Rutte takes jabs from MPs over Justice dept. resignations

Opstelten resignation
Justice and Security Minister Ivo Opstelten announces his resignation, Mar. 10, 2015 (photo: Rijksoverheid)Justice and Security Minister Ivo Opstelten announces his resignation, Mar. 10, 2015 (photo: Rijksoverheid)

Prime Minister Mark Rutte called it a “loss for the government,” when opening the parliamentary discussion into the resignation of Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and Secretary Fred Teeven. “We say goodbye to two hardworking, skilled and loyal colleagues,” he said, echoing sentiments he released to the press Tuesday night.

“They have made the Netherlands safer and improved the sense of security,” he said.

The warm words for his VVD colleagues did not lighten the harsh criticism that followed from parliament members. MP Louis Bontes likened the series of events to a new season of House of Cards, saying the Prime Minister ultimately lost control of his cabinet.

Opstelten resigned after details emerged of a Teeven-approved payout to an alleged drug dealer in 2001. The payout totaled 4.7 million guilders, but Opstelten informed Parliament last year that the payout was not more than 1.25 million guilders. A recent investigation from television programme Nieuwsuur discovered the actual terms of the payout, backed up by a receipt for the 15-year-old bank transfer found by the Telegraaf.

Another copy of the transfer turned up at the Justice and Security Ministry on Monday.

PVV leader Geert Wilders referred to the ministry as the “Dutch Bermuda Triangle,” because, “everything disappears.” He added, “The cabinet is [morally] bankrupt. The whole cabinet should resign, Wilders said.

“Go back and sell peanut butter, or whatever it is you want do.”

“Rutte made no cardinal error in judgment?” asked D66 leader Alexander Pechtold. “Why didn’t Teeven just tell the truth? For people and country?” he questioned, referring back to Teeven’s resignation speech.

“What happened? The receipt was lost, and now it’s suddenly found,” asked Christen Unie leader Arie Slob. He says he wants to know the “real story” behind the deal made 15 years ago.

Meanwhile, CDA leader Sybrand Buma wondered what changed between Friday, when Prime Minister Rutte said there was nothing to be worried about, and yesterday. “Two days later, Opstelten and Teeven thus resigned. What happened between Friday and Monday?” Buma asked.

Labour leader Diederik Samson came to the defense of coalition partner VVD when the D66 leader questioned the cabinet’s desire to present the truth of the payout issue. While Pechtold accused the coalition of doing no further research after Opstelten’s consultation with the lower house last year, Samson refuted.

“We have always asked questions, and gotten answers. We also cannot help that the payment information was not revealed until this weekend,” Samson said.