Contradiction as an Effective Tool Against Infamy
January 3, 2024
It's January 3, 2024, and I already feel uneasy. This compels me to speak out. To preserve a democratic society, contradiction is essential, and there is an increasing need for it in our community. Unnoticed, we are heading towards a more autocratic form of governance, partly due to the challenges faced by media outlets such as Radio Z86 and TeleCuraçao.
The first matter that bothers me is the discussion surrounding Willemstad's inclusion on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Before delving further, it's important to note that the minister and I have known each other for years and have a good relationship. Even after the formation of the cabinet, he called me to express his intention to leverage my expertise, though this never materialized. This incident underscores our amicable relationship.
After the minister publicly questioned the added value of World Heritage status during an investor conference, I penned a reaction. More importantly, the Monuments Council provided a contradicting opinion to the minister. In response, the minister corrected himself but reprimanded the Monuments Council in the same communication, suggesting that their contradiction was inappropriate. The minister received much support for his response, primarily because he nuanced his initial statement and asserted authority over the Monuments Council.
However, the minister's reaction is inappropriate. He should have thanked the council for the contradiction. Contradiction in a democracy is valuable; it prevents leaders from making missteps. What is out of place in a democracy is an applause machine. Many ministers surround themselves with one, fostering a dangerous environment where leaders become blind to critical voices that compel them to stay sharp and refine their ideas.
People in positions of power increasingly disregard good, substantive contradiction, whether in content or form, even from institutionalized sources like advisory councils, the Ombudsman, or the Bureau for Oversight and Standardization of Government Entities (SBTNO). This is a scary trend during a time when democracy is eroding globally. On Curacao, a sense is growing that people are less free regarding expression, exacerbated by a climate where those lacking knowledge are increasingly vocal.
This is coupled with a context in which individuals, including ministers, are programmed by neoliberalism to think solely in terms of monetary value. For instance, the value of the most photographed Handelskade in Punda is reduced in financial terms.
A second issue is the recent resignation of most of Aqualectra's supervisory board, citing the minister's non-compliance with corporate governance rules and obstruction of the board's work. Again, the pattern emerges that institutionalized contradiction from supervisory boards is not appreciated.
A third case is the Prime Minister's announcement of plans to transform Caracasbaai into a concrete pool for the people just minutes before the New Year. Here too, the pattern is that decision-makers believe they can decide without consulting the community. In a democracy, such a project is typically discussed with the neighborhood and citizens. Nature also has a say now. Apart from the unnecessary destruction of nature, it is evident that what is being built cannot be maintained, and it is clear that it will worsen traffic conditions.
There is much more to say, but my point is that ministers and the government must encourage constructive contradiction. This is the essence of a democratic society, as this island belongs to all of us, and better decisions are made when everyone has a voice. Unfortunately, I must assume that my message will not be understood, as it requires a democratic mindset to comprehend.