Rule of Law
In the latest conflict between the Venezuelan-operated oil refinery on Curacao and environmental protest groups, it is hard to distinguish between utility, romantic environmental notions, and verifiable facts. Supposedly, according to contestants, the refinery exceeded the annually allowed amount of harmful exhaust, whereas the defendant, the oil plant, claims to be within the set parameters. The judge will have to determine the verifiable facts. The contestants activated a passive lien of about US $ 36 million and now has to validify its claim in Court.
The contestant claims that at least eighteen people per year, living near the plant, die prematurely from smoke inhalation. The factual evidence of cause and effect remains in the emotional domain. Locals emphatically defend their right to chain smoke cigarettes and marijuana, both extremely carcinogenic agents, and deny such habits, as well as others, carry any relation to the alleged statistics of premature deaths from lung and airways decease. Environmentalists, who are convinced that oil refinery's exhaust is the one and only cause for the health problems, demand reduction of harmful exhaust. Of the thousands living in the immediate environment of the refinery, only 24 joined the environmentalists in their plight and legal case.
Romantics like to picture the Caribbean island of Curacao as a Blue Bay-paradise of waving palm trees and white sand beaches with friendly, Rumba-Dancing, subservient locals, living in a perpetual state of happiness. In reality, most palm trees on the island were imported from Cuba for tourism and sandy beaches had to be constructed with sand from the Bahamas. Locals suffer from a slavery-induced inferiority complex and are far from subservient; violent crime is rampant, and work ethics is abysmal. Thousands work in and around the Venezuelan oil refinery where they just make enough money to get by. The Venezuelan Bolivarian-socialist revolution is so dear to these factory workers that they elected the PS, a Chavez- Maduro friendly workers’ party, into power on the island.
So, besides the verifiable facts, the conflict is a political one. Courts should exercise their discretion and apply marginal testing against laws, rules and regulations, but in any case, always stay out of politics. Unfortunately, the Judge is now put in the unpleasant position to pull the ideological, political cart, one way or another.
No matter whether you are a romantic or a utilitarian, separation-of-powers is near and dear to modern constitutional democratic states. The in 2010-newly formed autonomous state of Curacao may still be wrestling with these premises, but the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which guaranteed the Rule-of-Law and the Courts on the island, should excuse the Courts and make them pull out of the conflict immediately.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle