Dutch PM leads tributes to Van Gogh

2nd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

2 November 2004, AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has led tributes to film director Theo van Gogh, who was assassinated in Amsterdam on Tuesday morning.

2 November 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has led tributes to film director Theo van Gogh, who was assassinated in Amsterdam on Tuesday morning.

Balkenende said he was horrified to hear of Van Gogh's murder. But he also called on the public not to jump to conclusions about the deadly attack.

Eyewitnesses at the scene of the killing in east Amsterdam said the man who stabbed and shot Van Gogh "looked like a Muslim". There were also reports that a piece of paper with Islamic text was left on the victim's body.

Balkenende expressed his government's condolences to Van Gogh's family, friends and colleagues.

He said it was a sad day for Van Gogh's relatives, but also for the Netherlands.

The prime minister said people had to be allowed to disagree and express contrary views and asserted that violent acts "would never have the last word in the Netherlands".

He said acceptance of another person's views had to begin with the way children were raised.

Balkenende described Van Gogh as a person with outspoken viewpoints who got involved in public debate. He was a "champion of the free word", Balkenende said.

"It would be unacceptable if the expression of outspoken views was the cause of this brutal killing. As the Dutch government, we are also intensively involved in the progress of the investigation," he said.

"The Netherlands is a country where people can speak their minds. We have to stand together on this."

Balkenende had just returned to work on Monday after four weeks in hospital with a potentially life-threatening foot infection.

Businessman and broadcaster Harry Mens also expressed his shock at Van Gogh's killings. Mens described the filmmaker — whom he knew well — as a bit of a "kamikaze", who expressed his views regardless of who he might offend.

This is the second time the Netherlands has been shocked and polarised by the assassination of a celebrity.

Nine days before Balkenende's Christian Democrats (CDA) won the general election on 15 May 2004, populist and anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn was gunned down in Hilversum.

Initially, people assumed the killer was a Muslim angered by Fortuyn's anti-Islamic viewpoints. But it emerged later that the killer was a native Dutchman, Volkert van der Graaf.

Van der Graaf — initially known as an animal rights activist — later said he killed Fortuyn in a bid to defend the weaker elements of Dutch society. He was sentenced to 18 years jail on appeal in July 2003.

Fortuyn's LPF party led accusations that the left-wing of Dutch politics had created the environment in which Fortuyn could be killed by demonising him and his views.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + murder of Theo van Gogh

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