Trump’s envoy to Netherlands admits Muslim comment was ‘just wrong’

US Ambassador to The Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra during a press conference at the US embassy, in The Hague, after presenting his diplomatic credentials to the King of The Netherlands. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2018
0

Trump’s envoy to Netherlands admits Muslim comment was ‘just wrong’

AMSTERDAM: US President Donald Trump’s new envoy to the Netherlands said on Friday a comment he made two years ago about Dutch politicians being set on fire by Muslim immigrants was “just wrong,” two days after he refused to answer questions about what he had said.
In an interview with the newspaper Telegraaf, Pete Hoekstra, a former Republican congressman for Michigan appointed by Trump as ambassador, apologized for the 2015 statement.
“The Islamic movement is now gotten to a point where they have put Europe into chaos,” Hoekstra had said at a November 2015 event sponsored by the right-wing David Horowitz Freedom Center gathering, which was recorded.
He added: “There are politicians that are being burned.”
Reflecting on his remarks, Hoekstra told the Telegraaf: “That one shocked me personally ... While you know there have been other issues in other countries in Europe, you know that has never been the circumstances here. That was a wrong statement. That was just wrong.”
The interview emerged two days after he angered the Dutch press by refusing to answer questions about the remarks at a meeting with reporters. It coincides with a furor ignited by Trump himself who reportedly referred to various countries as “*hithole countries,” although he later denied this.
Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein told a briefing on Thursday the State Department “does not agree” with Hoekstra’s remarks about Muslim migrants in the Netherlands.
“The ambassador made mistakes in 2015, made comments that should not have been made. He recognizes that,” Goldstein said. “We have made clear to the ambassador that he must move to get this behind him. And he definitely understands that. He feels great remorse.”
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told journalists in The Hague on Friday he too disagreed with the comments, but declined to elaborate.
In December, Hoekstra denied making the 2015 remarks, telling the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur it was “an incorrect statement ... fake news.” Later in the same interview, he denied calling it fake news.


Focus shifts to rescues as rain abates in India’s flood-hit Kerala

Updated 3 min 25 sec ago
0

Focus shifts to rescues as rain abates in India’s flood-hit Kerala

  • An estimated 800,000 people have taken shelter in some 4,000 relief camps across Kerala
  • 800,000 people have been displaced and over 350 have died in the worst flooding in a century

KOCHI, India: Torrential rain finally let up in India’s flood-hit Kerala state on Sunday, giving some respite for thousands of marooned families, but authorities feared an outbreak of disease among around 725,000 people crammed into relief camps.
Incessant downpours since Aug. 8 have caused the worst floods in a century in the southwestern state, and close to 200 people have perished in the rising waters and landslides.
The India Meteorological Department forecast heavy rainfall in only one or two parts of Kerala on Sunday and withdrew a red alert in several districts.
Using boats and helicopters, India’s military led rescue efforts to reach people in communities cut off for days, with many trapped on roofs and upper floors, in desperate need of food and clean water.
A Reuters photographer on a naval helicopter said water levels had receded in villages around the city of Kochi.
Rescue teams were focused on the town of Chengannur on the banks of the Pamba River, where about 5,000 people are feared to be trapped, officials said.
Kerala’s chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, said the total number of people taking refuge at the 5,645 relief camps had risen to 725,000.
Thirteen deaths were reported on Sunday, he added, taking the total number confirmed to nearly 200.
Anil Vasudevan, who handles disaster management at Kerala’s health department, said authorities had isolated three people with chickenpox in one of the relief camps in Aluva town, nearly 250 km (155 miles) from state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
He said the department was preparing to deal with a possible outbreak of water-borne and air-borne diseases in the camps.

DESTROYED
Kerala, which usually receives high rainfall, has seen more than 250 percent more rain than normal between Aug. 8 and Aug. 15. State authorities have had to release water from 35 dangerously full dams, sending a surge into the main river.
As the rain abated on Sunday morning, 60-year-old T P Johnny visited his home in Cheranelloor — a suburb of Kochi situated on the banks of the Periyar river — to see when he and his family could return.
“The entire house is covered with mud. It will take days to clean to make it liveable. All our household articles, including the TV and fridge have been destroyed,” he told Reuters.
The beaches and backwaters of Kerala are top destinations for domestic and international tourists, but far fewer visit during the monsoon season.
Kochi’s airport is closed due to waterlogging, and Jet Airways has arranged additional flights from Thiruvananthapuram for passengers holding confirmed tickets from Kochi.
India’s national carrier, Air India, will operate ATR flights from the naval airport in Kochi to Bangalore and Coimbatore, starting Monday.
Late on Saturday, the chief minister had said that there was no shortage of food in the state as traders had stocked up before a local festival.
“The only problem is transporting it,” he told reporters. “The central government and public have cooperated well in this effort to fight this disaster.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates, where many Keralites work, has also offered assistance to the state. Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani has also announced $5 million aid.
($1 = 70.09 Indian rupees)