Situation in Curaçao is Very Serious, says Knops

“It is very serious what is happening there,” said Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops on Thursday in a reaction to the riots in Curaçao.

The Dutch conditions that are attached to the liquidity support for the Dutch Caribbean countries during the coronavirus pandemic will remain in place. Knops said on Dutch national TV that there were no conditions for humanitarian assistance, such as the food parcels that thousands of people now depend on, but that there are conditions for the loans to the governments.

“We are asking, for example, to bring the pensionable age to a similar level as in the Netherlands, and to reduce the salaries of government personnel and high (semi-) government officials. And when you speak of solidarity, you also need to ensure as a government that the vulnerable groups in society have sufficient income as well,” stated Knops.

“As Dutch government, we have stated that we will provide assistance. Millions have been made available to help those that need it most. We are not abandoning those people. At the same, we expect from the governments of the countries that they implement reforms. The islands have to stop spending structurally more than they receive,” Knops told NOS TV.

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Curaçao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has informed the state secretary about the developments. The demonstrators demand Rhuggenaath’s resignation and a group entered Fort Amsterdam on Wednesday. Punda and Otrobanda remain closed for now and have been completely sealed off by police.

The Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament laments the riots in Curaçao. “I feared that this would happen,” said Member of Parliament (MP) Antje Diertens of the Democratic Party D66 who wants to discuss the Curaçao situation with Knops in a debate before the summer recess.

“I understand the frustration. Demonstrations are okay, but causing destruction is not the right way to go about things. New elections are also not the solution. That does not help the people,” said Diertens. She would like to see more constructive cooperation between the countries in the Kingdom.

MP Nevin Özütok of the green left party GroenLinks wants clarity from Knops. “I emphasised during a recent debate that the broadest shoulders need to carry the bulk of the weight, and not the vulnerable groups in society,” she said. She hoped that everyone would keep a cool head.

“I am worried about the Curaçao people, about the small entrepreneurs who are often the victim of these situations,” stated MP Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA. He sees the riots as a release of frustration, whereby a situation that had been tense for a while reached the boiling point. “We know how precarious the situation is in the countries.”

MP André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party said that naturally the Dutch government was willing to help during this time of crisis. But, he added, it is equally important that the Curaçao government takes its responsibility. He pointed out that the reforms and cost-cutting measures have been necessary for a while, but that the decisions were delayed until the last moment.

The riots took place just as Curaçao is preparing to open the border for flights from the Netherlands, the island’s most important source of visitors. “The riots are a pity, especially because the tourism season is about to start. I understand the concerns, but it is a task of the Curaçao government to offer people perspective,” said Bosman.

[Photo – youth, workers and others demonstrate –]

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