I’m not going away, defiant Immigration Minister asserts
17 May 2006
AMSTERDAM — Dutch Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has said she never considered resigning during the “stormy and emotional” emergency debate about former Liberal parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
The fall-out of the debate has damaged Verdonk’s hopes of leading the Liberal party (VVD) into the general election next year. But Verdonk said she is not pulling out of the race.
Although she has been forced to reconsider Hirsi Ali’s case, even a positive outcome is unlikely to win her back fulsome support among VVD MPs.
The debate ended shortly before 3am on Wednesday morning. The big question on everyone’s mind was whether Verdonk would bow out from politics. When questioned in the corridors of parliament buildings, her answer was typically upbeat: “Je moet optreden, niet aftreden”. This is a play on words that means ‘you have to take action, not resign’.
All parties angrily grilled Verdonk over an eleven-hour period, starting on Tuesday, on why she informed Somali-born Hirsi Ali on Monday her naturalisation in 1997 was invalid because she gave false personal details to get asylum five years before.
A feminist and a fierce critic of aspects of Islam, Hirsi Ali announced on Tuesday afternoon she was leaving the Netherlands and moving to the US to work for a neo-conservative think tank.
Hirsi Ali told a press conference she is leaving for a number of reasons. She wants a bigger podium to express her views, but has been deeply shocked by a court judgement ordering her to leave her home in The Hague. Neighbours expressed fears about their safety as Hirsi Ali has been repeated threatened over her views on Islam. Verdonk’s statement on her naturalisation was the last straw.
The story has become international news and led to exaggerated claims that freedom of speech is being stifled in the Netherlands.
Verdonk said described the issue and the debate, in which her own party colleagues turned on her, as an “incredible occurrence involving many emotions”. But the Minister insisted she had acted properly and conscientiously. “I also have sorrow, but I feel supported by my party group,” she said. Verdonk said.
Verdonk said rather unconvincingly she “naturally” also feels supported by Finance Minister and former VVD leader Gerrit Zalm. He attended Hirsi Ali’s press conference on Tuesday and was clearly livid at Verdonk’s behaviour.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2006]
Subject: Dutch news