The Floriade exhibition and Bhutan part 2.

An update.

Today we had a conversation with one of the people responsible for bringing Bhutan to the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo, the Netherlands this year. Next Sunday that expo will come to an end to return in ten years or so. As some (but not enough) people know is Bhutan the country with the largest number of refugees through ethnic cleansing per capita worldwide. On September 22nd the Floriade held a Bhutan Day focussing on the contribution of Bhutan to the world with the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness and the countries rigid but nature friendly eco policies.

Bhutan House of Happiness:
“Happiness often sneaks in through a door, you didn’t know you left open.”
And so do human rights violators.

Main guest of that day was Mr. Dago Tshering, special envoy for the Bhutanese prime minister Jigme Thinley and the one responsible for the ukaze that started off the ethnic cleansing and many of the repressive policies behind that. A man with blood on his hands.

Our conversation was meant to get an answer to some questions concerning the organizers for Bhutan’s Floriade precence comments on the fact that they hosted one of the worst ethnic cleansers who is because of that in the eyes of many a de facto criminal.

We got our answer.

The organizers state that they are not in any way making any statement that they label as ‘political’. This means that they do not have any comments regarding the above and will not distance themselves from the presence of Bhutan and Bhutan’s special envoy of the prime minister, Mr. Dago Tshering. They acknowledged that they were in aware of the Bhutanese refugee crisis from the start but did not check the background of their honored guests.

The answer was not a surprise but is a trigger for further research on the financing of the Floriade event and the use of government and other susidies for presence and events on the Floriade for specific countries that are known for their human rights violations and by doing so passively supporting the governments of these countries to present themselves in a positive manner to the world without any discussion about these governments human rights violations. While the Floriade is partly subsidised by the Dutch government who in another capacity is taking the financial consequenses of keeping the UNHCR refugee camps and UNHCR third country resettlement project operational. Countries like China, North Korea and Bhutan have been present on the Floriade expo without any discussion on their human rights situation so far.

In the coming week extra research and the responses (or lack of that) from involved people like Mrs. Erica Terpstra (ambassador for the Bhutan presence on the Floriade) and long time VVD politica and the Floriade direction will result in an article concerning these matters and challenging the organization of the event about the human rights violations of their participants. Some information is already available including the answers to parliamentary questions regarding the €5,000,000 subsidy by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture for the Floriade and the skyhigh salaries of the Floriade board. More information will follow in the coming days regarding the flow of money.

Sometime next week such an article will be written and published in the media.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Advertenties

Dutch Floriade exhibition embraces human rights violator.

Note: today we received an invitation from the organizing committee of the Floriade to discuss our findings with them. Of course we accept that invitation.

On September 22nd this year a Bhutan day was held at the Floriade World Horticultural Expo in Venlo in the Netherlands. The day was centered around making the world a better place and the concept of ‘Gross National Happiness‘. Amongst the people present that day was Mrs. Erica Terpstra, a well known Dutch liberal ex politician who made a television program about beautiful Bhutan, its nature and culture. Next to Mrs. Terpstra, Mr. Dago Tshering was present. He holds a minister seat in the government of the small Himalayan kingdom.

Erica Terpstra returned home with the honor of having a tulip named after the queen of Bhutan presented, presumably unaware of the fact that she had been shaking hands with a notorious human rights violator. Because, who is Dago Tshering for real?

In the early ninetees, after demonstrations against the at that time already longtime ongoing civil rights violations, a process of ethnic/religious/cultural cleansing was started by the Bhutan government. In just a few years the civil rights and citizenship were taken away from over 20% of Bhutan’s population. Changes in marital and citizenship laws were cooked up to do that. Wearing other clothes than the traditional dress from the powerful ruling elite minority was forbidden and the Nepalese language was banned from schools and government organizations.

Through a policy of state terror in which political murder, random arrests, torture and years long incarceration of intellectuals and leaders from the south and east of the country, the population in those regions was oppressed. After violent attacks by the Royal Bhutan Army and the police against village leaders, their families and other local leaders, a total of over 100,000 and possibly 150,000 people fled the country. Many of them at gunpoint after being forced to sign papers stating they were voluntary leaving and abandoning their homes, land and possessions. The by far percentagewise largest exodus in 100 years really started off in the first months of 1991 after an edict written by that same Dago Tshering who came to Venlo in the Netherlands to welcome the visitors to the Bhutan pavillion on the Floriade exhibition.

Because, on August 17, 1990, Dago Tshering, then Deputy Home Minister of Bhutan wrote a ‘NOTIFICATION’. It states literally, and I quote:

You are hereby instructed to immediately inform alls the gups, DYT members and the general public in your dzongkhag that any Bhutanese national leaving the country to assist and help the anti-nationals shall no longer be considered as a Bhutanese citizen. It must also be made very clear that such people’s family members living under the same household will also be held fully responsible and forfeit their citizenship.

With this order to the Dzongkhas’s, Dago Tshering personally kicked off the ethnic cleansing that would in the end lead to the exile of over 1/6th of Bhutan population.

The Netherlands is, together with the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the European Parliament, financing the UNHCR refugee camps in Nepal and the resettlement of the larger part of the population of these camps to these fore mentioned countries. By doing so the West is taking the rap for the effects of the Bhutanese ethnic cleansing that was initiated and excuted since 1990 by Dago Tshering and the current prime minister of Bhutan, Mr. Jigme Thinley. The international community has until now spend tens of millions of dollars on this issue and will continue to do so on request by the United Nations. The European Union itself has sourced the UNHCR at the end of 2011 with over 3 million euros for upholding the refugee camps in Nepal and taking care of the after effects after these camps will be emptied by the ‘durable solution’ as the mass resettlement is euphemistically named by the UNHCR.

Bhutan has since 1991 systematically refused to take a serious effort in repatriation of its own people to their villages and homes. The victims live in diaspora without expectations for return to their motherland.

In 2012 however, Dago Tshering is received and honored by the Floriade. There were no Bhutanese refugees present in Venlo. They were not invited by the organization and Mrs. Terpstra probably again had no idea what she was dealing with.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

The Bhutan lie exhibited on the Dutch floriade

Today was Bhutan day at the Floriade 2012 floral exhibition in Venlo, the Netherlands. A day underlining the message of Gross National Happiness as advocated by the king of Bhutan and his vasals like Jigme Thinley, the prime minister who are both responsible for the ethnic cleansing in the early ninetees in Bhutan.

Image

Early April our queen Beatrix visited the Bhutan pavillion on the floriade to consume the lie. No mention then and no mention today about the continuous human rights violations by the Bhutanese government. No mention about political prisoners, violence against the Bhutanese citizens, the abuse of civil and human rights.

Of course not.

Because like Mrs. Happiness Netherlands, Erica Terpstra (ex sporter, ex politician and derailed public figure), the local Rotary club, the many companies involved in trade with Bhutan, the Floriade organization and the royal family, do not want to know or hear about what happened in the early ninetees of the past century and what is still happening regarding the fate of the Bhutanese people living in the south and east of that country.

The Floriade is a money (greed) driven event where companies promote themselves in a socially acceptable manner. And so, all the people passing through the Bhutan pavillion and all the companies involved, prefer positive-only information. The receivers are switched off, the ears closed and the eyes blinded. Be positive, be the change, be this and be that, be positive and be happy, that is what it is all about in this positiveness show.

In another place on the globe tens of thousands of Bhutanese still suffer hardship in camps. With too littje food, a lack of adequate healthcare, hostility from the surrounding community, without rights, without citizenship, be stateless, poor and driven away from their motherland over twenty years ago. By force, at gunpoint and as a result of threats, abuse, torture and even murder.

In yet another place on the globe (actually many other places of the globe) people live who have been resettled and who have suffered the exile, the camp life and the hardship. And who have been enabled to start a new life elsewhere. Away from their country and region, their culture and their friends and even their families. Living in diaspora. They are the ones who are not seen at the commercialized Floriade event. They are the ones who are not seen by our queen or our crown prince who prefers to shoot bows and arrows with his Bhutanese counterpart. They are the ones without the voices and without the faces, without the power to stand up.

And it is them who we care about. The fact that their situation is largely unknown in the misinformed western world is the reason why we do our work. Why we make our film, have published our books and exhibit our photos. To advocate their rights to be like we are, human beings with their own place under the sun and the same rights as anyone else.

Come visit our exhibition in the Domchurch and buy our books. Help us to tell their story and capture their history, help us to not forget them and help us to delete the myth of gross national happiness!

UNFORGOTTEN photo exhibition
Domchurch Utrecht
September 15 to Oktober 26, 2012

 

 

Freedom of speech in a country in distress.

The Netherlands is a country in distress. A land with a population and a government and parliament who in general do not longer understand the basics of democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of demontration. Liberties that are the very foundation of the international acknowledged human rights and the part of the root of a free democracy.

Why do I make such a judgement?

Well, let’s bring forward two incidents involving Dutch members of parliament to illustrate why I write this.

Geert Wilders
(PVV member of parliament – allowed to initiate a discriminating website and backed by the prime minister)

A couple of weeks ago the right wing political party, Freedom Party or PVV, started an initiative by bringing a website online were anyone is requested to file complaints about specific groups in Dutch society. Focussing on Polish and Eastern Europeans as being the cause of raising criminality figures, stealing jobs from the Dutch and things like that. At least according to the opinion of that party. Of course a large number of decent Dutch and almost the whole European Union reponded in anger. Justly so. But the prime minister (from the Liberal party) simply refused to denounce that PVV initiative. Even when urged to do so by almost all non PVV politicians in the Netherlands and many others in Europe. The effect of that of course is the démasqué of the Netherlands as a tolerant and non discriminating country. Simply because a political party that is supporting the minority Liberal-Christian Democrat government is allowed to discriminate and the prime minister backs that.

Somehow in this case some people lost focus on the value of freedom of speech as they seem to interpret that as the freedom to insult and discriminate. And some other politicians do not even want to stay away from that. Making this incident the ultimate devaluation of the universal right to freedom of speech. Thank you Mr. Wilders for helping to make this disgusting political attitude clear by initiating that flatout discriminating website that is still active to the disgrace of the Netherlands.

Sharon Gesthuizen
(Socialist Party member of parliament – arrested for protesting peaceful while carrying a coffin)

Today there was another incident. A Dutch member of parliament and Socialist Party was arrested during a public protest against the bad ecnomic policy of the Dutch postal service. The arrest was made by the police because she did not adhere to previously ‘agreed’ rules for that protest. Thing is that the police makes rules and simply does not accept that these rules are broken, even non violently. What did happen during that protest? Well, the deal was that it was to be held in a specific location in front of the parliament building and that the protestors were not allowed to bring a coffin with them during that protest. Reason for that being that the police finds carrying a coffin in a protest on the same day as the funeral of the children victims of a terrible bus accident is being held in Belgium, our neighbouring country, indecent.

This is interesting as in this case the police seems to be judging the way protesters (non violently) protest. Not based on the law but on the police’s opinion on what is decent. Something that is most certainly not in the capacity of the police to do. There is no legal basis for that and only in ‘police states‘ where democracy is not the basis the police force does things like that. The arrest was explicitly made for that reason according to the police spokes person. Now, of course it is not very sensitive of the protestors and this member of parliament in regard to the feelings of the victims of that bus accident and their relatives. But on the other hand this protest had absolutely nothing to do with that. The reaon for protesting was something completely different and the location of the protest in our country. So the police doesn’t allow a protest because of a memorial service in another country.
By all means this is a crazy thing. The police actually is limiting the freedom of speech and arresting a member of parliament without a legal basis. Therefore the police is breaching the democratic foundation and rules of this country.

So the simple conclusion is that right wing politicians have the liberty to openly insult and discriminate against groups in the Dutch society and even make an openly call for action to the population to do the same. Left wing politicians on the other hand who protest against an anti-social policy of a large company are arrested because of carrying harmles (though possibly shocking) objects in a peaceful protest are arrested by the police and held in custody for five hours.
Connecting these two incidents is a good example of the current state of democracy and freedom in the Netherlands. That state can be comprised into one four words long sentence:

Gone  – down – the – drain.

The Netherlands is a country in distress. Democracy is translated in the freedom to insult and dicriminate, vulnerable people, the arts, education, health care, public transport and many other important areas of society are being abolished and opposition is being silenced by the police on vague and unlawful grounds. But does anyone in parliament see this reality? Do the people see this? Does anyone get worried? Does anyone do anything against this moral downfall?

Alice © 2012

Democracy hypocrisy.

I live in a hypocrisy. I used to live in a democracy but to all realistic standards my country of birth cannot be declared a democracy in the true sense of the word. The reason being that in a true democracy (the old Greek model and not the all to common US model) a democracy is a state form where the majority of the representatives of the people in some sort of parliament decide on the countries policy with keeping the interest of and respect for the minorities alive. And that is what is not the case in my country. Unfortunately.

Over the past week the minority government in the Netherlands has been negotiating amongst themselves and with their supporting partner about the ways to fight the economical crisis in the country. And although little or none is leaked from the negotiating table the negotitations seem to be the most selfish negotiations any Dutch government has done for deciding on future policies in decennia. And everyone is playing smart. The now right wing governed media is focussing extensively on who is to become the next ‘opposition leader’, that opposition is focussing on their own party politics of course and as a result of that the media is not covering the government negotiations to an acceptable level. The press is silenced by their own morale of preventing to be leftish as leftish is out of fashion in the increasing inward looking society.

So negotiations at the table are going in an undisturbed manner. Of course there are protests in the country. Public transport, teachers, students, social workers, health workers, artists and many other groups that are touched by the strict financial policy of the current government have protested and some of them still do. But after the protest day is over, the issue is passed too. Society simply is not interested. When asked on the streets and elsewhere people are most willing to make immigration laws even stricter and limiting development aid funds even further. In the meanwhile the government is sending homosexuals back to countries where they are harrased and killed because they are not allowed asylum in the Netherlands. In the meanwhile the spending on international development aid is at its lowest in decennia and at the minimum internationally agreed level of 0.7% of the GNP. According to ‘the man in the street’ the immigration rules are still not strict enough and the first area of budget cuts people name is development aid.

This country has become selfish. While globally hunger and economic challenges are pushed on third world countries in an extreme manner because the simple fact that the west still has much of the global wealth in its hands and the rich always win, the people in my country are focussed on their own wallets, their old age pension security, their ability to buy that big flat screen so they can watch increasingly idiotic tv programs and their fear for immigrants.

Thanks to right wing politicians with distorted minds the country has become xenophobic. The Bush administration some time ago was successful in convincing most of the western governments of the threats from the middle east and countries like Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result my country of non US criticizing governments followed the US in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and even the ‘left wing’ politicians supported that. It is obvious to any human being that those decisions were wrong. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are now destroyed countries, the number of civilians victimized by western wars is enormous and the human rights violations from US, UK and no doubt Dutch troups will only be uncovered more and more in the coming years. All for the good of fear for Islam. That same islamophobic attitude translates in attacks on Muslims. Mostly verbally but like in Belgium yesterday attacks on mosques are to be expected. Because society has turned xenophobic and that always leads to violence in the end. As history has proven. The Netherlands have been unable to escape from the US sourced fatalistic xenophobia.

The combination of economic selfishness and xenophobia is poisoness. It is also the very basis of the negotiations that the goverment leaders are having in a closed setting just a few kilometers from my home. The measures and decisions from those meeting are feared by me and people like me. Because slowly I see my own country becoming unattractive, scared and threatening to the weak in it’s society. My country is turning from a democracy to a hypocrisy. A travesty of western civilization that is ruled by a government that does not care about it’s people, a government that is harsh, selfish and xenophobic. A government that is slowly killing what is left of our own civilization and what is left of what our parents have worked and fought for: a social state.

The anti socials and the anti democrats seem to have won in this country and the people don’t care about it. We suffer under a minority government that is only able to govern because it is allowed to do so by a flat out xenophobic political party giving them a majority of exactly 1 seat in parliament. And with that majority vote they disregard the interest of the real majority in the country in a manner that is by all means undemocratic. The political opposition is fighting amongst themselves for the political centric position, the place where traditionally the most votes are held and abondoning progressive politics although their words are quite different. The media is recoded to right wing supporting media with a populistic voice. And many of my fellow countrymen love that. Because populism always is greeted with pleasure, no matter if that populism is in fact pushing down others. The prime minister of my country did not set himself at a political distance from a website that is flatout discriminating and was created by his right wing populistic government partner. Because he need that partner to stay in the governing seat. That is how true hypocracy looks like.

So, my country is not a democratic country anymore, it’s a hypocrisy. A country on a moral downward slope heading for the new dark ages of selfishness, xenophobia and in the end violence. I can only hope that the people will recognize the manipulation before it is too late. The Christian Democrats in the government cabinet have already proven to have lost all sense of their own values and the liberals in that cabinet have proven to be more interested in limiting liberalism than in expanding it. I am unfortunately not hopeful for a turn for the better. I am no longer regarding myself as Dutch because that stands for unlimited hypocrisy, I do no longer want to be part of this, I do no longer want to live in a country like this.

Alice © 2012

Badlands Netherlands.

It might be so that in western Europe we have trouble with the economy, but that’s not so special when seen on a global scale. And it might be so that we in western Europe have problems with people from outside our countries who come here to get a better deal than in their own country because there’s it’s worse. And it might very well be so that in my country, the Netherlands, there are thousands of Polish, Rumanian, Bulgarian and other eastern Europeans pushing on employment and by doing so make life more difficult for many Dutch born citizens. And it can also be that in politics people think they should protect their country and society.

But that doesn’t mean that it is anyway halfway humane or decent to set aside groups of people in our society as criminals and outlaws whose only goal is to be a pain in the ass of the ‘better part’ of society. It certainly doesn’t mean that a political party should be allowed to setup a hatred driven website where people can complain anonymously about Polish people and other easter Europeans who live and work in our country. And above all it is a travesty of decency that thesame politcal party does so while hiding behind freedom of speech and opinion. Because when that freedom means limiting the freedom of others it is not about freedom anymore but about discrimination.

In my country there’s a rights wing xenophobic and islamophobic political party led by Geert Wilders, a parlementarian from the south of the country, that does all of the above. The Freedom Party (PVV) set aside foreigners by habit. After continuously attacking Islamists they have now found another group to target: eastern Europeans working and living in the Netherlands. The PVV threw a website online where one can anonymously complain about foreigners from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Specifically targeting these groups as the groups that they feel are bringing all kinds of social problems, criminality and upheavel in our society. It’s an openly hostile act against many people in our society who are part of ethnic groups that have migrated to our country out of economic motives.

No matter how much truth there is in the complaints about for instance Moroccan youth or Polish workers and Bulgarian and Rumanians, it is simply unaccetable that such a hostile website is online.

Of course the judicial system has decided that the front man of that PVV party is free to state what he wants to state about specific groups in society. And of course there are problems with specific groups in society, but setting these groups aside and labelling them as troublemakers and criminals is short sighted and an unbelievable act of political indecency. Actually: it’s barbaric. The fact that this PVV party is allowed to play such an important role in Dutch politics is a shame on the Netherlands. It’s disgraceful to see that in my country people are treated the way they are by this PVV party. It’s shameful that politics and laws have no answer to this party of hatred. It’ disgusting to realize that thesame political parties that seem to oppose too much control on the internet doe not act firmly against that one political party that has lost all sense of decency. It’s degrading for the Dutch society as a whole that this party of xenophobic lunatics are even being listened to. It’s absolutely terrible to realize that because of this idiotic politics the Dutch society has transfomed itself in a selfish and xenophobic hostile society that rather allows crazy people to discriminate others than to defend the ones who are being set aside unjustly.

But that’s how it is today. The Netherlands has lost it’s innocence. It is not anymore a country that puts freedom for all at the top and that defendes the rights of any human being equally. Over the past few years this country has changed into a country where many don’t want to part of anymore. Including myself. I am disgusted of the politics and general mood in this society, I am sick of the selfishness and xenophobia and I am tired of the media who jump on every statements or action from crazy politicians. This country makes me somber and sick and has become for me a country to be ashamed of and not a country to be proud to be a citizin of. The Netherlands has become a sad country with a dark shadow hanging over it. A shadow of selfishnes, fear and xenophobia. A country where somehow many voters seem to want that, a country that has lost it’s status as a guiding nation, a safe haven for the vulnarable and a tolerant country and has turned into a place where decent people shouldn’t want to live. I for one do not. I do not see this country as my homeland, because it isn’t anymore. I have not changed but the country around me has changed into a filthy place poisened by hate. Hate brought by crazy politicians and strengthened by media who are only interested in the number of viewers everyday.

My biggest desire has become to leave this country that has become so mindless and short sightened as soon as possible. And if needed for good. I have lost hope that the Netherlands will ever become the beautiful country it once was. Because the people simply do not see nor understand what has become of their country. I for one am deeply ashamed of my country for it has changed into something that I can and will not relate to anymore. A xenophobic country ruled by populistic disturbed people and a prime minister who doesn’t have the decency to stop the nonsense and just says that he is not going to give any comments. How degrading!

Alice © 2012

How ‘Green Left’ sold it’s soul.

Green Left‘ is in the Netherlands the name for a political party that focusses on environmental issues, human rights and honest and social politics. It’s a traditional merger party of leftish political parties who on their own were too small to be significant in Dutch politics.

I like the ideas of that party.

But sometime ago, after years of growth and with a strong and relatively popular political leader (Femke Halsema), things changed. It all started when after the fall of the previous cabinet the party seemed unable to join into a coalition government to at last take government responsibility. Not much later the poitical leader retreated and a new leader was chosen. Jolanda Sap, trained by her predecessor, stepped into the politcal arena. And fell flat on her face quickly.

Three topics made her break down: the continuous upheavel of that strange right wing fascist like party PVV that somehow became stronger and stronger and even got government responsibility as a cabinet ‘supporting’ party, thereby making a minority central/right wing coalition possible. Sap and her party still haven’t found a good answer to that disaster. And the second thing is that it is impossible to buy popularity by using populistic approaches if you’re not build for it. An overacted scene in the parliament made Sap look like a juvenile fool playing out a misplaced and bad acted plug pulling metaphore.

But mayde the most difficult topic was the half hearted support of an armed mission to train police forces in the province of Kunduz in Afghanistan. After all, the Green Left is by all means and purposes an anti militaristic party. If not in policy than at least in it’s membership demography. But political forwardness forced the party in an uneasy support of that policing mission that the Dutch government wanted to see (in support of the US effort on getting control of the Afghan and Iraq crises). The Green Left in 2011 supported a militaristic armed mission in Afghanistan although a lot of their followers are appaled by that.

Today the party committed political suicide.

At the party’s congress today that same Kunduz mission was scrutinized and in the end a vote was taken on prelonging that mission. And although many party members were against it, the elected parliamentarians were in favor of it. For political reasons. And they won, after debates the party members at the congress meeting supported their parliamentarians in their choice not to demand the government to bail out of that supposed to be non violent, non fighting policing mission. Because doing otherwise mide split the party. But in reality that split is already there and some important party members have already left for better grounds.

And the party’s credibility flew right out of the window. It sold it’s soul to the devil (last year), but the devil came back for more so it just did it again. And so, Green Left in the Netherlands is in reality nothing else than a government supporting week opposition party without a backbone. Sometimes straight forward politics is more difficult in the Dutch parliament than in the European Parliament or so it seems.

Alice © 2012