WILLEMSTAD--Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands Antilles Miguel Pourier passed away on Sunday in Curaçao at the age of 74. He had been battling prostate cancer for some time.
Originally from Bonaire, the financial expert founded the political party "Partido Antia Restruktura" (PAR) that came out of a social movement backing the winning Option A to maintain the Antilles, in Curaçao's first constitutional referendum of 1993. All the existing parties had backed the losing Option B for the island to get an autonomous status.
Pourier, who had been interim prime minister for a short period once before in 1979, led PAR to victory in the 1994 elections. He served as Prime Minister from 1994 to 1998 and again from 1999 to 2002.
The efforts to meaningfully restructure the so-called "Antilles of Five" (Aruba had already left the constellation in 1986) and remove certain obstacles to keeping the islands together failed, however. A second round of referenda was held, starting in St. Maarten in 2000, in which majorities in Curaçao and St. Maarten opted after all to become autonomous countries within the Dutch Kingdom, prompting the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles effective 10-10-10, with the three "small islands" Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba becoming special overseas public entities of The Netherlands.
Despite this disappointment, Pourier worked tirelessly on the enormous financial problems facing the Central and Curaçao governments during his terms in office. With support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he took severe austerity measures that were so strongly opposed that at one point he had to take a boat to work to circumvent a blockade.
He will be remembered as a man of integrity, a sober and courageous leader who was not afraid to take unpopular decisions. He felt left in the cold and abandoned active politics in 2002, when part of the budgetary support from The Hague agreed on with the execution of the IMF programme remained forthcoming because not all conditions had been met.