October 23, 2007

Justice Wit: Start Behaving as Adults

Source: The Daily Herald - Philipsburg, Saint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
Published: Monday, October 22, 2007
Former judge on the Common Court of Justice of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba Bob Wit says Curaçao and St. Maarten should use the constitutional change process to take the necessary steps towards more maturity, instead of remaining dependent on the Netherlands.

He made his comments during a lecture at University of the Netherlands Antilles in Curaçao on the occasion of the establishment the Dutch Caribbean Human Rights Committee last Thursday.

Wit, appointed as judge on the Trinidad and Tobago-based Caribbean Court of Justice on June 1, 2005, said that in the negotiations for new constitutional structures, the Dutch, based on all that had gone wrong up to now, had been seeking to institutionalise some form of supervision on Antillean politicians as to their way of managing public finances, to avoid reoccurrence of the financial mess that had emerged.

“Where they seem to go wrong is the way in which they apparently seek to establish that supervision, as they seem bent on taking that responsibility permanently out of our hands,” Wit said in his lecture entitled “Taking ownership of Human Rights towards a maturing Dutch Caribbean.”

He said that, understandably, the approach of the islands had been to resist the measures of supervision as much as possible in an effort to give away as little “autonomy” as possible.

In Wit’s view, both approaches are to be deplored. “Going back to the basics, we have to be mindful that this whole enterprise of constitutional restructuring should be aimed at furthering the right of self-determination for us, the Dutch Caribbean peoples.”

He said that at the same time, the people should be mindful of the fact that “this is not a right per se, but one that implies a duty for us to foster in a meaningful way the high ideals of democratic governance.”

He said focusing only on the external outline of constitutional arrangements such as a separate status similar to that of Aruba, the islands would have achieved little because internally, and thus basically, everything would have remained the same.

Judge Wit continued: “In order to mature in the big bad world of today, one needs to take responsibility for those things that matter. One cannot claim the right to stand on one’s own two feet whilst staying in bed. One has to get up and stand.

The right to carry responsibility for one’s own affairs, therefore, implies that one starts carrying that responsibility. Even if it were true that ‘mother knows best,’ we cannot accept that ‘mommy’ will take care of us to eternity.

“And so, any arrangement that sees to it that the Netherlands will forever be in charge of our affairs will reduce us to eternal adolescents, pitiful creatures indeed. This would be a violation of our right to human dignity which is, I think, the most fundamental right there is.”

He said that to prevent this impending violation, “we have to start behaving as adults. We have to take our fate in our own hands even though, for the time being at least, we will stay within the confines of our almost imaginary Kingdom which, by the way, is still real enough to produce both limitations and benefits for us.”

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