Call for a more inclusive Kingdom at public debate

AMSTERDAM–The general lack of interest for the Kingdom and the Dutch Caribbean in the Netherlands, and the need for a more inclusive Kingdom was the main topic of a public debating event held at the Kwaku Summer Festival in Amsterdam South-East, on Sunday, titled “Voices from the Caribbean.”

Organised by the Pink Pony Express, an Amsterdam designers’ collective with a special interest in the Dutch Caribbean and Club Interbellum, an unconventional think tank that seeks to spark social debates; a select group of speakers and audience gathered at the busy annual multi-cultural Kwaku festival at the Nelson Mandela Park.

Amidst the Surinamese and Caribbean food booths and fair activities, participants at the debate focused on more serious topics relating to the Kingdom under the guidance of chairman of the organisation for persons with Dutch Caribbean roots OCAN Glenn Helberg.

Participants included Director of the St. Eustatius Monument Foundation Walter Hellebrand, Secretary of the Committee Kingdom Relations Ron van der Veer, artist/activist Quinsy Gario, Vice chairperson of the National Institute for Dutch Slavery Past and its Legacy NiNsee Joyce Overdijk-Francis, artist Kaleb de Groot and sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen.

Pink Pony Express members Cecilia Hendrikx, Tara Karpinski and Jesper Buursink explained their mission to get the Dutch Caribbean included in the Dutch miniature attraction park Madurodam, in The Hague. The islands are absent from this famous attraction with Dutch miniature buildings, despite the fact that the person who the park is named after is the Aruban-born World War II hero George Maduro.

Drawn by the disappointing results of the constitutional change, the Pink Pony Express visited St. Eustatius in 2012. It was decided to set up a project with the local school children who participated in a real-like election to select their favourite landmarks. The children selected Fort Oranje as their favourite landmark, followed by the Bethel Methodist Church and the F.D. Roosevelt Airport.

Together with local school children, small models of six landmarks were crafted and later transported to the Netherlands with the intention to have them included in Madurodam. So far, the negotiations with Madurodam have not yielded any tangible result.

At one time, there was a model of Willemstad at Madurodam, formally opened by Queen Juliana in 1973. Radio journalist Jesper Buursink made a radio documentary on the disappearance of the Willemstad model from Madurodam in 1991. The Pink Pony Express is lobbying to get Willemstad back to Madurodam, along with models of buildings from the other islands.

Walter Hellebrand said he remembered the Willemstad model at Madurodam and praised the Pink Pony Express for their efforts to have the islands included. He called the crafting of the Statia landmark models a “beautiful project” which helped the island’s children to become more aware of their monuments, their history and identity, and to give them a sense of democracy through the real-like elections.

Ron van der Veer noted that the Kingdom and the discussions on this topic, most of the time, weren’t about the people living in the Kingdom. “The Kingdom belongs to the people and the organisations that work in their interest. The Committee for Kingdom Relations tries to get the proper attention for this aspect. The Kingdom is an asset, yet it is often the stage for conflicts and blaming each other,” he said.

The speakers concurred that there was generally little knowledge about the Dutch Caribbean in the Netherlands. “It is important to truly listen to each other and to have open, honest relations bearing in mind that we are all different,” said Hellebrand. “We should not resort to colonial relations. Instead we should work together and respect each other,” said Van der Veer.

Van der Veer mentioned the Kingdom Youth Parliament (KYP), an event that was held in St. Maarten in 2014, in the presence of Princess Beatrix with the participation of youth delegations from all parts of the Kingdom. “It showed the diversity, the capability of working together,” he said, announcing that the intention is to have a subsequent KYP within a few years.

Van der Veer and Hellebrand along with journalist Vera Mulder, who addressed issues such as racism and the slavery past, agreed that there should be more attention for the islands and their history in the Dutch schools. Mulder promoted the inclusion of the history of the Dutch slave trade in education material for schools in the Netherlands.

Quinsy Gario, who hails from Curaçao and St. Maarten, closed the two-hour event with a presentation of his written review of the afternoon, while touching on some sensitive issues such as racism, cultural diversity, the slavery past and the delicate relations in the Kingdom.

Source: Daily Herald
Call for a more inclusive Kingdom at public debate