Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (1697)

MPs take the train to get to work, hybrid cars also popular

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Two third of MPs take the train to get to work and electric cars are also popular under parliamentarians, according to a survey of 79 MPs’ commuting habits by the Financieele Dagblad.

The car is the most popular means of commuting in the population at large, with three in five people opting to drive to work. That rises to four in five if the distance is more than 15 kilometres.

The train is the most popular method of transport across the party spectrum, the FD said, although the car is popular with the right-wing VVD. MPs, the paper notes, get a free first-class season ticket to use the train.

In addition, parliament is just a short walk from The Hague’s main railway station. Of the MPs who drive, 17% have a hybrid car – while just 1.6% of the cars on the Dutch roads are both petrol and electricity powered.

VVD parliamentary leader Klaas Dijkhoff is the only MP who runs an electric car. The paper notes that the difference in transparency between the parties is great. GroenLinks MPs did not take part because of privacy concerns, although a spokesman said that most MPs had a public transport season ticket.

Denk and Forum voor Democratie did not respond to the paper’s request for information. This weekend, Forum leader Thierry Baudet was fined for driving a rental electric moped on a bike path in Amsterdam.



Police spend €400,000 developing ‘superfluous’ 112 app

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police spent three years and €400,000 developing an emergency response app that has never been used, RTL Nieuws has revealed.

The justice ministry ordered the police to build the app, which identified the location of callers to the 112 hotline in 2016 as a matter of priority. Ministers set a deadline of four months to complete the project, but a string of setbacks meant development work only began in early 2018.

By the time it was finished the app had been overtaken by other mobile phone technology and was deemed surplus to requirements. Two delegations travelled to Finland on fact-finding missions to study a similar app used by police there.

Finnish developer Digia agreed to sell the rights to use its design for €50,000, but the Dutch wanted to build their own app rather than adapt the Finnish version.

Research agency TNO warned that the app was likely to be of limited use, since it could only locate callers who dialled in via the app and not their phone’s keypad.

But senior police officers and politicians pressed on with the project, urging developers to display a ‘can-do’ mentality, RTL reported. The app was due to be launched in 2017, but although a communications strategy was drawn up that included ‘free publicity’ via TV shows such as Hart van Nederland, development work only began in February 2018.

Around the same time the new justice minister, Ferd Grapperhaus, said he wanted to prioritise the introduction of Advanced Mobile Location (AML), which is already used in other countries and does not require a separate app.

A police spokeswoman acknowledged that the ‘location function of the 112-app is essentially superfluous’ but added: ‘We are looking at whether more functions can be added to the app, such as images or a chat facility.’



Fake History

SINT MAARTEN (COMMENTARY) - Fake news and weasel journalism are everywhere these days, even in St. Maarten apparently. And while it may be true that "democracy dies in darkness," it's also true that "journalism dies in self-importance." Above all else, real journalism is about reporting what is true, not what you want to be true. It does not have an agenda and it does not bend the facts to fit a preconceived and prejudiced narrative. That is not real reporting. That is petulant opinion masquerading as truthful reporting. It's a dishonest practice that blurs the lines between honest reporting and editorial propaganda in order to mold public opinion.

The recent hit piece on Claude Wathey – for that is what it was – on by its anonymous publisher is a classic example of the type of weasel journalism that is rightfully reviled around the world for either playing loose with the facts or ignoring them altogether when they don't fit the narrative. The article was a sly and self-important attempt to rewrite St. Maarten's history by smearing Claude Wathey's name and legacy. But it says more about the type of person the anonymous writer is rather than the man Claude was. It is always amusing to read spiteful smear articles about Claude these days. They are always written by people who never knew him and describe a man who never existed. A convenient straw man propped up to burn for the sins of the living.

Our anonymous publisher cites gossip about Claude as "evidence" of his alleged bad tendencies without any corroboration. It is a prime example of weasel journalism that is light on fact and heavy on fiction. In American law gossip is known as "the fruit of a poison tree," and anything coming from such a tree is tainted and discarded. When writing about a man's life, facts, not gossip, ought to matter. Not just for Claude, but for any of us. The anonymous publisher may be entitled to his opinions of Claude, but he is not entitled to his own facts.

Further into the smear piece, our self-important and anonymous publisher again conjures quotes from dubious sources and says Claude once described himself as a "beneficial dictator." Perhaps he did, perhaps he didn't. We don't know the context. But there are incontrovertible facts about Claude. For most of his adult life, Claude was a member of the parliament of the Netherlands Antilles, a constitutional entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He was also an Island Council member in Sint Maarten, a territory of the Netherlands Antilles that was embedded within the larger Kingdom of the Netherlands and governed by the 1954 Kingdom Charter. He never chose to be a minister in the Antillean government, and only briefly in his long political career did he ever serve as a commissioner in the island government. Besides him, there were countless other MPs and island council members as well as many Antillean prime ministers and governors of the Netherlands Antilles and lieutenant governors of St. Maarten, all of whom wielded real executive power under the Kingdom Charter that we still have today. It is as impossible as it is absurd for anyone to be a dictator within the framework of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, whether back then or now. So, to malign him as a dictator is an ignorant smear. But why let facts get in the way of a good narrative?

Let's get another fact straight. Claude was never convicted of forgery, as the article falsely claims, but perjury. And only after one of the most expensive and exhaustive investigations in Dutch Caribbean history was launched against him in the twilight of his life. Prosecutors at the time threw a mountain of charges against Claude, none of which they could prove in their own Dutch court of law. Nevertheless, the damage was done. The investigation was the punishment. Yet that seemed to disappoint our anonymous publisher, who seems to wish that if only they spent a few more millions investigating and interrogating Claude - his civil liberties and personal dignity be damned - something, anything, might have been found. It doesn't occur to our anonymous publisher at all that perhaps Claude just never did the things they accused him of.

In the end, they had only words to convict him with. They cornered him into what notable Harvard law professor Allen Dershowitz describes as a perjury trap, which is a dubious legal weapon available exclusively to prosecutors. They often use it when they fail to come up with sufficient evidence on the other charges. Even one question that results in an answer that is contradicted by one witness would be enough to spring a perjury trap. Many times, the witness may himself be a criminal who has been squeezed by prosecutors into "singing" in order to save his own skin. "Truth" is often already determined in the eyes of prosecutors, and it is they who decide which "truth" to believe. The way prosecutors trapped Claude and got him convicted of perjury is now no longer permissible under our modern criminal law precisely because it is viewed as an ethically dubious method of getting a conviction. It is the reason why Claude deserves a posthumous pardon.

Conveniently, our anonymous "journalist" neglected to add this important context. Who knows what motivates such people to peddle false narratives. But the piece is fake news and fake history, and it is most certainly crooked journalism. St. Maarten did not ask for self-important and anonymous publishers to volunteer their version of our history. We have only the obligation to truth.

Adrian Lista

COMMENTARY: The opinion expressed are the sole responsibility of the author.


Dutch back compulsory vaccinations but parents have doubts

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – While 70% of the Dutch think childhood vaccinations should be made compulsory, 36% of young parents say they don’t trust information about them provided by the public health institute RIVM, according to a new survey of 32,000 people.

The survey, undertaken by television current affairs show EenVandaag and women’s magazine Linda, found that 82% of the population in general think daycare centres should be able to ban children who are not vaccinated and 55% would support cutting the child benefits of anti-vaxxers.

At the same time, 12% of young parents said they ‘did not really’ trust RIVM information and 24% said they did not trust it at all. ‘They don’t mention the disadvantages of vaccinations and people who claim they do cause damage are dismissed as nut jobs,’ one respondent said.


Almost a quarter said they agreed with the statement ‘I think that vaccines included in the state vaccination programme cause autism’. And 34% of young parents agreed with the statement: ‘A childhood disease like measles is something natural, and you should not vaccinate against them.’

The head of the national vaccination programme told the AD that a bit of mistrust is ‘no bad thing’. ‘We recommend people discuss the issue with their doctor or a paediatrician,’ Hans van Vliet said.

Some seven in 10 people now support a compulsory vaccination programme, up from 57% last year when EenVandaag previously researched the issue. But young parents are less keen – just 49% support compulsory vaccinations for all children.

At the moment 90% of Dutch children are vaccinated against potentially serious illnesses such as measles, polio and whooping cough. This is below the level of 95% the World Health Organisation considers safe.



Dutch dads would like to spend more time with their kids, but don’t

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Working fathers would like to be more involved with the care of their children but still make relatively little use of paternity leave schemes, according to a new report on fatherhood in the Netherlands.

Just one in 10 dads take advantage of the government scheme allowing them to take unpaid leave over a period of months in the first eight years of a child’s life. By contrast, 23% of mothers take unpaid maternity leave.

According to the Rutgers centre which carried out the research, fathers are often told by their employers that leave is too complicated to arrange or does not fit into the company culture.

In addition, some dads are afraid to ask for time off to care for their children because of the reaction it might generate. Positive role models – men in leadership positions who take paternity leave – are also in short supply, the researchers note.

The researchers say there needs to be a cultural shift in both the care and education sectors so that mothers are not always assumed to be the primary carer. There is a lack of support and encouragement by friends and colleagues, schools and care organisations focus on mothers and the Netherlands has a strong motherhood ideology, the organisation said.

‘In the Netherlands, the mother is seen as the primary raiser of children and the role of the father is secondary,’ the report said. This is reflected in the view that women are better carers by nature, even though research shows that fathers who spend more time with their children also undergo neurological and hormonal changes, the report notes.

Paid leave

Since January 1 this year, fathers in the Netherlands have had the right to five rather than two days paid leave. From 2020, fathers will have the right to a further five weeks of leave at 70% of their regular salary – but employers are free to make this up to 100%.

Parental leave, which is open to men and women, is unpaid. Parents are allowed to request 26 times the number of hours they work a week in leave, which can be spread out over weeks or months.

Some companies have already set up their own, wider schemes, such as Microsoft, which pays fathers their full salary for six weeks. ING Nederland gives dads a month’s paid paternity leave and the right to three months unpaid leave.

Volvo, Mastercard Nederland and The Hague city council also operate more generous paternity leave schemes than defined by law.



More job shortages loom as Eastern Europeans go home: ABN Amro

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Many eastern Europeans in the Netherlands will leave because the economies in their home countries are growing and wages there are rising, according to a new report by ABN Amro economists.

Currently some 250,000 people from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria work in the Netherlands, often doing poorly paid work on short term contracts. Now eastern European economies are growing, and populations are shrinking, wages are likely to rise, encouraging more people to return home.

‘Countries like the Netherlands, which are further away from eastern Europe, are likely to feel most impact,’ economist Nora Neuteboom said. The departure of eastern European workers will have a further impact on the already tight Dutch labour market, the report by the bank’s economic bureau said.

In particular, the farming sector, manufacturing, construction and transport will be hit because companies in these sectors are already feeling the impact of the shortage of workers.

However, Britain’s departure from the EU has made the country less attractive for eastern Europeans and the Netherlands could benefit from this, the report said.

Low wages

The Dutch statistics agency CBS said earlier this year that workers from Poland, Romania and other eastern and central European countries earn the lowest wages of all immigrant groups.

Some 80% of the 180,000 Polish nationals working in the Netherlands earn less than €15 per hour and 18% of them earn less than €10, the CBS said. And research published a year ago by government think-tank SCP said some 75% of Polish nationals living in the Netherlands have a job but they are much more likely than the Dutch to have temporary or flexible contracts, work long hours and do basic manual labour.

Polands ambassador to the Netherlands also recently sounded the alarm about dodgy staffing agencies and the abuse of Dutch labour laws to exploit migrant workers.

‘People are being brought to the Netherlands under false pretences and have to work here in poor conditions, while being excluded from Dutch society,’ he told the AD.



The Hague to bring on income limits to rental housing under €1,000

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Hague city council is to impose income limits on who can live in housing with a rent of between €720 and €1,000 a month.

The housing falls outside the rent-controlled sector but is in such short supply the council has decided to give priority to people earning less than twice the average monthly gross wage of €2,778.

The aim, officials say, is to make sure the city remains affordable for teachers and nursing staff. ‘If someone finds a job at a school, they should be able to live there,’ housing alderman Boudewijn Revis told Radio 1 news.

‘Police officers on night shift should be able to go home to a house in the city when they have finished work.’ Revis said the measure is an emergency step and will be scrapped as soon as enough new homes have been built.

The plan still has to be approved by a full meeting of the council.

In May Amsterdam published its plans for getting to grips with the housing shortage. These include a quota for bed and breakfasts and giving priority for social housing to youngsters, nurses and teachers.

Up to 800 housing corporation homes will be earmarked for young Amsterdammers, who find it impossible to get a foot on the housing ladder. People working in education and the care sector will also get priority as will people on low to middle incomes.



Transport alliance calls for €56bn effort to stop NL grinding to a halt

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands needs to spend €56bn on the roads, public transport, cycling and road safety to stop the country seizing up by 2040, according to a report by 25 transport lobby groups and organisations.

The Mobility Alliance, which includes the motoring organisation ANWB as well as the Dutch national railway company and transport sector lobby group TLN, says in its 70-page report, that without action the Netherlands will grind to a halt.

On Tuesday it emerged that the plan includes the introduction of road pricing to reduce car traffic – money which, the organisation says, would be used to fund a string of major transport-related developments.

These other proposals include extending the Amsterdam metro system to Schiphol airport, bringing in new light rail systems to the other big cities and developing a fast bus line between Breda and Utrecht along the A2 motorway.

People should also be encouraged to become more flexible in the methods of transport they use, with the development of out-of-town hubs where they can switch from car or train to bike.

The group also propose experimenting with allowing residents to trade parking rights, varying the tax paid by company car drivers and allowing motorists to buy the right to travel at peak periods.


‘Let us be clear, mobility has to be improved,’ said NS chief Roger van Boxtel. ‘This is crucial for our competitive position, for durability and for the happiness of our people. Successive cabinets will have to work on this.

There is no time to wait.’ Transport minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen has told the Telegraaf she will not cooperate with any initiatives to bring in road pricing or higher charges for driving at peak periods.

The idea, she said, is ‘a horror’. ‘I am not going to start on that,’ the minister said.



Age, the age gap and education all impact divorce rates: CBS

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Couples with an age gap of five years or more are much more likely to get divorced than couples of similar ages, according to new research by the national statistics office CBS.

Of couples who moved in together or got married in 2003, 25% of those with a two-year age gap were divorced within 12 years. But if the age gap is over 10 years, the divorce rate rises to 35%, the CBS said.

Relationships with a large age gap, in which the man is older than a female partner, tend to be slightly more stable than those in which women are oldest. In addition, the younger the couple when they set up home together, the more likely they are to separate.

Almost half of couples in which the woman was 18 to 20 have broken up within 12 years, but when the woman is over the age of 25 the break-up rate is 25%, the CBS said.

Educational level also has an impact on the divorce rate. One in five couples in which both partners have a college or university degree will break up within 12 years.

But the divorce rate among people without academic qualifications is 31%, the CBS said. Research published by the CBS in 2016 showed gay women are more likely to get married than men and their marriages are more likely to break down.

One reason for this could be that gay men tend to marry when older, the CBS said.



Three in four foreign students miss contacts with the Dutch

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Many foreign students do not feel at home in the Netherlands and over 75% miss having contact with their Dutch counterparts, according to a survey by three student networks – LSVB, ISO and the Erasmus Student Network.

‘Foreign students are being actively recruited but once they are in the Netherlands they are confronted with the lack of affordable housing, they don’t get Dutch lessons and they find it hard to make contact with their Dutch peers,’ said Carline van Breugel of the LSVB.

It is the second time the three organisations have carried out a survey of foreign students and this year 1,002 took part, of whom two-thirds came from another EU country.

While three quarters miss having contact with the Dutch, 74% struggle with housing and 44% experience stress, the survey showed. At the same time, 62% said they were happy, or very happy, with their social lives.

‘I have met a lot of Dutch students, but I find it very hard to become close to them or how to actually make friends with them. Almost my entire study is with Dutch students, yet I barely speak to them,’ one student is quoted as saying.

The Netherlands is keen to ensure foreign students remain in the Netherlands after graduating, but research published by Elsevier magazine last week showed that 61% of master’s graduates leave within six months.

In 2001, that figure was just 45%. Learning Dutch is key to ensuring foreign students can integrate well, the student bodies say. Almost 37% of respondents said they were unhappy at the options offered for learning the language.

Some 90,000 foreign students attended courses at Dutch universities or hbo colleges last year and they now account for 11.5% of the student population.


Subscribe to this RSS feed

Soualiga Radio