Stars of David in 'Dutch colonialism' protest
Negotiations between the Netherlands and its former colonies in the Caribbean have been marred by protests and complaints of colonialism.
Reacting to a demonstration on Sunday 14 December in the Curaçao capital, Willemstad, Dutch Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Ank Bijleveld, said protesters had gone too far when they wore Stars of David. "That's totally inappropriate," she told NOS television in response to the use of the Jewish symbol.
The protesters were accusing the Netherlands of neo-colonialism, because changes in the kingdom's make-up will give the Dutch government a greater say in the finances of Curaçao and St Maarten. Both of these islands will get an autonomous status, as Aruba did earlier.
Deputy Minister Bijleveld and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende are in Willemstad for a Round Table Conference with political leaders of the Netherlands Antilles to discuss a restructuring of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The Kingdom consists of the Netherlands in Western Europe and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba in the Caribbean. Currently five of the six Antilles islands form one country with a single government, while Aruba gained semi-autonomy in 1986. Their status will change.
There is agreement in principle that the islands of Sint Maarten and Curaçao will follow Aruba's earlier example and be granted autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The smaller islands of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius will become special Dutch municipalities, resorting immediately under the Dutch Interior Ministry.
The Dutch government has agreed to clear the Antilles' national debt of 1.7 billion euros, in exchange for a greater say in the finances of the islands.
Precisely when the changes will go into effect is not yet clear. However, 1 January is now expected to be the new target date.
17 December 2008