The fourth week of the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee’s public hearings started and ended with a focus on children.
Insistent, spiritual adviser Melissa Dales told a parliamentary inquiry committee on Monday of her concerns about the children growing up in the earthquake zone. “Because it is the group that lives longer in the earthquake area than outside it. Who belongs to that promises are not kept, that authority does not listen. They lose faith in everything around them.”
While last week with former ministers Henk Kamp and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, among others, it was mainly about those responsible, Dales explained in detail on Monday morning what the consequences of the earthquakes, the damage and the reinforcement are for the residents of the earthquake area. .
Visits to schools
The investigation committee could hear firsthand what the consequences are for children on Friday in ‘t Zandt, Westeremden and Appingedam. Committee members visited schools there. “The committee believes it is important to include the voice of children who grow up in the earthquake area,” says committee member Stieneke van der Graaf (ChristenUnie). But, as committee member Barbara Kathmann (PvdA) says: “You can’t interrogate children.”
At the elementary school de Zandplaat in ‘t Zandt, elementary school students are eager to talk about their experiences once the initial nerves are over. The class mainly discussed earthquakes with the committee members, says Daan (11). He has been waiting ten years for the house where he grew up to be torn down and a new home built. “We have a lot of cracks. In my bedroom there are three. I want a new room. I often ask my parents how long it will take. I am really sorry that I have to wait so long.”
These children have experienced earthquakes many times before. While one child tells them to read a book after a tremor to calm down, the other immediately goes to his parents. Some children have nightmares after an earthquake. Daan remembers well how he was woken up in the evening by an earthquake a year and a half ago. “The whole bed was shaking. I was very shocked and went to my parents.”
In addition to being able to tell their stories to the committee members, they can also ask questions themselves. “Why do you still get gas from Groningen is the big question,” says Van der Graaf. “They are very busy with it. Also with the situation in Ukraine and its consequences. They are very good at talking about it.”
Following the visit to schools in the earthquake area, there will be no hearings next week due to Prince’s Day. The committee will then resume hearings, and another three weeks full of discussions are planned. The final report will be published in February. “What we have heard today we can include in our reports,” says Kathmann. Van der Graaf: “The children’s voice is the voice of the future.”
The role of the House of Representatives
It wasn’t just about kids this week. On Tuesday, the hearings focused on the role of the House of Representatives. Three former members of parliament, all of whom had the Groningen file in their portfolio, were questioned to gain insight into the role of parliament.
They all thought differently about that. While Liesbeth van Tongeren (GroenLinks) immediately put on her clothes and said that the House of Representatives and herself have failed, Jan Vos (PvdA) believed that the House of Representatives played an important and good role. According to Vos, “gas production would not have gone down without the front formed by the House of Representatives.” René Leegte (VVD) believed that the House was not sufficiently informed by the Ministry of Economy at a crucial time.
Harsh criticism of the role of the House of Representatives came a day later from former deputy (and former Member of Parliament) William Moorlag (PvdA). The House is the highest power in this country. Why has Parliament not been able to make a difference for the better for Groningen? The role of the House should be scrutinized,” he said on Wednesday morning.
Pieter Schulting was the last to be questioned by the committee on Wednesday this week. This former judge was involved for four years – from start to finish – in the Arbiter Soil Movement, where victims who had a dispute with NAM could go. Schulting said NAM trained and deliberately interfered with procedures. He could “certainly remember a time when NAM asked to come back on a case.”