[This piece was originally published at Liberator Magazine http://weblog.liberatormagazine.com/2013/05/the-republic-of-helmin-wiels-socio.html%5D
Editor’s Note: On May 5, 2013 the iconic Helmin Wiels, a “Yu di Korsou” and the most influential social justice leader in the history of Curaçao, was assassinated. The island has lamented the slain independentista on its continuing quest for liberated cultural preservation and national identity construction.
“The Republic of Helmin Wiels” / A Socio-Political Awareness Rebellion in Curaçao
by Jermain Ostiana (Guest Contributor)
Historical Contextualization: With the installation of the new Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 1999 carried by a strong radical social change mandate and his Bolivarian revolution, the U.S.–out of fear for loss of power in the South–reacted via the diplomatic corridors in The Hague and introduced Curaçao to the infamous “War against drugs and human trafficking” spook. A 10-year contract signed in March 2000, and ratified by the Dutch Parliament, initiated the construction of the Forward Operation Location base (FOL): A geo-political tool to control, as State Department coined the Dutch islands, their “Third Frontier”–U.S. military aircraft exercising counter-narcotics detection and monitor flights based out of Hato airport. It was a thorn in the eye of Chavez, who was vocally backed up by the critically-opinionated Wiels who considered it a violation to Curaçao’s autonomy, endangering its relationship with Venezuela, whose Petroleum of Venezuela leases the island’s oil refinery. The idea that Curaçao couldn’t combat the drug plague suggests that the Dutch billion-euro military industry complex is incapable of instructing Dutch marine and coastguard to intervene cocaine-crumb movements via small planes and go-fast boats or intercept bulk narcotics-container transports. History teaches us that drug economies have long-reaching tentacles as far as Washington, D.C. and The Hague.
Mi ke kanta mi pais unda Tula, Brion, Piar a lanta, hunga.
(I want to sing my country where Tula, Brion, Piar grew up, played)
Mi ta kanta mi pais
Mi kadaver ku mi tumba.
(I sing my country.
My cadaver and my Tumba)
-Ced Ride (singer-songwriter)
The vile assassination of Helmin Wiels–leader of the largest political party advocating independence ‘Pueblo Soberano’ (Souvereign People)–on May 5 must be seen as an attempt to muzzle the voice of the voiceless as pastor Curtis Meris indicated at his funeral on May 14: “Wiels was the voice of the poor, a voice of the hungry, of those with a clamor for social justice. That voice passed trough the streets of Curaçao and whether you agreed with him or not, rich or poor, black or white, today you just had to give him his respect.”
Strategically, Helmin Wiels chose not to become the prime minister after winning the last October 2012 elections. Curaçao’s first ever political execution of the most power wielding coalition leader has thrown a young nation that recently in 2010 went through a painful series of Dutch neo Colonial imposed constitutional reform and a two year period of governmental turbulence into a state of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Investigations will have to reveal who ordered the professional hit on Wiels in broad daylight. Bullets could have been sprayed from the Dutch government backed by the United States or Dutch and Creole power elite, mafia dons, lottery baron(s) fearing income loss or a combination of all the above and then some to safeguard their economic interests. That’s how capitalism has cruelly ruled the Caribbean since 1499. Even though Wiels did commit ideological missteps and after elections crossed over from a pseudo-socialist front to form a surrogate neo-liberal coalition with superficial social tendencies it remains undisputed that his socially-transformative visions with corruption-reducing tactics and anti-colonial, anti-imperialist stance still were a menace to the establishment and outside interests.
Sociologist Dr. Alejandro “Jandi” Paula explains in his study, “From Objective to Subjective Social Barriers: A Historico-philosophical Analysis of Certain Negative Attitudes Among the Negroid Population of Curaçao”
“Only historical analysis can be the reliable background against which we can understand the existing characteristics of a society. Which means that our consideration of the present day negative socio-psychological phenomena of Curaçao necessarily presupposes a link with the past.”
These inherited societal ills Wiels would try to combat by aiming at the root of the problem. A fierce and fearless black leadership is something that for decades had never been in this nation’s socio-political landscape. This changed at the dawn of the new century/millennium when Wiels arrived on the scene as a social worker who assisted the people in the neighbourhoods of the underprivileged and working class. He understood that for a socio-economic change to erupt and improve their impoverished situation you would need a collective political, historical, cultural, socio-economical upgrade. His unique common folk orating style combined with academic vocab attracted people to sit down to look and listen to his Konsenshi Sivil (Civil Conscious) programs on the radio, television, and internet. Reinventing the Vito magazine period of the late 60s that helped to inform, encourage the low income and working class to question, stand up and ultimately take action against the social-labor, racial injustices that ignited the revolution of 1969 (May 30).
Some polemic Dutch media opinion-makers like the racist multi-millionaire Jacob Gelt Dekker and Antilliaans Dagblad parliamentary correspondent Rene Zwart tag teamed up to depict Wiels as a racial-cleansing racist, a divisive and slandering Stalinist-type fascist that never could be venerated or compared to, say, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. according to their constructed criteria. Zwart, a journalist based in The Hague, Netherlands took it to a level of self-ridicule when he criticized Wiels for consistently and consciously boycotting the Dutch racist Blackface Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) tradition on an island where 90-95 percent of the population is of African descent.
This type of colonial-minded middle- and upper-class ignorance has ruled Curaçao for decades and scandalously does not cease, even though this past year on July 1st we commemorate 150 years since the abolition of Dutch slavery. Opinion-makers, corporate journalists, and other prominent figures of the corporate sector that never lived among the underclass, barely studied or understood the struggles of the working class, always end up drawing the wrong conclusions. Falsely criticizing a man who–as a partial “product” of Dutch colonization and Creole capitalism–tried to make a difference after his death, is tasteless but reconfirms the gallons of Black self-hate we as a people have poured over ourselves to the degree we are almost drowning in it. Misplaced arrogance, wannabe messiah, homophobia, ego-tripdom, oppressive democracy antics, demagoguery–Wiels had all these cloudy moments from time to time trying to survive in a political matrix layered with slavery and colonial behavior patterns (or Colonial Mentality, according to Fela Kuti)–but despite all of that it still is not enough to distort and de-legitimize his 10 year-span legacy. Take a deep look at the shining parts of his daily teachings reaching thousands of people from Monday to Saturday, at least two to three hours per day, in the evening on the radio, and the countless media appearances during the day. Breaking down constitutional reports, public debt studies, analyzing kingdom charter and kingdom ‘concensus’ laws undermining national autonomy. Health talks and tips, Black history month, labor rights, the history of our neighbourhoods and the Dutch Shell oil refinery that birthed them. Simple but effective things, like explaining the meaning of a Human Development Index, income inequalities and Gini coefficient, GDP (Gross Domestic Product), International treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; self-determination; UN decolonization; communal councils; frequently book reviews and recommendations; reparations; Rerum Novarum, and the alternative constitution that Pueblo Soberano created to accompany the newly gained autonomous status gained at 10-10-10. These are all exceptional teachings that no politician, mainstream media, union, or religious leader has ever dared or even contemplated discussing consistently with the people for the last 13 years.
Helmin Wiels was a great communicative political monarch giving the people that necessary daily high-dosage of anti-ruling elite rebellion. Blowing life back into political activism, mobilization, especially during the days of the constitutional restructuring when the Dutch government dictated finessed recolonization via supervision on the justice and finance sector. Labeled by adversaries as a black radical extremist because he agitated, made low income and working class aware of their rights and the exploitation of the power elite, government, trade unions, corporate and religious lords. Exposing institutionalized racism and the discriminatory second class citizenship within the Dutch kingdom when almost everybody tip-toed around it, too afraid to seek the unavoidable confrontation once a nation decides to wake up and demands what is rightfully theirs.
A catalyst with the stature like the leader of Pueblo Soberano was responsible for the public opinion boom of the last decade, common people started more and more to pay attention to politics and voice and shape their visions about socio-political issues that hindered Curaçao to grow. A peoples champ, catch him in the supermarket talking with cashiers, at construction sites, the market place, chat with welfare recipients, motivate prisoners, students, inspire single mothers but also switch to upper echelons and sit with offshore industry captains, bankers, and Dutch ministers.
Unfortunately, Curaçao never prepared itself for a post-Wiels era. Many have always thought he would be the general, commander in chief, the battering ram, breaking down the doors of the fort of the inventors of poverty and inequality, screaming, shouting, denouncing injustices. We needed someone like him to make up our mind and form an identity, a maroonage politician showing us how to escape from the mindstate that the late Black feminist and independentista Joceline Clemencia testified of in “Language is More Than Language in the Development of Curaçao”:
“We have not studied our rulers well enough, otherwise we would have known that we were programmed to think that we are not programmed; that if we looked the other way long enough and denied the existence of colonialism it would automatically disappear. We forgot that we were trained not to see colonialism as colonialism. The Curaçaoan poet and senior ethnologist, Elis Juliana, asked himself once how come we accept that only–if it is even possible to speak of “only” in this horrible respect–5 years of Nazi domination could leave scars that deep and still felt in Holland’s skin, and deny the effects of 365 years of colonization in us? We thought it was not necessary to define ourselves because the good old motherland would solve all of our problems. We defined neither our culture or language. That is why we opposed independence so strongly and fiercely. We regarded it as threat to the “peace” and “wealth” we enjoyed.”
His plans to polish and structuralize the free education policy for secondary schools, increasing the scholarships for students to study in the region and combat brain-drain migration, repatriate the diaspora from the Netherlands, should continue by any means. The peoples low-cost supermarket, revitalization of neglected neighbourhoods, attract foreign and local investors that come with their own money and no tax holiday. No governmental guarantees, walking a route towards economic decolonization.
We are at the crossroads, Wiels, the Papa Leba of the political spheres, is no longer here in the flesh but the guardian, transformer of opportunities is felt in the spirit and he left a manual to detect, unmask and eradicate political and socio-economic oppression. He showed us exactly how to visualize a Curaçao with critical thinking and acting citizens free from the bondage of power hierarchies, redistributing the wealth, transforming to a more socialized and better world, just like his colleague Hugo Chavez tried, who departed his beloved Venezuela exactly two months before Wiels’ death, on March 5.
While many still are mourning in pain, disoriented, fearing his legacy of restistance will perish, there is no other way but to pay him tribute by speaking truth to power and keep emboldening yourself and your community. Pay him homage by internalizing his socio-political prowess. Get active, read, debate, use and reform the media to your benefit, organize, stand up for your rights. Get familiar with your region, build, connect, agitate against neo Colonization–untame your heart from it.
Wiels did not let his/our ancestors down, he fulfilled his mission, now we have to rise up and pick up that torch and keep the flame burning. No bullets, gunmen, capitalist, or imperialistic murder plot can ever stop us. Like his son Helmin Jr. said during the public funeral co-signed by daughter Savannah, “We owe Helmin…”