It looks very much as if the forthcoming debate on the Schiphol detention centre fire is going to get nasty. Various newspapers this morning said the cabinet totally disagrees with the preliminary report’s findings which claims all sorts of fire regulations were broken at the centre where 11 people last year.
The cabinet accused the Safety Investigation Council which produced the report of being ‘wise after the event’ in a letter leaked to the press. The Council had been asked to look at the causes of the fire with the aim of ‘preventing such things happening again’, the letter said. But this report, said justice minister Piet Hein Donner, ‘goes further than that in a number of areas… and appears to include suggestions of guilt or responsibility’. When the report first leaked out, Donner refused to comment, saying it was only a concept and that ministers’ reactions had not yet been included – as if that somehow would soften the conclusions. But Council chairman Pieter van Vollenhoven has made it quite clear that there is to be no negotiating on the contents of the final report, whatever Donner would like to insinuate. Responsibility for the death of 11 people – locked up by the state in unsafe government buildings – ultimately lies with the government, however much Donner tries to wriggle out of it.