News editors used to give new reporters one piece of advice: ‘Always remember, all politicians are liars and cheats.’ This cynical caveat should have been in most journalists’ minds during the past two weeks when politicians wrestled with two major scandals: the report on a fire in a Schiphol cell complex which killed 11 refugees and Amsterdam’s role in allowing a ship to dump toxic waste in Ivory Coast which killed seven people.
Scandal number one resulted in the resignation of two government ministers. One said he had resigned because he needed to be free to defend himself in a debate over the crime. What has actually happened is that the debate has been postponed by at least a month to allow the new ministers to read up on the case. As any fool knows this delay will take the sting out of the debate.
Scandal number two is a classic case of conflicting reports creating confusion about who is responsible for what. First the nation was told that nothing could be done to stop the ship leaving. Then it appeared the ship should have been impounded and that officials did not follow proper procedures. Reason enough one would say for the environment minister to pack his bags. Democracy is based on informed choices. Given the proceedings over the past two weeks, one wonders if the electorate is in any position to make them.