Curacao distances itself from Dutch FM's multiculturalism statements; Suriname demands apology
The government of Curacao released a statement distancing itself from statements Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs made about multicultural societies. The island's government "deeply regrets" the statements, because as foreign minister Blok also speaks on behalf of the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. The Surinamese government would like Blok to apologize for his statements.
On Tuesday a video surfaced in which Blok stated, among other things, that he knows of no peaceful multicultural society and that it is genetically determined that people of different groups can not get along with each other. He also called Suriname a "failed state" and said that Singapore only lets in poor migrants "for cleaning". This led to fierce criticism on Blok, after which he sent a letter to parliament saying that he regretted giving offense and used "too sharp words".
"The government absolutely does not agree with these statements that most certainly also deeply touches the core of Curacao's multicultural society. It is our diversity that makes us strong", the Curacao government said in a written statement, NOS reports. "As Curacao we are proud of the fact that we are a society consisting of people from all parts of the world, who live side by side in peace and harmony, despite the different ethnic and religious backgrounds."
The island government emphasized that Blok, as Kingdom Minister, represents "four multiethnic, multi-religious and multicultural countries in the Kingdom" abroad. "Minister Blok's expressions are not representative of the reality in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. On the contrary. In our view the Curacao multicultural society reflects a better picture of norms and values, such as justice, tolerance and freedom, which we share within the Kingdom."
The Surinamese government would like Blok to apologize for his statements about the country, Surinamese newspaper De Ware Tijd reports. The Surinamese Minister of Foreign Affairs handed a note of protest to the Dutch representation in the country in which the government calls on Blok to withdraw his statements and make excuses to the people of Suriname. The government in Paramaribo called Blok's remarks "destabilizing and denigrating" and intends to inform the international community about the issue.
In is letter to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, on Thursday Blok acknowledged that Suriname does not qualify as a failed state under the prevailing international standard. The term failed state means that a state has no control over the country, and Suriname is not one of the countries that can be considered such according to the Fragile State Index.
The three left-wing opposition parties GroenLinks, SP, and PvdA are not satisfied with Blok's letter. The PvdA and SP even called for the foreign affairs part of the Kamer to come back from recess so this matter can be debated, NU.nl reports.
"This can not wait until after the summer", PvdA parliamentarian Lilianne Ploumen said to the newspaper. "He regrets the offense, but I want to know if he regrets his statements and withdraws them." She wants Blok to explain what he meant in his remarks about peaceful multicultural societies. "Does he think that different population groups can not live together?"
SP parliamentarian Sadet Karabulut called Blok's explanation letter "vague" and supports the PvdA's call for an immediate debate on the matter. "The last word has not been said about this", she said. "It is so far-reaching what he said." Karabulut thinks that Blok was trying to justify xenophobia with his statements. According to the SP, Blok harmed the Netherlands' image abroad with these statements - the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Financial Times wrote about Blok's statements on Thursday. "Blok places the Netherlands internationally on the absolute right-side of the political spectrum", Karabulut said, according to NU.nl.
Ploumen added: "The Minister of Foreign Affairs is our highest diplomat and is certainly allowed to have an opinion, but not this one." According to her, people in the Netherlands live together peacefully, but there are certainly problems with integration and discrimination. "We discuss these problems with each other. That should be the message abroad." She also pointed out that the Netherlands is an open economy that earns a lot of money abroad. In that light too, Blok's statements are harmful, according to Ploumen.
"It is strange that we have a foreign minister who does not understand the concept of a failed state", GroenLinks parliamentarian Zihni Ozdil said. He too pointed out that Blok's letter did not say that he retracted his statements. "We still do not know what he thinks about the content of his statements", Ozdil said to the newspaper. "I did not read whether he thinks his words are wrong, harmful and undesirable."
Coalition parties VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie are satisfied with the VVD minister's letter of explanation, and don't think the Kamer has to return from recess to debate the matter. The VVD, D66 and CU did say they are open to a debate after the holiday. "Blok clearly said that he regrets it. That is the end of it for me", VVD parliamentarian Han ten Broeke said to NU.nl. The CDA said Blok provided a sufficient explanation. CU parliamentarian Joel Voordewind did not want to answer NU.nl's questions, but did send the newspaper a text message saying that he finds Blok's letter a "good reaction".
D66 parliamentarian Kees Verhoeven also did not want to answer NU.nl's questions. Pressure is increasing on the parliamentary faction of the D66 to respond to Blok's remarks, according to newspaper AD. A group of D66 members sent their parliamentary faction a letter demanding "sincere apologies" from the Minister. "Blok represents the government to which we as D66 also belong", Maurice Pahladsingh, who himself has a Dutch-Surinamese background, said to AD. "We are talking about something very fundamental. We believe in a pluriform and multicultural society. His statements are felt throughout society. They also hurt me. 'It's nice that you're here, but I do not believe that you can make a good contribution to society', is what Blok is actually saying."