New justice minister slammed for failing to focus on Covid rules enforcement

New Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz in her official portrait. Photo: RVD – Valérie Kuypers and Martijn Beekman

Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz found herself under fire less than a week after being sworn in, for making comments that appeared to suggest coronavirus measures might not be enforced.

Journalists asked Yeşilgöz if his strategy would differ from that of his predecessor Ferd Grapperhaus, who had been criticized for not being tough enough when the rules were widely flouted.

“Compliance is more about what you and I do with it, than the police doing the rounds,” she reportedly told NOS TV. “At the end of the day, the coronavirus, whether we like it or not, is something that we have to manage together. So it’s up to the people themselves to decide whether or not they play by the rules. You do it for your own health and your own environment.

When asked if there would be an application or not, Yeşilgöz replied that there would be, “if we agreed on something and you don’t”. But ultimately, she said, “and I repeat, the coronavirus is about our own responsibilities and our own role in this.”

MPs from the coalition and opposition parties said the minister’s comments were “not sensible” and “the wrong signal”.

D66 MP Hanneke van der Werf said it was important that police and council guards felt supported by a clear message from the minister. “The strategy will be a success or failure, depending on the willingness to enforce the rules,” she said.

On Thursday night, Yeşilgöz released a statement saying she would stress the importance of enforcement when she met with the mayors of the regional security council committee.

Bar and cafe owners across the country say they plan to reopen on Saturday, although they are unlikely to be allowed to do so. The government will announce its new coronavirus strategy on Friday evening.

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