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Thursday, 4 April 2013 09:55

WILLEMSTAD — The first Parliament of Curaçao met for the first time on April 5th 1938. With Curaçao, or rather the territory Curaçao, consisted at the time of the six islands that would later on form the Netherlands Antilles. Until 1936 the islands were called ‘Curaçao and the subordinates’. The then Parliament replaced the Colonial Council, which consisted of members appointed by the government.By our reporter

 

Raily Polonius

 

The first Parliament was not chosen entirely by democracy; of the fifteen members ten were chosen immediately and five were appointed by the governor. The chosen members owed their membership to the Parliamentary elections of December 20th 1937. The first meeting of this newly elected Parliament was on April 5th 1938.

 

The credentials of the new members were approved during the first meeting of the Parliament in 1938. The main theme of the meeting, chaired by John Horris Sprockel, was the speech of the then governor of Curaçao, Gielliam Johannes Josephus Wouters (1936-1942), who began his speech as follows. “Chairman and members of the Parliament. I am here to comply with the stipulation in article 79 of the Curaçao Constitution, namely that the session of the Parliament must be opened every year on the first Tuesday of the month April in Willemstad, Curaçao, by or on behalf of the governor.”

During his speech, Wouters also announced a revision of the suffrage on Curaçao with the aim to simplify the electoral system and increase the number of voters. In December 1937 people had to be 25 years of age or older to go to the polls, to have the Dutch nationally, have a certain educational level and meet other requirements such as a taxable minimum income.

 

Finances

In his first speech, Wouters elaborated on the situation on the islands at the time. He was pleased to say that ‘the relation between the neighboring countries and Curaçao is good’ and that the country’s finances were favorable. He mentioned that Curaçao concluded the year 1937 with a positive balance of 350.000 guilders, ‘while the account with the Netherlands showed a credit for Curaçao of 2.066.000 guilders’.
Although the economy of the islands was flourishing Wouters queried this positive development. “The favorable economic development on the islands Curaçao and Aruba accelerated in the past year of session, although this development still has a unilateral character. The oil companies on these islands have increased their imports and made significant expansions. The statistics of in and export are high once again, which is largely due to the flourishing oil companies.”

The transit trade shows an upward trend, said the governor. “The same applies for the harbor, which is largely due to more tanker traffic. The number of cruise ships dropped from 28 in 1936 to 24 in 1937 but the number of passengers (approx. 12.000) remained stable. The number of sailing ships decreased slightly.”

 

Unemployment

According to Wouters’ first speech, most of the economic growth occurred on Curaçao and Aruba. The governor stated: “The other islands profit more or less from the favorable situation on the islands Curaçao and Aruba. The task of the recently established department of Economic and Social Affairs includes presenting ideas to improve the situation on the other islands.”

In his speech Wouters also mentioned the situation of the so-called government workers. He indicated that the wage of these workers ‘must increase somewhat to compensate for the price rises of bare essentials’. In this respect Wouters mentioned the initiative to establish the rights and obligations of government workers in a ‘Government workers regulation’. Considering the current perspective, it’s remarkable that Wouters mentioned in his speech ‘there was no unemployment’ on the islands. “On the contrary, workers from other countries find employment here’, the governor stated in 1938. However, he didn’t have a good word to say about the situation at the plantations. “This situation hasn’t changed, unfortunately. Both the government and interested parties attempt to improve this situation.” In this respect Wouters mentioned a joint initiative of plantation owners, small planters and the government to establish an agricultural association and a milk company. Simultaneously several work camps were founded where youngsters between 12 and 18 years of age could be trained as good agricultural workers. After naming several initiatives of the past year 1937, for instance appointing a certified wet-nurse on Bonaire; the construction of a tax collector’s office on Saba; a new guesthouse on St. Maarten and a post office on Aruba, governor Wouters ended his speech with the words: “I open the year of session 1938-1939 with the prayer that the Almighty God will bless our concerted work and that our territory will be spared from disasters and misfortune.”

 

Sources: Minutes of the Parliament of the territory Curaçao and ‘Main points from the Political Development of the Netherlands Antilles’ by A.F. Paula (1988).