The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Halbe Zijlstra, recently admitted that a lie he had told in 2016 ‘was not a smart move’. Mind you that he didn’t lie about winning big in a poker game or catching that elusive Atlantic Bluefin Tuna. He lied about being in a meeting with Mr. Vladimir Putin in 2006 where the Russian President reportedly laid out plans to ‘create a Great Russia that would include Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic states and possibly Kazakhstan’. Mr. Zijlstra was at the time a Shell employee. After Mr. Zijlstra was forced to set the record straight on his attendance at the meeting, he admitted he wasn’t even in the room, but borrowed the story from a source.
There’re some serious loose ends to his astonishing story. Mr. Zijlstra claimed he had told the story because of its ‘geopolitical importance’ and presented it as his own in order to ‘protect’ the source. It is unclear why he told ‘his story’ during his party’s conference in 2016 whilst he could have gone to one of the many Dutch intelligence and security services to voice his concerns. What was his motive to childishly lie about it during a political gathering? To inflate his résumé or to deflect criticism for being inexperienced for the job? And, really do we think that Mr. Putin - a cunning strategist - would shoot his mouth off in front of foreigners about his grand expansionist plans?
In my opinion Mr. Zijlstra’s integrity has been badly hurt by these lies and cover-ups. Can he be trusted by his colleagues in the EU? In the UN Security Council where The Netherlands took a non-permanent seat earlier this year? And, since he is also responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs on behalf of Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten, I wonder how his tarnished reputation is going to play out for us here in the Caribbean. Especially now that we are locked in a dispute with Venezuela.
Perhaps more disconcerting is the reaction of the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr. Marc Rutte. Normally trigger happy to judge others, this time he casually brushed off this incident as a careless boo-boo. Point is however that Mr. Zijlstra is a self-confessed liar and is not worthy of his position as the Dutch Kingdom’s top diplomat.