Soualiga Newsday Focus

Soualiga Newsday Focus (1898)

On Holocaust Memorial Day, Dutch PM apologises for government role during WWII

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Prime minister Mark Rutte used his speech during the national Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in Amsterdam on Sunday to apologise for the actions of the Dutch government during World War II.

‘Now that the last survivors are still among us, I apologise today on behalf of the government for what the government did back then,’ Rutte said. It is because so few survivors are still allive that ‘we must fully acknowledge what happened at the time,’ Rutte said, speaking at the Nooit meer Auschwitz memorial in Amsterdam’s Wertheim park.

‘When a group of countrymen were set aside, excluded and dehumanised under a murderous regime, we failed,’ he said.

And while there was some resistance within government, ‘too many Dutch officials carried out what the occupiers demanded of them,’ he said. 10 things you need to know about the end of WWII in the Netherlands Rutte said he was apologising in the knowledge that ‘no word can express something as big and horrific as the Holocaust’.

‘It is up to us, the post-war generations, to continue to commemorate, to honour the dead by name,’ the prime minister said. The Netherlands is still struggling to come to terms with the way it treated Jews who returned home in 1945 and whose property and possessions had been stolen or lost.

Few survivors

Only 35,000 of the country’s Jewish population of 140,000 survived the war and 102,000 of the 107,000 who were deported to death camps were killed. Those who returned found their houses and possession had been taken, and many were presented with bills for unpaid taxes and ground rent for their homes, scandals which are only now finally being dealt with.

In 2018, Dutch state-owned railway firm NS said it would pay compensation to survivors and family members of people it transported to death camps. NS earned large amounts of money from the German occupiers by transporting Jews to Westerbork, the holding camp where people were kept before being moved out to Germany and Poland.

The prime minister’s apology has been welcomed by Jewish groups and survivors. In 2012, Rutte said the cabinet saw no reason to apologise for the Dutch government’s attitude to Jews during World War II.



Utrecht and Rotterdam to test for lead water pipes

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Utrecht and Rotterdam councils have told the NOS broadcaster that they plan to test their buildings for lead pipes. Lead found in significant levels in drinking water is poisonous, and has particularly harmful effects on young children, according to the World Health Organization.

Earlier this week, Amsterdam city council confirmed that four daycare centres and nine other locations including the Theo Thijssenschool have too high a percentage of lead in their drinking water – despite a ban on lead water pipes since the 1960s.

Now Utrecht has said it will check all primary schools and daycare centres built before 1960 and will take action where necessary, reports the NOS. Rotterdam is set to make an inventory of all buildings under city management including those used by children in the coming months.

In November last year the Rotterdam-Rijnmond health board informed all schools and nurseries about the risks of lead in drinking water and measures that can reduce these. Amsterdam is testing all council buildings, starting on a plan of replacing pipes, and has advised all schools in pre-1960 buildings to use only bottled water.

It is estimated that up to 200,000 old houses across the Netherlands have never had old lead pipes changed, and it has not been obligatory for owners to do this despite the health risks.

Now, though, the Dutch health council has urged for all pipes to be removed and advised pregnant women and young children to only drink bottled water. Long term ingestion of lead is thought to risk a drop in IQ of between 2 and 5 points for young children.



Man gets community service for insulting queen Maxima

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A 63-year-old man from Utrecht has been sentenced to 40 hours community service for insulting queen Maxima. The man made the comments last October when he was out with a group of friends, one of whom was issued an on-the-spot fine for another offence.

The man was so angry, he started swearing about the queen, leading police to warn him and then to arrest him. The queen was in Tokyo on the day of the offence but nevertheless, the magistrate said the charges were so serious as to warrant the appropriate punishment.

The man had called the queen a ‘cancer whore’ and the ‘daughter of a murderer’. Her father Jorge Zorreguieta was a member of the Argentine junta. The Netherlands had the crime of lese majesty, or insulting the monarch, on the statute books until last year which carried a maximum sentence of five years in jail.

The man was prosecuted under this legislation. According to the court report, the man was currently on probation for a similar offence and the public prosecutor had demanded a jail term.

However, the magistrate said this would be going too far and a fine would not go far enough. Lese majesty has since been removed from the statute books, but it remains a crime to insult royalty.

Punishment is in line with that of insulting the police, military and emergency service workers and more severe than that for insulting ordinary citizens.



The Netherlands retains 8th place in anti-corruption ranking

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands remains one of the least corrupt countries in the world, maintaining its eighth place in the latest Transparent International index for the third year in a row.

New Zealand and Denmark head the Corruption Perceptions ranking with a score of 87 points, five more than the Netherlands. ‘Top scoring countries on the CPI like Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland are not immune to corruption,’ the organisation said in a press release.

’While the CPI shows these public sectors to be among the cleanest in the world, corruption still exists, particularly in cases of money laundering and other private sector corruption.’

The Netherlands’ eighth place is no cause for complacency, Serv Wiemers, director of Transparency International Nederland told the NRC. ‘In particular, we are trailing when it comes to political integrity,’.

Bottom of the list are Southern Sudan and Somalia.



The Dutch labour market needs drastic reform to maintain prosperity: commission

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands needs to take ‘drastic steps’ to reform the labour market if the country wants to maintain its current high level of prosperity, according to a special committee set up by the government to research the issue.

The current rules are causing unnecessary social and economic problems, committee chairman Hans Borstlap, a former senior civil servant, said. He is particularly concerned about the rise in self-employment which, he says, is driving insecurity and hurting innovation.

The report’s conclusions are based on an analysis of national and international research as well as interviews with employers, unions, workers and other experts. Workers are becoming more insecure about their jobs, and are failing to invest in boosting their skills and in their future, the report said.

At the same time, employers are bringing in too many people on flexible contracts and failing to invest in them because they are only with the company short term. ‘We have spoken to young people who are more likely to have flexible jobs,’ Borstlap said.

‘They are afraid to buy a house or have a family. We need to pause for reflection. Something is wrong.’ Employers increasingly regard taking on staff on permanent contracts purely as a cost, he said.

But this is both morally wrong and damaging both prosperity and social cohesion. ‘The proportion of freelancers and workers on flexible contracts is far higher here than in other countries,’ Borstlap told news website in an interview.

And it is the rest of society which is picking up the bill if freelancers have no insurance and don’t build up a pension. ‘That beer in a beach pavilion in Scheveningen is far too cheap,’ he told

‘Because we are all paying for the worker who is too sick to do their job. Those costs are usually included in the product.’

The committee recommends the workforce itself should be divided into three sorts of employee – self-employed, workers with a traditional contract, and short-term staffing agency employees – and that everyone in work should have the same basic rights and obligations.

The main recommendations: Companies will have to prove that the self-employed workers they use really are self-employed, reversing the burden of proof

Staffing agency workers should only be able to work for 26 weeks for the same firm, and the work they do must be temporary to cover peak periods or an unexpected rush

Employers should be able to adapt jobs, location and working hours in line with the demands of the economy Employers should also be able to apply for ‘partial redundancy’ if necessary, Everyone in work should pay the same taxes

Everyone should have a personal training fund Employers should pay towards extra training for all workers, regardless of status and compensation for redundancy should be paid into this fund

The tax allowance for freelancers should be gradually scrapped. (This is already happening.) Temporary contracts should cover no more than two years – the current limit is three

People on flexible contracts should have a higher minimum wage People employed via staffing agencies should have the same secondary benefits as people in regular jobs at the same firm

Internet-based employment platforms (such as meal delivery services and bar staff apps) should be treated as employers and responsible for taxes and premiums – ending the freelance status of the gig economy

Sick pay should be cut from two to one year There should be a public basic insurance policy against invalidity for everyone which would kick in after one year. Employees would keep their current provisions



Martin Richardson new head Community Development Department

SABA - The Public Entity Saba has a new head of the Community Development Department, Martin Richardson. Born and raised in Aruba, Richardson (60) assumed his position per December 1, 2019.

Richardson is new to the island and had not been to Saba before taking on this new challenge on. He came to Saba from Bonaire where he worked as Director of Forma, a non-governmental organization that carries out projects for the Public Entity Bonaire in the social domain, including coaching towards work and poverty eradication.

Before that, Richardson, whose father hailed from St. Maarten and whose mother was of Grenada descent, worked as Director of the middle vocational level MBO school EPI in Aruba.

Richardson is a biology and science teacher by profession, and he worked as such in the Netherlands and in Bonaire. In the Netherlands, he developed and execute many projects in the social domain. He has also worked in Turkey where he executed several cultural projects as part of a past cooperation program between the Netherlands and Turkey. Richardson came to Saba with his wife from Kyrgyzstan and their two children.

“Saba is a very beautiful island. There is still a lot of local culture. It is important to cherish and preserve this. I have seen on too many other islands where the local culture was lost,” said Richardson.

Continuing the efforts of the Public Entity Saba to combat poverty and domestic violence are two of the focal points for Richardson. The Youth Policy Plan is an important document that will be carried out.

“We have to prepare the youngsters for their leadership role in the community and politics. They have to acquire the know-how and experience to take on this role at a later stage in their lives.”

Richardson said he would work on the further developing of the Community Development Department. The Public Entity Saba now has a bigger responsibility in the social domain, and this needs to reflect in the department. “There is an active role for the Community Development Department in the social domain.”

Richardson said he would like to have a close working relation with all stakeholders. “Social development and, for example, education go hand in hand. It is important to work together and to support each other.”

Commissioner of Social Affairs Rolando Wilson said he was content to have Richardson as the new head of the department. “I am looking forward to working with him as we continue to invest in the social domain, which is important for the Saba people.”

Richardson took over the position from Krijn Pons who left Saba in June last year. Pons was on Saba last week to assist with the transfer process. Pons worked for the Public Entity Saba for 3.5 years. He started as coordinator children’s rights and domestic violence in 2016, but after a few months, his tasks were expanded and he started the process of setting up the Community Development Department.

“It was clear that a broader structure had to be put in place in order for the Public Entity Saba to assume more tasks in the social domain. We secured the necessary funding from the Dutch Government, recruited personnel and set up a new department,” said Pons. The Community Development Department became operational early 2018.


Marechaussee Commander Hans Leijtens visits Saba

SABA - Commander of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee Lieutenant-General Hans Leijtens visited Saba on Tuesday, January 21 to meet with local authorities, the police force and, naturally, the six members of the Marechaussee who work here. Three of the six support the police force and three carry out border control tasks.

Leijtens was appointed Commander of the Royal Marechaussee in September 2019. Many people in the Windward Islands may remember him as the Program-Director-General for the Reconstruction of the Windward Islands, appointed by the Dutch Government after Hurricane Irma late 2017 to coordinate the reconstruction process in St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba. He has also worked as the quarter master for the St. Maarten Integrity Chamber.

“I try to visit all my colleagues at least once a year to see how they are doing,” said Leijtens about his current visit to the islands. Members of the Royal Marechaussee are stationed on all six Dutch Caribbean islands, of which 32 in the Caribbean Netherlands. He visited St. Maarten on Monday, and will be in St. Eustatius on Wednesday before going to Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire later this week.

The Royal Marechaussee is in charge of border control on Saba, the rest of the Caribbean Netherlands and the Netherlands. Cooperation with the partners, the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force and the Caribbean Netherlands Customs, is important and much valued, explained Leijtens.

Limited capacity

Being a small island with limited police capacity, the cooperation with the local police force, consisting of six officers and a police chief, is close on Saba. “Having a small organization is challenging, also in the sense of rostering. You have to work together. You make it work together. We have been successfully doing that since 2010,” said Leijtens.

Of the three members of the Royal Marechaussee carrying out the border control tasks on Saba, only one is a local person. The two others carrying out border control tasks are from the Netherlands and rotate between St. Maarten and Saba.

The Saba member of the Royal Marechaussee John Simmons was officially recognized during the Commander’s visit on Tuesday. During a short ceremony at Juliana’s Hotel, Simmons received a certificate from the Commander for his 30 years of service. Simmons started working for the Netherlands Antilles Immigration Department on January 1, 1999.

“We are very grateful for your years of excellent service in several functions and all in the service of Saba,” said Leijtens. Simmons thanked everyone, including the Commander for being there. “As a local person, I have always been proud to serve my island, and I will continue to do so. Sometimes it is not an easy job, but I do it to the best of my ability,” said Simmons.

Gem of the Kingdom

This was Leijtens’ fifth visit to Saba. “It is absolutely true what others say: this is the gem of the Kingdom. It is an island of utter, mesmerizing beauty. Saba has the most beautiful nature, I find. And, I have a lot of admiration for the local government which is advancing the island step-by-step, with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson at the front.”

Leijtens also complimented Saba for its quick recuperation and hard work after hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017. “The reconstruction went fast. In this too, Saba stands out in the region.”

Hans Leijtens and Jonathan JohnsonCommander of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee Hans Leijtens (left) paid a courtesy visit to Saba Island Governor Jonathan Johnson on Tuesday morning, January 21.



Court blocks education minister from sacking board of Islamic school

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Education minister Arie Slob went beyond his remit in demanding the resignation of the board of Amsterdam’s only Islamic secondary school, a court has ruled.

Slob violated the constitutional freedom of education when he threatened to stop funding for the Cornelius Haga Lyceum if it failed to comply with its demand, the district court in Amsterdam ruled on Monday.

The minister intends to appeal against the decision. The ruling is a blow for Slob’s pledge to tackle alleged financial mismanagement at the school, which has been the focus of long-running controversy.

It has been accused of failing to support pupils’ social integration and active citizenship and promoting anti-democratic principles. The court said that while there was evidence of financial irregularities by individuals, there was no sign of widespread malpractice at the school, as Slob claimed.

It also found that education inspectors were aware of the problems but did not see any need to intervene. The ruling is the second blow for Slob’s campaign to impose sweeping reforms on the school.

In November the Council of State ruled he had broken his ministry’s own rules in trying to cut its funding in one go rather than over a six-month period. Slob said in a response on Twitter that he was ‘uncomfortable’ with the Amsterdam court’s decision.

‘The court is contending that there is a place in this school for people with an anti-democratic and anti-integrationist philosophy’, he said.

School director Söner Atasoy said he did not see the ruling as a victory. ‘The law has spoken, but the government has been undermining our school for years,’ he said.

The school is demanding compensation from the ministry and Amsterdam city council for the costs of defending the legal action.



Four arrested as police thwart attempt to break ‘gangster’ out of prison

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Four men have been arrested after a van was set on fire outside a prison in an apparent bid to break out an Amsterdam gangster.

The thwarted plan on Sunday morning was reported to be an attempt to free Omar L., who is serving a life sentence for his involvement in several gangland murders and attempted murders in the capital.

L.’s lawyer, Sander Janssen, confirmed that his client was transferred on Sunday from Zutphen prison to the high-security jail in Vught, but gave no further details. A white van was parked against the gates of Zutphen jail, in Gelderland, and set ablaze, damaging the gates.

Police pursued a getaway vehicle to Zevenaar, near the German border, where one of the four suspects got out and tried to flee on foot. The car was eventually stopped in Wehl after police fired warning shots and arrested three of the suspects. The fourth was apprehended in Zevenaar.

Police zoned off the area and pursued the car with the aid of a helicopter, border police and their German counterparts. A spokesman said: ‘It is a violent incident. We did everything we could to arrest the suspects as quickly as possible.’

The incident was reminiscent of another attempted prison break in 2017, when a gang hijacked a helicopter and tried to break into a prison in Roermond where another Amsterdam gangster, Benaouf A., was being detained.

Police discovered the plot in advance and arrested three men as they were about to carry it out. Eight prisoners managed to escape from jail between 2011 and 2017, while in 2018 a 26-year-old man slipped out of De Schie prison in Rotterdam by hiding in a giant blue bin bag.

Another prisoner who was being released carried him out in the bag, which he was given to take his belongings home in. Breaking out of prison is currently not illegal in the Netherlands, although assisting an escape is.

The government wants to change the law so that prisoners who abscond have to serve longer sentences when they return.



MPs told off for using mobile phone during debates

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – MPs looking at their mobile phones during debates is the number one complaint received by the chairwoman of the Dutch lower chamber Khadija Arib, public broadcaster NOS reports.

An average of 38% of MPs are looking at their phones during a debate, with occasional peaks of 90%, Fractie van Aandacht found.

The collective of students and a commercial company monitored MPs’ phone use during 21 meetings and said stricter rules are necessary to limit use in parliament.

Arib said that although mobile phones are here to stay, she also wants MPs to be conscious of the impression they make. ‘It’s not so much a question of how often they look at their phones but of whether or not they are following the debate, listen to each other and look into each other’s eyes.

We as MPs should be setting an example,’ she told NOS. The chairman said she did not want to ban the use of mobile phones. ‘Documents, motions, news are all coming in via the phone.

This makes it an important tool for MPs to know what is going on outside the meeting, especially during long debates.’ Last year PvdD MP Esther Ouwehand reprimanded prime minister Mark Rutte for being busy with his mobile for much of the debate on nitrogen emissions.

The prime minister admitted it had not been ‘a clever move’. Public disapproval about MPs mobile phone use is not limited to Dutch MPs. In Britain an (unsuccessful) petition to ban phones in parliament was launched last year.


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