Investigation is a ‘stab in the back’, former parliament chairwoman says

Vera Bergkamp explains the decision to reporters. Photo: Bart Maat ANP
Vera Bergkamp explains the decision to investigate Arib to reporters. Photo: Bart Maat ANP

A major row has erupted in parliament between the current chairwoman Vera Bergkamp and her predecessor Khadija Arib after it emerged an investigation is being set up into claims Arib created an ‘unsafe working environment’ while she was in the job.

Arib only found out about the investigation, which was triggered by two anonymous letters, after it was leaked to the NRC newspaper. She has described the probe, which will be carried out by an independent body, as a stab in the back.

Arib, who is currently a Labour party MP, chaired parliament from 2016 to April 2021 but was replaced by Bergkamp, a D66 MP, after the new coalition dropped its support for her. Since then, Bergkamp has come in for considerable criticism for her lack of authority when chairing debates.

Bergkamp told reporters on Thursday that the decision to investigate Arib had been agreed unanimously by parliament’s governing body, the presidium, on the basis of preliminary research by the government’s legal advisors. She said she was sorry the news had leaked out via the NRC.

Arib, in turn, has said she will not cooperate with the inquiry. ‘While I was chairwoman, parliament asked me to reorganise the chamber’s civil service,’ she said. ‘In a position like that, you are bound to take decisions which some people do not like or implement unpopular changes.’

RTL political correspondent Frits Wester said the dispute centres on criticism of the way Arib operated as chairwoman and that bringing in legal advisors was ‘over the top’.

‘We are aware of reports that Arib can be very demanding… but if people feel that she was too tough, or that they were unfairly passed over for promotion… you can really solve this in a better, more adult way,’ Wester said.

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