Press Review Tuesday 14 September 2010

RNW archive

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The rightwing parties pick up coalition negotiations where they left off, Al-Qaeda has plans to swap hostages for the murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, and Christians are outraged by kids playing demons.


Right-wing parties back to the table for coalition talks
Today’s headlines come as no surprise: coalition negotiations for a rightwing government have “got the green light” to start up again, as NRC Handelsblad puts it. Rightwing De Telegraaf is confident that a minority coalition cabinet provided by the conservative VVD and the centre-right Christian Democrats, and relying on the support of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party in parliament, will be “on the palace steps within a month”. But left-leaning de Volkskrant warns VVD leader Mark Rutte that if he doesn’t pull it off his rightwing government at this third attempt, it will be time to move over and give someone else a chance.

The party leaders seemed to be putting the finishing touches to the coalition agreement until two weeks ago. Then Ab Klink, right-hand man to Christian Democrat leader Maxime Verhagen in the negotiations, wrote a letter to his party saying that as far as he was concerned they should have no more truck with the anti-Islam Freedom Party. Mr Wilders, jumping before he was pushed, said the Christian Democrats were looking too wobbly and withdrew his support.

But then the troubled Mr Klink resigned his seat in parliament to make way for a rightwing candidate, so Mr Wilders said he was happy pick up the talks where they had left off. The VVD and Christian Democrat leaders began publicly rubbing their hands ready to get back to the table, but this raised eyebrows as it was now up to referee Queen Beatrix to decide how the game should continue.

The Queen appointed Herman Tjeenk Willink to answer two questions, de Volkskrant explains. Question one: was there “a reasonable degree of certainty” that renewed talks would produce a government? The best answer he could come up with: “I’m convinced that the party leaders are convinced there’s a reasonable degree of certainty.” Question two: what circumstances had essentially altered to change Mr Wilders’ mind about withdrawing his support? The best answer Mr Tjeenk Willink could get out of Mr Wilders: “I slept on it.”

So no surprise, we knew it’s what they all wanted, the talks resume. But AD focuses on a warning from Mr Tjeenk Willink that Mr Wilders’ hard-line Euro-sceptic stance means the cabinet will have to look for other support in parliament when it comes to EU matters. So a rightwing coalition can’t bank on a smooth ride ahead.

Al-Qaeda wants hostage swap for Theo van Gogh’s killer
“Al-Qaeda wants Theo van Gogh’s murderer” we learn from De Telegraaf. North African terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) apparently has plans to try and swap Western hostages for Mohammed Bouyeri, jailed in the Netherlands for killing the outspoken Dutch Islam critic and filmmaker Van Gogh in 2004. The news comes in a report by the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, presented to parliament on Monday. The report says AQIM’s plans don’t represent a direct kidnapping threat for Dutch citizens, but if Dutch hostages are taken the group may try to use them as bargaining chips to have Bouyeri released.

The counterterrorist organisation concludes that “International terrorist groups still see the Netherlands as hostile to Islam and thus an ‘attractive and legitimate target’, in particular due to the remarks made by Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders,” says De Telegraaf. What’s more, in recent months several Dutch Muslims have been under observation because they had plans to join the armed struggle abroad. Nevertheless, the report hardly paints an alarming picture of radical Islam in the Netherlands. It stresses that “an extremely limited number of people” are involved. And although the Somali community in particular remains a potential source of violent extremists, “there are few incidents of violent radicalisation in the Netherlands”.

Antillean youth shootings: down to slavery?
“There’s been enough shooting.” leads with the story that the Antillean community in the Netherlands is planning a campaign against violence in the wake a number of recent shootings involving Antillean youths.

Not only are young Antilleans over-represented in the crime figures,’s graphics show, but they also continue their criminal careers longer than Moroccan delinquents, for example, who settle down and have families. The paper asks why there should be such a culture of violent crime in the community from the Dutch islands in the Caribbean, and comes up with some striking conclusions.

Firstly, “Antillean boys and men are impulsive machos who are quick to defend their honour.” They spend a lot of time on the street, often have children by more than one woman, and hop from one to the other, says Marion van San, youth and education professor at Utrecht University. “You earn respect from the group with gold chains and expensive clothes. And by showing you’re not scared and don’t give a damn about anything.”

Glenn Helberg, chairman of a body representing Dutch people with Caribbean roots, has a more historical explanation for Antillean crime. “These people are descended from slaves in the colonies. That affects people’s minds.” Marion van San agrees. She says that while Turkish and Moroccan immigrants set up shops and businesses, Antilleans don’t invest in their future. “That might be explained by their past in slavery,” says Van San, “The attitude is ‘I’m in a miserable situation and there’s nothing I can do about it’. You even see it in the language. If you’re just too late for the bus, you don’t say ‘I’ve missed the bus’, but ‘the bus has left me’.”

New law lets police go for the dough
“Go for the money” is the new police approach to dealing with crime, de Volksrant reports. In 2009, the police confiscated 25 million euros-worth of “criminally obtained goods”, thanks to new legislation popularly known as the “pluck-them bill” – eight times more than the previous year.

Most crime, from child porn to drug trafficking, is driven by money, goes the argument, so to hit the criminals where it hurts you have to deprive them of their ill-gotten gains. For example, when police find a cannabis plantation, they no longer just destroy the crop and arrest the culprits. “It’s not about the guys and the kilos any more, but the dough.”

First the police carefully observe who’s taking the profit from the drugs. Then they raid the plantation and apply an ingenious sum to work out how much cash the crop has been producing, based on the area covered and the number of plants. Finally, they go to work recovering goods to the same value, says the boss of the police Financial Economic Crime organisation, Frederik Jansen. “We lift boats out of the water and empty out jewellery boxes.”

Plastic demon tokens outrage Christians
“Christians all over the country are up in arms” about a marketing campaign by supermarket chain C1000, says De Telegraaf. The stores are giving away tokens known as ‘Dungans’ for children to collect. Inspired by the popular TV series Avatar, the tokens show characters representing earth, fire and water, and kids can use them to play a game on the principle of ‘paper, scissors, stone’.

But what the Christian protestors object to is that the characters are in fact “demons”. “‘Children change into the Dungan character they’ve chosen. These evil spirits then fight through the children. It’s disgusting,’ say Jos and Regina of the Christian website”

Some C1000 supermarkets have yielded to the complaints and replaced their Dungans with less devilish alternatives. A spokesperson for C1000 tactfully explains: “We know it’s a sensitive matter for Christians. We didn’t mean to shock. The Dungans should be seen as a fantasy world.”