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Belgium gets new government after 541 days; Elio Di Rupo as prime minister

By Eline Hædersdal

AMSTERDAM – Belgium has elected a new French-speaking, homosexual Prime minister, Elio Di Rupo. They put together a new government after a record of 541 days without, on Dec. 5. There are both good hopes and critique to Di Rupo, also known as the man with the red bow tie.

“It’s one of the smallest Belgian Governments ever!” said Social Affairs Minister, Laurette Onkelinx, after a 20-hour meeting on Monday.

Belgian politician Yves Leterme told Dutch television that he is not satisfied with the new prime minister’s poor Dutch language skills.

“If you’re looking for public support for a government, it may be a problem when the leader of that government has difficulty speaking the language of the majority”, said Leterme.

Socialist and Italian immigrant son, Di Rupo, 60, is the first prime minister of Belgium to have French as a first spoken language since 1974.

The country is divided between the 4.5 million French speakers, living mostly in the southern part, and the majority of 6.5 million Dutch speakers, who live mostly in the wealthier northern part of Belgium.

Not only is Di Rupo the first French speaking prime minister in 37 years, he is also the first homosexual EU-prime minister ever.

Di Rupo was the leader of the Socialist Party in the country, and regional prime minister of the Wallonia region.

Belgian journalist Francis Van de Woestyne, who previously interviewed Di Rupo, shared his views about the prime minister’s political qualities: “Patience, charisma and good leadership qualities”.

Professor of politics, Lieven De Winter, from Université Catholique de Louvain explained that the odds are not good for the new government.

“This government cannot be popular, due to the fact that it will have to implement cuts and the fact that the opposition in Flanders will say that everything they do is at the Flemish expense” according to De Winter.

He acknowledged that the new government will most likely not survive next elections.

“Not because of his popularity, but through the lack of an alternative,” said De Winter.

The next Belgian elections will take place in 2014.

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Categories: Home, Politics

Dutch foreign affairs apologize for Indonesian executions.

By Eline Hædersdal

The Netherlands gave a formal apology for the massacres that happened in 1947 in Rawagede, Indonesia, on Dec. 5.

Foreign minister, Uri Rosenthal, said: “This apology does justice to the seriousness of events in Rawagede.”

The minister sympathizes with the relatives of the victims.

“I hope it will help the relatives give closure to this extraordinarily difficult episode in their lives and allow them to focus on the future,’ said Rosenthal.

To compensate for the injustice the Dutch government decided to give the relatives of the victims a sum of 20,000 Euros each.

The massacre took place in 1947 where 431 men and boys were killed, but official papers state that only 150 people were killed.

Rawagede is in the west part of Java, Indonesia, which used to be a Dutch colony.

The relatives have been struggling to get a compensation and apology for years, which they got today.

Categories: Home, Politics

First results election Egypt: Brotherhood’s big winner

 

CAIRO-  First results of Egypt’s first post-Mubarak parliament indicate a dominant majority of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party in the new legislature.

 

Al-Nour, a more conservative Salafist party takes a good second place.

 

A bigger surprise is the premiliary victory of Salafis, the ultraconservative Islamists. They reject women’s participation in voting or public life and see most of the popular entertainment as sinful.

 

Salafi groups could take as much as a quarter of the votes according to analysts in the state-run news media.

 

Egypt’s liberal and leftist political forces seem to be unable to compete with the Islamists, expect for some notable individual triumphs.  Shady- el Ghazal Harb, one of the most politically active of the liberal parties said: “We were washed out.”

 

Final results for the lower house of parliament are expected to arrive on 13 January and for the upper house on 14 March. Though the ultimate scope of the new Parliament’s power remains unclear because Egypt is still under military rule since the resignation of Mr. Mubarak as president in February.

 

Meanwhile, at the Tahrir Square protesters are still camped and being attacked by the military. “Thugs are now attacking the protesters in Tahrir,” said former UN nuclear weapons chief Mohamed ElBaradei. According to The Ministry of health said that more than 100 people are injured in which 10 in critical condition.

Categories: Politics

Will the Sinterklaas tradition die without Black Pete?

December 4, 2011 1 comment

By Anneclaire Michele

AMSTERDAM – A YouTube movie of two activists getting kicked and sprayed with pepper spray by several police officers led to nationwide attention to the arrestees.

Why were these men, one of them repeating, “I did not do anything, I did not do anything” over and over again, so forcefully arrested by the police force?

The answer is that they were protesting against the current style of celebrating of Sinterklaas during the arrival of Sinterklaas in Dordrecht.

Sinterklaas is a part of a century-old Dutch tradition, during which every child who has behaved him- or herself in the past year receives presents on the 5th of December.

During his arrival in the Netherlands, a white horse and many Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) accompany the Sint.

It is this notion of Zwarte Pieten both men had problems with and would like to see changed.

They represented the movement “Zwarte Piet is Racisme (Black Pete is racism)” at the arrival of the Sint in Dordrecht, by wearing t-shirts with that slogan across their chest, which according to the police was reason enough to arrest them with an iron fist.

What is at heart of there movement? Why are these men demonstrating at what at first sight appears to be an innocent celebration for children?

“Zwarte Piet is Racisme” first and foremost stresses that they want to enter a peaceful dialogue.

As one of the men arrested in Dordrecht, Quinsy Gairo says in a radio interview: “Do not use force, we want to engage in dialogue, not violence”.

The group states on their Facebook page that “for the greater part we have nothing against our national holiday. Unfortunately, there is an element in the celebration that promotes inequality and racism.”

The element promoting this inequality and racism is Zwarte Piet, a figure that was added to the Sinterklaas celebration during the colonial times.

Five years prior to the abolishment of slavery, “a Negro, under the name of Pieter” is firstly described as the “servant” of Sinterklaas, he received his name Zwarte Piet (black Pete) three years later.

Currently, Zwarte Piet has a black skin tone, frizzy hair and thick lips that are often painted red.

His clothing is based on the uniforms black pages wore in the 17th and 18th century and his earrings are large golden Creole earrings.

This image shows many similarities with the stereotypical representation of Africans.

This image coming from the colonial times is an expression of the notion that the ‘White race’ was supreme to the ‘Black race’.

Moreover the cast between the white boss (Sint) and his black servants (the Pieten) inevitably evokes associations with the Dutch colonial past.

Zwarte Piet usually talks improper Dutch, often with a Surinamese accent, and does silly tricks, which in the eyes of many stimulates a negative imaging of certain groups in society.

“The message behind the ‘Zwarte Piet is Racisme’ campaign is not that the Netherlands are bad, the message is that the Netherlands can do better”, says Jerry ‘Kno’Ledge Afriyie’, one of the men arrested in Dordrecht on Facebook.

The group is not against the poems, the idea of giving and receiving or children getting presents, but he continues: “Our campaign wants to get rid of the racist element in our national celebration, namely Zwarte Piet”.

Their main goal though, is to get people talking: “We want people to enter a dialogue with each other about their personal experiences with Zwarte Piet and his image.”

A lot of Dutch people are not in favor of changing the celebration of Sinterklaas and are in favor of maintaining this image of Zwarte Piet.

An often heard counterargument is the argument that Zwarte Piet would get his black colour due to all the trips to the chimney he makes and thus has nothing to do with the racism.

But then, proponents of the ‘Zwarte Piet is racisme” movement state: “Why does Zwarte Piet has red lips and frizzy hair?”

Some state the tradition will die without Zwarte Piet, however, in earlier celebrations of the tradition, up to the 1850s, there was no Zwarte Piet.

Another important question to ask is whether will Sinterklaas be affected when the notion of Zwarte Piet will be gone or changed?

Is the essence of the party the look of the servant of the Sint or that children are being spoiled with gifts and sweets for their good behavior?

There is also a possibility that the people that believe Zwarte Piet needs to remain part of the Sinterklaas celebration, want to secure the economical benefits of Sinterklaas.

A spokesperson of “Zwarte Piet is Racisme” says: “The police literally told us that Dordrecht has spent a lot of time and money in obtaining the arrival of Sinterklaas and that they will not tolerate any opposing opinions.”

People do not want to change the Sinterklaas celebration, because they don’t want to lose their part-time job, and companies are also reluctant to change the celebration, because they will then be stuck with all the merchandise.

“It is very sad to hear that apparently economic interests are more important. Society has seriously drifted away from its original foundations, if we allow this organization of priorities,” the spokesperson continues.

It is safe to say that the discussion about Zwarte Piet has not settled yet, and one might wonder if it ever will.

But what is maybe even more worrying, is how this debate uncovers the racist ideas some people still have.

The people disagreeing with the current Zwarte Piet are by many not consider to be Dutch, which can be seen in their arguments starting of with: “Well, WE Dutchies, …”.

Moreover, as long as people post messages on Facebook telling the supporters of this movement they “have to stop with playing the eternal victim”, the Netherlands still has a long way to go, not only regarding the Zwarte Piet issue, but also in terms of becoming the tolerant nation they claim to be.

Amsterdam Cannabis Cup shut down by police

By Marlene Werner

AMSTERDAM – Dutch police raided the 24th edition of the annual Cannabis festival Sep. 23, shutting down the expo, searching visitors at the exits and confiscating cannabis and hash, an affiliated magazine reported.

“You need to leave the building through the exits. When leaving the property, you will be subjected to a search by police [inaudible] of the opium act,” an announcement over loud speakers informed, as shown in a video posted on LiveLeaks by an attendee.

Uniformed officers entered the premises of Borchland, accompanied by several tax agents, and separated visitors from exhibitors, who were required to remain at their stands.

Police searched visitors before allowing them to leave, while revenue agents investigated illegal activities of present exhibitors.

Undercover investigations had uncovered violations of the Opium Act, with people giving away free samples of cannabis and hash to promote their products Sep. 22; facts that triggered the subsequent raid, a police officer was reported saying.

High Times, the festival’s host, reported that a misunderstanding about a permit application filed by the venue to host the event implicated the law enforcement.

The premises were emptied after two hours of police action; no attendees were arrested, while one vendor identified as surpassing Dutch legal cannabis possession limits.

“Wow. The Dutch Police have entered the cannabis cup and they are shutting us down. Sad day…,” High Times Magazine twittered as a response to the news.

Never before has the expo been raided in its 24-year long existence.

Restriction of the national cannabis market figures highly on the Dutch government’s agenda in recent times, with the introduction of a ‘wietpas’, which restricts cannabis’ sales to residents, waiting for implementation on a national level.

Categories: Courts and Crime, Politics

CDA tackles student-housing misery

By Marlene Werner

AMSTERDAM –Piet Hein Donner, CDA Minister of Inner Affairs, presented means to tackle the shortage of student apartments creating 16.000 additional rooms by next year, Dutch media reported.

Donner’s measures make part of the national agenda plan for student housing estates (landelijke actieplan studentenhuisvestiging) he and others signed Nov. 17.

“The current problem mainly concerns the rising numbers of students. This might be a result of longer study duration due to the crisis,” Donner said to NOS Journaal.

Funded building mainly concerns student rooms in dormitories.

The ambitious plans are realized by reducing the obligatory size of student rooms from 18m2 to 15m2, thereby allocating fixed financing of €1 billion to more resulting space.

Further financial support is still required.

Additional supporting measures include a reduction in required parking space and decreased land prices, offers realized by the affected municipalities.

Loud complaints on the immense shortage are heard repeatedly every year, right after the start of a new academic period.

Amsterdam, Utrecht and Leiden show most problematic circumstances, with students waiting for a room for more than a year.

Dutch media published several accounts earlier this year lamenting the terrible, and consecutively worsening, situation.

“A student who is starting a master education in Utrecht will graduate before he finds an apartment,” said Pascal ten Have, chairman of LSVb (Landelijke Studenten Vakbond), a Dutch student association.

Amsterdam’s shortage in student facilities is estimated around 14.000 rooms amiss, ASVA, a Dutch student association, said in September.

National numbers lie within an estimate of 30.000.

Categories: Politics

Asscher Moderates Glorification of Wallen

By Linda Meijvis

AMSTERDAM –Amsterdam will adjust advertisements promoting The Wallen, the city’s red light district,reports the website of the Provincial Government.

“For years I’ve been pleading for a fairer image of the Red Light district,” Amsterdam alderman Lodewijk Asscher said. “This includes that the municipality does not advertise it.”

On some municipality-owned websites, including Iamsterdam.com, the Red Light district is portrayed as “very exciting.”

However, the district also has a darker side, involving human trafficking. Diederik Boomsma from the CDA party said that “Research has shown that 50 to 80% of the women are not working here on a voluntary basis.”

Asscher wants a more balanced image of the Red Light district, in which the area’s problems are also portrayed. Removing the district completely is not necessary according to Asscher, as “the area remains a historical part of town with a lot of little old streets, beautiful facades and elegant squares.”

In the coming weeks, the municipality will discuss the one-sided information available online with the organizations behind Amsterdam Partners, public-private partnership established in 2004. The organization connects regional municipalities and promotional institutes, aiming to promote and improve the image of Amsterdam on an international level.

Last year, Asscher was also in the news about the Red Light district and argued for increasing of the minimum age of the prostitutes working in the area from 18 to 23.

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