Politicians heap ridicule on language drive

24th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

24 January 2006, AMSTERDAM — "Oh no. Minister Verdonk doesn't allow me to speak English in public anymore," MP Bert Bakker joked during a parliamentary debate in The Hague on Monday afternoon.

24 January 2006

AMSTERDAM — "Oh no. Minister Verdonk doesn't allow me to speak English in public anymore," MP Bert Bakker joked during a parliamentary debate in The Hague on Monday afternoon.

Bakker, a member of the junior government party D66, promised to adhere to the language initiative Verdonk wants to include in a code of conduct to enhance the Dutch identity. But in response to a question from a colleague, Bakker said: "That goes without saying."

Parliamentarians were discussing the new well-being legislation (WMO) on Monday but references to the 'Verdonk code' made repeated appearances.

Moroccan-born MP Naïma Azough of the green-left Groenlinks talked about the "extreme make over" being planned by the health ministry to the law that deals with the welfare of senior citizens, people with disabilities and the chronically ill.

MP Margot Kraneveldt of the populist LPF party asked about the "bling, bling" of the new law. Bakker categorised the legal changes as "pimp my law".

Other parliamentarians also got into the spirit, with references to "go, no go" (the point at which a final decision would be taken on whether to implement the changes) and "comply or explain".

Though whimsical, the behaviour during the debate illustrates the political opposition Verdonk faces in trying to compel everyone to speak Dutch in public.

Verdonk, a member of the Liberal Party (VVD), outlined her idea for a code of conduct to strengthen the Dutch national identity at a conference of the VVD's youth wing at the weekend. The young Liberals rejected her proposal immediately.

She told journalists afterwards she believes allochtonen (non-native Dutch residents) have a need for rules that illustrate what is expected of them.

Copying the Rotterdam Code, which was unveiled by political leaders in the port city on Friday, Verdonk said her national code would emphasise the need for everyone to embrace non-discrimination and equality between men and women.

Verdonk said she often heard autochtone (native Dutch people) say 'you have settled in the Netherlands and therefore you have to speak Dutch. Full stop.' The minister claimed this definition was "also liberal" because her party wanted to ensure people "felt safe".

Some of her party colleagues don't agree. Pieter van Woensel, the VVD's Alderman for International Affairs in The Hague, characterised the obligation to speak Dutch in the street as "not very likely" to succeed.

Laetitia Griffith, a VVD member of the Amsterdam's executive council, also dismissed the idea. She said people must have the right to speak the language of their choice in public – as long as it did not cause a nuisance.

Verdonk later said in a radio interview that she was not proposing a ban on other languages, merely a recommendation for people who settle in the Netherlands to use the local language.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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