You may find it a pity - I do - that the main support we get in Holland is from the green mafia, eco-fascist Groen Links [Green Left] party. But they're not the only ones who have asked secretary of state Bijleveld awkward questions. Worse, they quoted, with a parliament majority agreeing, the very words fit to strike terror in the hearts of our politicians:
The term [onbehoorlijk bestuur] appears in the Koninkrijksstatuut. If this occurs, the Kingdom (for all practical purposes, Holland) is entitled, nay obliged, to intervene in what normally are the internal affairs of an autonomous country-member of the Kingdom: The Netherlands Antilles. Holland, in cowardly fear of "colonialism" accusations shirking its responsibilities and obligations, has never seen fit to do so before.
The Antillean government does not take action against Isla's pollution, even though this breaches the nuisance act. The Antillean government has never warned the population against the refinery's dangers, not even when the recent shutdowns occurred. Schools had to decide on their own to send pupils home. Parliament members ask Bijleveld if she does not agree all these and many more matters constitutes "improper governance". Other questions are how much Isla contributes to the national economy and employment, and what would be the consequences of a refinery shut-down (as referred to by Venezuelan dictator Chavez in March 2008).
A Moot Point Venezuela's PdVSA is presently building refineries in Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica and Nicaragua, and maybe Dominica, which should all be ready and working in 2012. By then, PdVSA does not need Isla anymore and, as there is nothing to prevent them from doing that, can just close down Isla operations with impunity. The seven years' delay before upgrading has any results means all these discussions are just empty talke. We may as well, better, forget about it, don't invest any more money and energy in it and wait until it's all over. At the cost of 80 more deaths, to be sure.
As far as I know, it's the first time since 1987 Tweede Kamer [House of Commons] has paid any attention to our problems with Isla.
There were more awfully good questions. It almost sounds like somebody has been briefing them!
In the new environment act, the present norms for the refinery have been taken over without any change for the period until 2020.
Reference was also made to our deputy of health [!] Davelaar, who turned out never to have heard about norms exceeded in 2006 (when norms for SO2 output were exceeded on 190 days).
"We're working on it."
Our PAR PM de Jongh-Elhage did not have what you'd call a snappy come-back: "We're working on it" more or less sums it up (nos ta bezig kun'e.) She tells how she remembers 25 years ago MD Kroon "wept" about results of his health research. She wants us to believe she has "been busy" since then? And then she has the chutzpah to say these days the Isla-problems get more attention than ever before (could hardly be less, that's for sure.)
Our government is negotiating with Isla and PdVSA on what to do. She neglects to say that:
- the 1.5M needed for upgrading have already been shown to be insufficient, but are still what the negotiations are based on - even after upgrade it will not be possible for Isla to conform to international environment standards - Isla has announced that it will take seven years (140 deaths) after upgrading actually starts before there are positive results (that's one death for every Isla-worker)
Isla, as we all know by now, will continue going to court until all further delaying techniques are exhausted. My highly educated guess is, then Isla will shut down and leave us to clean up.
Demonstration Inhabitants of Wishi/Marchena, barrios downwind of Isla, held a well-timed demonstration on 26 April, attired with mouth covers. They were talked to (or at) by operations manager Donata, who told them Isla was not responsible for public health but merely for pollution. Material damages he pooh-poohed as caused by salty air. He conceded the "acid stripper" occasionally exudes a sour stench upon start-up. Organizer Valpoort felt the inhabitants were held in limbo between Island and Isla. People showed discontent because, notwithstanding invitations, not one politician had taken the trouble to attend except for DP George. They're probably too busy "working on it".