Opinion: “A licensed idiot” (Claudius Buncamper’s reaction to Today’s Editorial)POSTED: 06/25/13 12:36 PM
Let’s take a look at Claudius Buncamper’s performance on the “Breakfeast with de Robert” radio show last Sunday. At a certain moment, De Robert brought the controversy up surrounding the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris fellowship bestowed upon Claudius Buncamper in an editorial in this newspaper, and why this was not such a brilliant idea. See the editorial in our newspaper of June 20 under the telling headline “Disgrace” for details, or click here
This is Buncamper’s reaction in the radio broadcast last Sunday: “We have on this island an editor from a newspaper … I don’t know what his issue is, or what he wants to achieve. I don’t know if he’s being paid to write what he writes. I consider him a licensed idiot. He’s just outright an idiot.”
Okay, that was just the beginning. Already I feel the need to set the record straight. As the Editor-in-chief of this newspaper I am responsible for all of its content. Obviously, I also take responsibility for everything I write. I do not lower myself to a level where I start to call people names like, you’re fat, you’re ugly, or you’re not from here. I also do not bring people’s mental state into the equation, unless it is relevant to the story.
Apparently, Buncamper has different ideas (that’s fine by me and also revealing) and he lives in a world where people are for sale, otherwise he would not openly wonder “I don’t know if he’s being paid to write what he writes.”
There is no use denying that I am getting paid for writing. That’s what making a newspaper is all about. It’s my job. But nobody tells me what to write, or what not to write. The suggestion that this could be the case says more about Buncamper than it says about me.
In the radio program, Buncamper went on to say (after calling me a licensed idiot): “Because you cannot write something that you cannot substantiate and call that journalism. I call that hogwash.”
I figure that Buncamper refers here to the stories I wrote in December 2010 about a deal he set up together with his wife back in 2008: the Buncampers leased a piece of land on the Pondfill – for an annual fee of around $10,000 – and eight months later they sold the economic ownership for $3 million to the bogus company Eco-Green NV that was established three days before the deal went down and of which a retired employee of Public Works was the figurehead. I wrote the stories not because I have something against the Buncampers but because I had the proof in my hands and because, from an ethical point of view, this deal seemed to be totally out of whack.
As a result of this deal, Buncamper’s wife Maria was forced to step down as Minister of Public Health, Social Affairs and Labor.
In other words, I wrote something that I could bloody well substantiate. Now the question remains whether there is a criminal aspect to this land-deal. I was the first journalist to ask the Public Prosecutor’s Office – after a considerable among of time has elapsed – when it was finally going to take a decision about a criminal investigation and a possible prosecution. Attorney General Dick Piar gave the green light for the investigation, but so far the prosecutor’s office has not taken a decision. I asked how reasonable it is to let the possibility of a criminal investigation hang over someone’s head for such a long time.
And the answer was: as long as nobody has been labeled a suspect, the reasonable term does not start. That reasonable term is two years. Investigations that take longer usually end with a sentence reduction, in case the court convicts a suspect. So far, the prosecutor’s office has not declared Buncamper or his wife a suspect in a criminal investigation. But I fully agree that it is about time to take a decision – one way or the other.
Buncamper said on the radio program that he never sent a single article about his travels as governor of the Lions organization. As a charter member of the Lions Club in Almere I am kind of disappointed in this childish behavior, but to be honest: I haven’t lost a night sleep over it.
Buncamper also announced that the leased-land scandal will be laid to rest this year – in public or in a court of law.
I sure wish that this will happen. Not only the Buncampers but also the public has a right to know what is what. Sooner or later everybody wants closure and to move on.
Claudius Buncamper said in the radio broadcast that I should have asked him if I wanted to know what he had done. But for heaven’s sake: all that was written in black and white in a deed the Buncampers registered at the Cadastre. That document contains everything one needs to know about this land deal.
And one more thing: that deed mentions that the Buncampers sold the economic ownership for $3 million. There was a considerable down payment and the rest was to follow in annual installments. When Maria Buncamper-Molanus made her last appearance in parliament on December 23, 2010, she stated: “No money changed hands.”
All this is on public record. Ethical? Absolutely not: the minister had to step down. Criminal? Opposition leader William Marlin hinted at the time in an interview with me at the possibility of money laundering. The thought had obviously crossed my mind, if only because the deal had many hallmarks of money laundering. But I never found proof for this suggestion and I have never written anything to suggest that this is true.
It is now indeed time for the prosecutor’s office to take its responsibility and to take a clear decision. On that point, I fully agree with the Buncampers.
Editor-in-Chief @ Today.