Political leadership by Curacao’s PM’
Ben Whiteman became the 5th Prime Minister of the autonomous island of Curacao since 2010, and number six is already waiting in the sidelines. What is happening? Why is the government of Curacao not functioning?
The cause is mostly lack of power. PM-Asjes and his cabinet had been complaining about lack of executive power for a quite while. The PM was so frustrated that even after completing extensive, slow, and tedious democratic processes, he was still unable to execute decisions. With some bravado and little to back it up, he announced action against sabotaging civil servants. Asjes’ Minister of Infrastructure also put down her foot after disclosing that tens of thousands of structures were built on the island, bypassing all building permit requirements. Unfortunately, her muscle language may not be enough to enforce the laws. The Minister of Justice illustrated his lack of power by stating, “ All governmental departments are infiltrated by organized crime.”
So power has systematically and continuously seeped away from Prime Ministers and their cabinets. What remained of Curacao’s parliamentary coalition democracy is hardly more than theaterocracy.
The formal power of a government can be expressed by; 1/ introducing and executing laws and regulations, 2/ using the monetary carrot.
The later option was mostly eliminated as a governmental tool by strict budgetary discipline imposed by The Kingdom, lack of fiscal income and borrowing ability, and the US-dollar peg. What remained is a fickle game of laws and regulations. Most of Curacao’s economic neo-mercantile elite is entrenched, heavily protected, by real or virtual cartels and monopolies and are ready to fight to death for their privileges, leaving very little or no room for change.
The dominating political party since 2010 was Pueblo Soberano, featuring a strongly racist, natuionalist and Bolivarian ideology. For years, their charismatic leader, Helmien Wiels pored out his hateful messages of revenge against the “colonial slave traders”. His message could hardly form a mandate for any Prime Minister to govern and create welfare and wellbeingfor its people. So, an already powerless Prime Minster was frustrated even further by his own ideological party bosses.
What remained is what we witnessed, a sitting lame duck. The shrinking economy, dis-functional government and, one crime wave after the next, was what people experienced.
Once power has slipped away from institutions, like the PM’s office, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to regain control. Political realism instead of ideological dreams, integrity and cooperation of departments and law enforcement would be very helpful.
Instead, never-ending hateful infighting and intrigue has become the new power structure. Competing drug gangs, who resort to tyranny of muscle power, give a glimpse of what government could easily turn into.
Haiti and Venezuela form the writing on the wall.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle