Wednesday 17 May 2006

No nice words for Mrs Verdonk

An Engaging Reality Show – the Dutch Parliament in session

The Dutch have a penchant for straight talking but always seem to act towards a form of consensus or compromise.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament when an emergency debate was called to address the Ayaan Hirsi Ali issue with the minister – Mrs Rita Verdonk.

Expatriates like myself hardly watch Dutch television, but somehow expatriates had a compelling desire to witness the events in the Dutch Parliament which ran on till about 3:00AM.

This is, I think, the fourth time in less than 2 years that Mrs Verdonk has been called to the parliament to address issues the legislature think border on abuse of power, abuse of privilege, the lack of due process and abrogation of procedure.

The Hirsi Ali case had a considerably high profile, being that the decision Mrs Verdonk made automatically meant Mr Ali cannot continue to be a Member of the Dutch Parliament.

Backslash, Slash, Backspace, Backslash - Questions

The MPs had a field day posing questions and questioning rationale, it looked like we were going for the full showdown, but for all the times that Mrs Verdonk has like a chastised school pupil appeared before the house, things have almost gone to the brink, but there was always a pull back.

There is no doubt that Ms Ali used false information to register as an asylum seeking, there might have been reason for any asylum seekers to use a false name for expedient reasons of leaving behind their history and making them untraceable till such a time as they are ready to be exposed.

Mrs Verdonk as also right within the remit of her ministerial duties to institute an investigation to ascertain the circumstances in which Dutch citizenship was granted and the validity of that exercise.

Communications schizophrenic

However, whilst the letter send to Ms Ali indicates that her Dutch citizenship is invalid, it gives her leave to appeal within 6 weeks, but in play of words that definitely exasperated a not few MPs Mrs Verdonk opined that she observed rather than affirmatively indicated that situation.

The debate that ran through issues like the minister’s truthfulness, understanding of the law, appreciation of the power of parliament and deference to its demands, hardly any MPs could find words of praise at her actions.

Rather, one ex-leader of her party did express surprise at the speed of resolution of the inquiry alluding to the fact that the backlog of claims in the immigration department would have been cleared up if things were that efficient. They are not – that department is an utter bureaucratic mess.

Called to order

In the end, Mrs Verdonk – The Iron Lady and my Lady Oddjob has been ordered, yes, ordered, to review the case of Ms Ali on the status of her citizenship and where it is found that her claim is valid, it should be accelerated.

Yesterday, I discerned that we would not hit the streets in protest, but expect the Dutch to do something about it – this compromise is as good as it gets – the minister does not entirely lose face, the government does not collapse and parliament gets to impose its will.

There is a Dutch ambivalence to this issue, in that the many I have chatted to, on the face of it commend Mrs Verdonk for following the law, but when I raise issues of the exercise of the law requiring a human face and the possible negative effect on expatriates or the fact that a Dutch a language that thrives on exceptions cannot seem to seen exceptions in the imposition of the law, Mrs Verdonk’s esteem falls.

This is probably part of my integration, trying to understand the Dutch psyche – where I would have thought a big slap on the wrist would have sufficed with an admonition and liberal sanction, the obstinate adherence to laws has undone all the parties involved.

The chastised Verdonk

Mrs Verdonk can as well put paid to the idea of leading her party at the end of May – it is a case of an opportunist being overtaken and outplayed by the opportunity. Like Samson, his exercise of power in trying to destroy his enemies also brought the building down on himself.

I would not rejoice too early, but I cannot wait to see Mrs Verdonk come second best in the leadership race for the Liberal Party.

However, it is only in Dutch politics that the most high profile minister of the realm is a minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Justice.

Apart from the Prime Minister who has had a makeover from his erstwhile Harry Potter looks, one wonders who those who run portfolio ministries are – Finance, Interior Matters, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defence – they all probably have not been mentioned once for anything significant, this year.

Bizarre, but that is living in the Netherlands – amazing place!


Expatica's Dutch news in English: MPs order Verdonk to reconsider Hirsi Ali's status:

Expatica's Dutch news in English: Hirsi Ali: fast decision amazes ministers:

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