard, there are university students protesting on the streets of Amsterdam. They are irate at what they consider the authoritarian and deceitful attitude of the board of directors of the University of Amsterdam! They claim that they are being told, "just shut up and accept what we say is good for you".
Before forcefully being evicted by police officers on horses, students occupied university buildings to protest what they viewed as directors sacrificing their right to proper education at the expense of making profit; selling university buildings and cancelling certain studies based on economic calculations. All about and for the Euros! One of the battle cries of the students is "no real estate speculation with education money".
The protesting students have been joined by brilliant minds and dedicated teachers—younger university staff—who more than likely will never get a permanent contract that will enable them to get a mortgage to buy a house and raise a proper family if they wish to do so. These university lecturers demand "sustainable career opportunities for all staff". And, in an act of unprecedented solidarity, their well established colleagues with endowed chairs have joined the battle by championing more "democratization and decentralization of university governance". A real revolution is taking place. A revolution for a more thorough democratization of Dutch society.
One would however commit a grave mistake by thinking that the struggle is solely for more democratization of education. The students and staff of the University of Amsterdam are also striving for the country to recognize the need to decolonize. The link is well captured in the latest slogan of the protest, namely, "No Democracy without Decolonization."
As colleagues of the University of St. Martin (USM) we welcome this move, as for far too long these two terms, namely, democracy and decolonization, have been employed separately. As, for far too long, the struggles for a decent society on both sides of our Dutch Kingdom have been artificially kept apart. To bring the fight of our people, people who carry a Dutch passport, people with a work and residence permit, and people who are irregular migrants, people who are brown and pinkish, together, we need to be precise on what we mean by democracy and decolonization, for both are the recipes of a decent society: a society where institutions do not humiliate its citizens nor other human beings.
Democracy is a non-violent means of ruling and transitioning of government, and it is a culture. Any society, with enough judicial and police constraints, and politicians who care that the rest of the world is watching, can do the former. Elections will be held and voters will have some say in how they are governed. Democracy as a culture, on the other hand, is much harder to accomplish. You see as a culture, meaning, ethical advices on how to live coupled to moral habits of action, democracy, brings forth persons who are concerned for the welfare of their kin, neighbors, and strangers.
But democracy, which Winston Churchill termed in 1947, "the worst form of government, except for those other forms that have been tried from time to time", needs to be decolonized. If it isn't decolonized, democratic culture can house racism, class oppression, sexism, xenophobia, and religious or atheist intolerance. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Churchill, the prime minister of imperial Great Britain, uttered his qualification of democracy at a time when the downpressed peoples in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Caribbean were fighting for their right to be Human by way of political independence.
Political independence was a means, while the end was, and still is, the creation of a new understanding of humanity. This is what decolonization means. We still haven't achieved this.
The term decolonization, reminds us that the identities we have inherited in all parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, on the islands as well as in the Netherlands, are distorted. They blind us from seeing the precious and precarious humanity in the other, and therewith in ourselves. The Martinican poet, politician, and intellectual, Aime Cesaire, presciently made us aware that colonialism not only brutalizes the colonized, it also decivilizes the colonizer. What this means is that decolonization must take place on both sides of our trans-Atlantic Kingdom.
The slogan of the student protest, "No Democratization without Decolonization", speaks to the fact that the Netherlands urgently needs to be decolonized to salvage and safeguard its democratic culture. If it doesn't most persons, including the Board of Directors of the University of Amsterdam, will never be able to truly accept the newcomers from the Caribbean and the former colonies that now reside or were born in the Netherlands. These newcomers will be treated as not really Dutch, as second rate Dutch, as scapegoats to warrant uncouth behavior. This is what the Dutch Professor Annelies Moors was getting at when she wrote on her Facebook page,
"the Board of the University of Amsterdam in its indictment to evict used as one of its arguments that not only students were occupying the Maagdenhuis. Security has spotted 'two young probably Moroccan boys, too young to be students.... ' Is there a specific ruling prohibiting 'Moroccan boys' from entering a university building? Isn't this called elite racism?"
Similar sentiments have been uttered by other prominent university Professors, lecturers, as well as by student organizations for diversity such as "Amsterdam United". The New University, the representatives of Amsterdam United, emphasize is an Inclusive University. A decolonized university that recognizes that once you "thingify" newcomers, it is but a short step to do so with the oldcomers too! All Dutch become means to an end for profit sake, the way humans in the colonies were treated!
The student protest seems a battle that is far away, but it isn't, for until the Netherlands as a whole can mirror this image of the future that the students and the staff of the University of Amsterdam strive for, our Kingdom of the Netherlands will remain troubled with mutual accusations and mistrust. Perhaps this is the way to understand, whether you agree or not with individual statements, why so many Dutch Caribbean politicians, on all six Antillean islands, mistrust the intentions of their counterparts in the Netherlands. Perhaps their battle cry is "No Integrity with Decolonization". But that is for others to decide.

Authored by: Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, Interim President/Dean of Academics, University of St. Martin (USM). Along with, Drs. Erwin Wolthuis, Division Head of department of Business & Hospitality (USM), and Drs. Sharelly Emanuelson, lecturer Department of General Liberal Arts, USM

Dean of USM St. Martin

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 April 2015 19:28 )

 

An Ecological Solution to Our Environmental Disaster

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It is nine in the morning and a purple dawn is rising with difficulty in the east while a strong ice-wind is blowing over the cold North Sea to the west. It is February 2008 and I am standing with fifty of my fellow Master students at the Volgermeer Polder, a former toxic waste dump for the city of Amsterdam. In front of us two million square meters of garbage and dangerous chemicals are being transformed into a natural reserve by engineers contracted by the city of Amsterdam. My professor, Dr. Joyeeta Gupta –a Nobel Prize Laureate- lectures on the process of changing a national health hazard into a viable natural reserve.

While listening to Dr Gupta speak I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Volgermeer and our Landfill back home on St. Maarten. The Volgermeer polder, which is approximately ten kilometers north of Amsterdam, is an area of land saturated with dykes and streams and lakes. It used to be a peat farm, the peat used to warm beautiful Amsterdam throughout its history. At about the turn of the last century the city decided to get rid of its garbage at the polder, ferrying in mass amounts of waste on garbage boats and dumping it in the lakes and bogs which dot the area. As Amsterdam grew in size so did their garbage and soon the dump spread to immense dimensions. The area was plagued by fires caused by escaping gas and the residents in the area started to complain about their health: strange infections, respitory problems and diseases caused by the lowering of their immune systems. All of this sounded eerily familiar.

The city of Amsterdam closed the area in the eighties and sent teams of scientist to monitor and take samples of the soil and water. They soon found that dangerous chemicals that leaked into the soil and groundwater, chemicals such as Agent Orange, famous for being used in the Vietnam war, and PCBs –a pesticide that causes deformities in both animals and humans.

As we started our tour of the area a representative of the company that was involved in the project started to explain the process by which a waste dump was transformed into a nature reserve. The streams and lakes that are a part of the polder were dredged and the silt used to cover the dump to about two meters high. The city of Amsterdam also provided soil from its various building projects to cover the dump and a special layer of plastic-like organic material was placed on top, a process called natural capping. This material, which is widely used and quite inexpensive, allows for the gasses and fumes to escape while preventing further contamination to the area. On top of this layer peat moss and grasses were planted which eventually dissolved the garbage under it and in a few short years a viable ecosystem started to develop with clean water with fish and frogs and swans and ducks.

I started to think that perhaps this may be a solution for us here as well. Even with some of the advances that Sint Maarten has had regarding conservation in the last four years there are still three issues which blemish our reputation in terms of environmental protection. One is the need for a terrestrial park to protect and conserve our land-based flora and fauna; the second is the continued challenges faced by our wetlands; and the third, and this is by far the issue of most concern both for the health of our environment and that of our population, is the Dump.

With the amount of chemicals and garbage entering into our soil, wetlands and into our lungs when the dump is on fire we need to address the issue of the landfill yesterday. The heavy metals and other pollutants present on the Dump and the surrounding area are a national health hazard. A waste-to-energy plant is good and very necessary to mine the current landfill. But why not make it better? A waste-to-energy plant combined with a complete rehabilitation of the area, including that of the Great Salt Pond, which is the reason why Sint Maarten, our Soualiga, exists in the first place. If the Pond is dredged and the silt used, if the tons of soil from all of the projects current and planned are used to realize a sustainable solution for one of the most embarrassing scars on our island, then yes we will be at the vanguard of forward green thinking in this region. For it is only when we solve the issue of a landfill in our capital and in our natural and national heritage, can we speak of sustainability.

I remember the tour being over and having to return to my tiny apartment in the city to prepare for the next day's class. I remember how hard it was for me to focus because I couldn't help but think how useful this would be for my home. Imagine a green park with paths and fountains and bird-watching blinds and swings for children where garbage once stank in the blazing sun and where flies and midges once made life miserable. Imagine it being the centre of the capital of a new St. Maarten; the fact that it was a dump a vague and unpleasant memory, like the memory of the taste of aloes on our sucking-thumbs as children. Imagine the Salt Pond, the cradle of our society, gently lapping at clean green shores. Imagine our grandchildren, students at our university, being lectured on how a dump was turned into a natural reserve. Imagine the lecturer, one of our children, winning the Nobel Prize for Science. Anything is possible under the Caribbean sun.

For more information on the Volgermeer Polder please visit: http://www.rnw.org/archive/transforming-chemical-dump-nature-area

Tadzio Bervoets
Sint Maarten Nature Foundation

Last Updated ( Monday, 13 April 2015 11:37 )

The Grassroots Movement - which one ?

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Ever since the failure of a certain group to outright claim the name known for years as the St. Martin Grassroots People Movement, as well as its work, they have presented themselves under the 'sound-alike' name of some other so-called Grassroots Movement.

While time will tell how unwise this action has been and that most people recognize imposters when they hear them, let the following be known for the record nevertheless.

As clearly has been the intention of these 'copy-cats', the un-specified- and the deliberately loosely use of the name Grassroots Movement is causing a lot of confusion with those who are not aware of what led to this unfortunate situation.

Therefore, unless clear reference is made by anyone to our - officially registered - name on both sides of the island - the St. Martin Grassroots People Movement - for sure they will not be referring to us.

In addition - in such event, we will not feel called, nor obliged to respond to any criticism, allegations, or any negative publicity.

In ending - those who feel - that because of their actions, the St. Martin Grassroots People Movement has been silenced, and/or even destroyed - keeping at least one eye wide open, while asleep - might be advice well taken.

In the meantime, anyone, who enjoys the works of others without giving due recognition - as if such were of their own creativity – should be aware that they are conducting a low act called plagiarism.

Plagiarism clearly is an expression of a lack of creative-intelligence, dishonesty and comes at a price - always.

We will be following the developments and reactions to this letter with great interest.

 

Drs. Leopold James, president and founder of the original St. Martin Grassroots people Movement.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 09 April 2015 14:32 )

Dollarization – Still a Discussion Point

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The fact that there is still a discussion on the dollarization issue is somewhat strange to me and not because I think it would the worst thing that can happen to us in St. Maarten but because of the total lack of actual benefits proposed by those supporting dollarization.
In the symposium on dollarization organized by the Council on Advice at University of St. Maarten only confirms what I have believed all along, that dollarization is not a valid option for St. Maarten. Although I am basing my article on what was published in the media since I was unable to attend the actual meeting.
In the media, supporter of dollarization, Mr. Richard Gibson, used two arguments. One was we should dollarize because the French Side of the island doesn't take Guilders. His other argument was that the Central Bank of Curacao and St. Maarten keeps most of the profit from the seigniorage of the Antillean Guilder and St. Maarten does not benefit from this. The first argument does not even warrant a response as it makes no sense to even mention that as a reason to dollarize. The second statement is actually an argument against dollarization, instead of the seigniorage 'disappearing in the pockets of the Central Bank' this money would now be a profit for the Central Bank of St. Maarten and used for the benefit of St. Maarten economy.
What worries me about this issue is that to date I have yet to hear a convincing argument for dollarization other than for convenience of the tourist and the business community. Even reputable consultancies are giving presentations with incomplete information and the advice from the SER cannot be considered scientific and was only presented in order to push their agenda.
I am bold enough to say this because both items mentioned above only mention the negatives of a St. Maarten Dollar and do not mention the positives. Additionally, every benefit mentioned in the SER document is one for the business sector. I am sorry but as it is now the business sector does not contribute to the development of St. Maarten and in most cases are only exploiting the island. Do I need to remind the SER that tax compliance is only 30%? After giving these businessmen all these benefits, how is Government going to pay its bills?
The SER does mention seigniorage as a benefit but fail to mention the foreign exchange tax. For all dollar transactions, the government makes money. The strange thing is that no one seems to know how much is collected in foreign exchange tax or are refusing to tell us. Why? It is my opinion that everyone who is supporting dollarization is either grossly uniformed or has a stack of dollars in a US account and does not want to pay to withdraw the money. They care not about us. If the people now holding their money in US accounts don't want to pay foreign exchange tax then simply convert your money to guilders.
Even more of an indication is the situation in Saba, Statia and Bonaire. Even with all the proof of a failed system, we still have some people supporting this dollarization idea. I was discussing with an Independista the other day and they are fully supporting dollarization but could not clearly indicate to me why. I guess they are proud to carry a St. Maarten Passport but shame of a St. Maarten Guilder/Dollar. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in this? I guess they are not Independista but American-ista.
If you reading this right now and you don't have thousands of dollars in a US account, you had better get involved in this discussion and quick. The reason being, is if we make the grave mistake of dollarizing and we lose the seigniorage and the foreign exchange tax, where you think Government will plug that hole? You guessed it, they will do what they always do when they need money, RAISE TAXES! Don't believe me, remember the TOT was only supposed to be implemented for 3 years.
Kendall Dupersoy

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 April 2015 18:39 )

There is “One bright idea”

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With much interest I read the opinion/commentary article entitled: "One bright idea" in the Today Opinion & Commentary section of the Today Newspaper, dated April 2, 2015, p.7. The article expressively stated that "St. Maarten is not the only country in the Kingdom that struggles with ship-jumping politicians". And "that in The Hague it has gotten so bad that the presidium of the parliament proposes that politicians who leave their faction will no longer get the opportunity to begin a new faction.
In St. Maarten's case, of course seemingly referring to the apparent chronic problem facing St. Maarten, where members-elect of Parliament arbitrary have declared themselves as "independent" (from their existent political party) and threw their support behind another political party to form a majority in Parliament. Consequently, we have seen the demise of Government twice in less than 3 years and the present Government in an alleged contentious state of flux.
The author further states that "it is currently unclear what the presidium in The Hague thinks to achieve with a measure to present ship-jumping politicians to form their own faction, with a proposal to be discuss on June 21. While further affirming that "In St. Maarten there is also discussion about measures to prevent ship-jumping but so far we have not heard of any proposal that could be effective", and "the outcome of the discussion (in The Hague) could just produce that one bright idea that could help St. Maarten's instable political system out of the woods as well". And "if (St. Maarten's) dissatisfied MPs cannot declare themselves independent anymore, they will simply stay with their faction and cause havoc there by voting the other way – and there is nothing anyone can do about it."
I applaud the commentator on his/her keen insight in bringing to light a disaster waiting to unfold. Fortunately there already exist a solution to the problem as outlined in my Draft Electoral Reconciliation Ordinance which has been in circulation for some time and specifically addresses the issue of "ship-jumping". I'm certain that had the commentator an opportunity to read that document he/she would agree that it is the "bright idea" being needed.
It not only provides for an effective solution and discourages "ship-jumping", but also brings stability to governance in St. Maarten. Specifically, the draft Ordinance, in part, prevents any member-elect or elected Member of Parliament who has not received the required number of votes or quota to elect him or herself to Parliament, but is selected to Parliament based on the number of parliamentary seats won by the party from aligning with another party as an independent Member of Parliament. In effect, any member-elect or Member of Parliament can rightfully declare him or herself "independent", however, if they are selected to Parliament based on the number of Parliamentary seats allotted to the party - the seat would revert to the party which has justifiable won the seat, thus deterring the notion and incentive for "ship-jumping" and assuring proportional representation as directed by the Constitution.
As for the author's belief that "if dissatisfied MPs cannot declare themselves independent anymore, they will simply stay with their faction and cause havoc there by voting the other way – and there is nothing anyone can do about it", again I respectfully disagree. In joining any organization there are rules and regulations that govern the organization and must be followed. There is no free for all and the same can be said when joining a political party. Political parties usually encompass like-minded individuals. Where there is a difference of opinion among party MPs, they are expected to conference behind closed doors and settle on a party position to which every party MP is in implicit agreement and is expected to vote for or against (in Parliament). Voting in Parliament contrary to party platform or party line is grounds for expulsion and should be maintained. Party politics is not about voting in respect to one's "conscience", as often alluded too but about consensus building.
Irrespective of the "ship-jumping" parliamentary discussion in The Hague, the "One bright idea" already exist if only we exert confidence in ourselves and give credence to our own. In the coming months renewed efforts would be made to further educate the general public about the draft Electoral Reconciliation Ordinance and to have Parliament consider and ratify said amendments to the present Electoral Ordinance adopted December 2010.

By Julio R. Romney, Political Analyst

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 April 2015 12:02 )

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