Book containing fake speech by former PM withdrawn

A VOC bond from 1632

A book containing 50 of the ‘most touching, best and most inspiring Dutch speeches’ has been removed from the shelves because a speech attributed to former CDA leader and prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende proved to be a fake, Trouw reports.

The speech, in which Balkenende speaks nostalgically about the days of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), is in fact a satire published on a left wing activist website in 2006, the paper discovered.

Jan-Peter Balkenende who is now a professor of Governance, Institutions and Internationalisation at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, was prime minister from 2002 to 2010. In 2006 he often referred to the ‘VOC mentality’, praising Dutch derring-do but ignoring the exploitation and slavery the Dutch trading company brought to what is now Indonesia.

‘I dream a little of the Golden Age sometimes,’ Balkenende said at the time. ‘The century when this small country worked its way to the top unaided.’ He later apologised for the remarks.

Alarm bells did not go off for historian Denise Parengkuan, who compiled the speeches, when she came across the following: ‘It (the VOC) shows what a small country can do. (..) Our heroes from those days Jan Pieterszoon Coen and Michiel de Ruyter had that business instinct, that drive, that VOC mentality of taking what you want (..) They offered many natives new challenges, in the land that we developed for them or in the hereafter.’

Parengkuan admitted she ‘had not checked the speech properly’, Trouw writes.

This is not the first time the fake speech has been taken at face value. A recent book on Dutch history, Tot hier en nu verder’ (Until now and beyond) by journalist Cees van Lotringen also contained quotes from the speech and had to be pulped as well.

Publisher of the speech book Hans van Maar of Just Publishers told Trouw he was very disappointed. ‘We were very proud of this book. It seems the author did not check the facts. That puts the rest of the books in doubt as well and that is why we have withdrawn it,’ the paper quotes him as saying.

The former prime minister, who was offered an apology and a bunch of flowers by the publisher, did not wish to comment, Trouw writes.


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