All flags were half-mast in Curacao this week. All flags means the flag of Curacao and in exceptional cases also the flag of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that Curacao still belongs to; but just in exceptional cases, because Helmin Wiels who was murdered last week was in support of complete independency – or maybe (sometimes one thinks just too deep and reality is more simple) because no flag of the Netherlands is available in this island of scarcity.
‘He was an important minister’, someone in a bar explains me while we are watching the television to see the speeches for his funeral. I do not dare to say that he was not a minister, he was a parlementarian by principal but my feeling is that this is not the moment to tell ‘better’ to anyone, anyhow. It is maybe a Dutch thing, this desire to be ‘precise’… What is very clear is that people express that they mourn about an important man, a man who cared about their island and who was willing to bring changes.
It also strikes me how happy people are that Dutch government officials are present at the funeral. They point their fingers to them and show me: that is a Dutch official and that person too, they have come to Curacao to pay respect to Herman Wiels. It matters to them that the ‘former colonisator’ is present, regardless the differences of opinion between the Netherlands and Curacao.
There are also people here who are ready to explain you why Helmin Wiels was not the answer to the problems at Curacao. However, the common ground is that nobody denies that Curacao has some real problems, and that it is the poor, mainly black, who pay the price for that.
What surprises me most is the awful, very polluting refinery that is in the core of this island. One doesn’t expect to see this in the Caribbean that are known for their natural beauty. The plant is large and the smell is very bad, also from a far distance and it effects one’s breath. Again it is the poor who live on the side where the wind takes the pollution, and the rich who live on the side where breathing is still possible – makes me sad…
Is this a happy island? No it is not. Everybody is talking about the safety problems here, even more than about the economic problems. I spoke to several people who disliked Helmin Wiels, even hated him; however, now that he is dead, they seemed to have lost hope. At least he was calling for change, and will there be anybody else to fulfill this role?
‘Hier is dat ding gebeurd’, people say in the bus when we pass the beach where Helmin Wiels was shot. My first thought was, what is ‘dat ding’ but I saw the picture and the objects placed at the beach and understood ‘dat ding’. It is too awful for people to be named in exact words. Mixed feeling are felt on this island but all together it is rather depressed…