Note to the Government Read the flipping constitution

Note to the Government: Read the flipping constitution

The weekly LEGAL column is where I break down what I observe and analyze into small bite prices from my legal perspective. By nature, I read and sometimes scan or glimpse over many judgments, articles, commentary, and….yes, I must confess sometimes, even the news.  In doing so, my focus is to contribute or give the community some information they may find helpful or perhaps even mildly entertaining. I avoid writing about cases that I am involved in, and I don’t pretend either to have the almighty knowledge or use this column to vent out as many do via their social media. Then again, sometimes the lord of the airwaves report on just a preposterous occurrence that makes my fingers itch, and that itch triggers the keyboard, and before you know it…..boom, here is your LEGAL column of this week.

Education and government visits,

I must admit, as a nerd, my love for academia is immense. I enjoy immersing myself in a particular subject matter and seeing how my respective alma matter(s) evolve(s) in the never-ending pursuit of knowledge and the continued education of our youth. The same youth we entrust our future and the future of our tiny little island and our somewhat bigger planet. So when I saw a news item about a group of (college) students from the Netherlands visiting our island and even meeting with our ministers, it made me feel good. Our ministers – from both sides of the aisles and even the occasional coalition partners – regularly visit schools from all levels and welcome kids and students to the government building so they can see our version of “ the Oval Office” or our version of the “Situation Room”. Except this visit was different….

Some big cheese forgot we have a constitution.

According to the news item, the group of Dutch students arrived at the main government building, dubbed “Cocoloshi”, which in our native Papiamento means “shell”, but two (2) students were denied entry, not because they were wearing shorts or perhaps were showing to much skin but because they were wearing their traditional “hijab”. Now granted, there is a dress code policy or a sign with some rules saying stuff, as you can’t come in with shorts, jeans, short skirts, etc. I have even seen department heads denied entry because they were wearing jeans. Ironically, at the same time, even staff members of ministers were walking around in jeans; after all, it was a Friday. With many things in the eyes of the government, some people are created more equal to others.I have been to the “Coloishi” many times and can assure you that a “hijab” is not on the list of inappropriate clothing to enter the building. So you and I both ask ourselves, why is this even an issue in Aruba in 2023? 

Under the bus,

The report states that the security personnel indicated that “the orders came from above”. This is code for “a big cheese says so without actually naming the face behind the cheese”. The problem with this is that “the big cheese” can’t or won’t withstand public scrutiny for this nor the questioning of this by members of the Dutch parliament or other international (religious) organizations, so it is safe to say that somebody that is not “the big cheese” is gonna be thrown under the bus – be asked to take one for the team – and be compensated for the loyalty.

Not welcome

The non-“hijab” wearing students were allowed entry and even met with the higher gods, a.k.a. one or more of our ministers (read: a big cheese). They protested against this rather blatant form of discrimination or, perhaps in milder terms, for not respecting article I.1 of our Constitution.  

“Allen die zich op Aruba bevinden, worden in gelijke gevallen gelijk behandeld. Discriminatie wegens godsdienst, levensovertuiging, politieke gezindheid, ras, geslacht, kleur, taal, nationale of maatschappelijke afkomst, het behoren tot een nationale minderheid, vermogen, geboorte, of op welke grond dan ook is niet toegestaan.”

In case you wonder, this article says something like not treating persons differently based on their skin color, religion, etc……. you get the idea. An idea, by the way, that is not foreign and is anchored in constitutions around the globe. For the curious and to avoid paraphrasing this wrong, I add a (loose) translation:

All who are in Aruba are treated equally in equal cases. Discrimination based on religion, belief, political opinion, race, sex, color, language, national or social origin, membership of a national minority, property, birth, or on any other basis is not permitted.

Following the plea by the students, the powers that be agreed to let “those” join the meeting also. Except that the students had had enough of this unique educational experience and chose to exit the meeting and go back with their fellow students and their “hijab”.


In instances like this, it is not easy to suppress the letter “W” and the letter “T” and letter “F” that we commonly use to abbreviate Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays in our calendars. But is this the best experience our government has to offer to these young minds? Mom always taught me that we should all always put our best foot forward. What we can all observe here is that we didn’t use the foot; we apparently used the body part that is generally used for sitting to make a bigoted judgment call. I guess it is too late to question the why and the how, and as in many other incidents, this too will blow away; life goes on, and “we” don’t need “them” anyway.

Consistency vs. opportunity

If our national policy is now to ignore our Constitution (somewhat or in full), then we should say so out loud and (wo)man up to it. Can we? Do we have what it takes or are we alone on this planet? Perhaps we should look further to see what is happening around us. Didn’t we all spend weeks watching the World Cup in Qatar? Or did we turn off our TV sets in protest? Just last week, I saw a post on LinkedIn:

“On January 17th, the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) and the government of Antigua and Barbuda agreed to finance the expansion project at the University of West Indies at Five Islands (UWI) in the Caribbean nation with an $80 million financing agreement. The deal would encourage scientific innovation and bring new educational facilities to the university, which will assist the Caribbean region to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Seven energy-efficient buildings will be built as a part of the investment’s deal, which aims to make the campus more sustainable. The newly improved university would cater to 5,000 students, a sharp increase from the previous 600 strength.”

So are we also a priori saying that Saudi Fund for Development investments or collaborations is not welcome in Aruba? Imagine what a mere $5 million dollar investment could mean for our University. Or what a $10 million dollar investment towards our SDGs could mean? By the way, we don’t have monies in our current budget and monies we won’t have in future budgets either. An opportunity perhaps that we killed before it remotely became even an opportunity?

This is all I have for you this week. See you next week.

#YourFavoriteLawyer #BoAbogadoFaborito


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