The House of Representatives remains against individual financial compensation for surviving relatives of soldiers and civil servants who worked in what was then the Netherlands East Indies during the Second World War. A majority agrees with State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen (VWS) that a new so-called ‘backpay’ scheme cannot dispel dissatisfaction.
Various opposition parties made proposals to compensate the widows of KNIL soldiers and civil servants. In an earlier scheme in 2015, servicemen and civil servants who were still alive received an allowance for the income they had lost during the Japanese occupation. Their next of kin were excluded from this.
Last Tuesday, emotions ran high in the public gallery of the House of Representatives when a proposal from the PvdA and SP was voted down. Things got so heated that chairman Vera Bergkamp had the stands evacuated.
The votes on the remaining proposals were postponed for a week. Meanwhile, MPs would contact the angry relatives to discuss the matter.
Today there was a roll call vote on two proposals to come to an arrangement for the relatives, from Group Van Haga and the PVV. When those too were rejected, by a vote of 68 to 61, there was another shout from the public gallery. Despite repeated requests from Bergkamp, it was not quiet and the chairman decided to suspend the meeting briefly.
State Secretary Van Ooijen says that he initially intended to compensate the mostly very elderly widows and other surviving relatives for the wages and pension that their loved ones have missed out on. But he said he changed his mind when it turned out that such a scheme would be “extremely complicated” to implement.
“We would end up in almost Kafkaesque situations. People then have to prove that they are indeed next of kin. The government may have to pronounce Solomon judgments.” It calls it a hard, sad message for the community.
More culture-sensitive care
Because individual compensation is not possible, Van Ooijen wants to see if there is something to do at a collective level together with the Indisch and Moluccan community. For example, by purchasing extra culture-sensitive care for nursing homes where many people live with an Indonesian or Moluccan background.
He is also thinking of erecting a monument for KNIL soldiers and increasing knowledge about that period.
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