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Press Conference Doel 2020, August 22, 2008

The destruction of the village of Doel

Facts

  • End of June '08: 7 good contemporary build houses were demolished in the street named 'Scheldemolenstraat'.
  • A few days previous to the start of a new planned demolition wave, received the group 'Werkgroep Doelse Leefgemeenschap' word that on 11.08 another 12 buildings will be demolished, this time in a street named 'Havenweg'.
  • 11.08.'08.: 'A reclaim our street - party' is organized and the planned demolition works can't start. Daan Schalck, top executive of 'Maatschappij Linkeroever' announces that works will now take on a haphazardly fashion, and without any further announcements.
  • However, during the following days, activists manage to block the way consistently of the demolition teams. Activist are repeatedly threatened by workers of the contractor.
  • Thursday 14.08: The contractor announces that his listing of the asbestos has disappeared. The contractor accuses a female resident of the village who is subsequently arrested. The police also searches two premises in the village but to no avail.
  • According to the mayor is the disappearance of the asbestos listings a 'big problem' and is the 'health & safety of the public seriously compromised'.
  • Sunday evening 17.08: The contractor receives - much to his own surprise - the order by the 'Maatschappij Linkeroever' to demolish the entire street 'Havenweg'. The Mayor had by that time also mobilized several units of the federal riot police of Brussels. Doel suddenly looked like a war torn zone.
  • Strangely enough were the asbestos suddenly no problem any more nor a was the health and safety of workers and public a concern any longer. Glass, wood, masonry, asbestos, plastics, metals, everything could be driven on one big heap with a JCB.
  • The Mayor of Beveren maintains that this was in the best interest of public safety.

We think that whoever is really concerned about public safety does not go about demolition works in this particular way, as witnessed last Monday. Concerns about safety does allow no warning demolition strikes with heavy JCB's and cranes adjacent a home inhabited by a family with young children.

The official policy of the government is since years dominated by a negative agenda with as sole purpose to make life in the village of Doel impossible and unbearable.

Part and parcel of this policy is the systematic partial destruction of houses. The contractor was ordered to do that by the 'Maatschappij Linkeroever'.

Another fact that points in that direction is the absolute refusal of the local police to act against hoods or vandals. Even in cases where witnesses passed on the names of the individuals to the police. A stark contrast with the massive and heavy handed approach of the riot police last week against the passive resistance and non violent protest of the villagers and activists last week.

What sort of a country is Belgium actually? Which other country brands its own citizens as enemies of the state and declares a brutal siege on its own villagers?

The Arguments

  • The facts show clearly that technical information of the houses is being misused and even manipulated in a concerted effort to justify demolition of the village.
  • The fact that in some cases the individual demolition order may be legally correct in its own right, it still does not allow the demolition of a street in a residential area.
  • The way how the Flemish Executive handles this dossier is nothing less than a scandal. This kind of manu military approach is unacceptable in a modern democracy. Why does the Flemish Executive use the violent methods against its own citizens?
  • The Flemish Executive uses 'Decision Policy' without any legal binding.
  • It is a legal obligation of any government to weigh up any pro's and cons very carefully, certainly in cases of developments. However the Flemish Executive refuses to do this in a systematic way.

A Future for Doel?

The destruction that happened this week has scarred the village in a very brutal way. What happened here bears testimony of a government that lacks all respect for heritage, history and people. A government that has no clue as to what can or could happen in Doel and indeed in this region. But, however, this government is hell bent on destroying the village, to cleanse it of all population and to lay the whole region waste.

The brutality we witnessed this week is unprecedented in Flanders. The question arises if this brutality and oppression will now become standard for the new Flanders that this Executive is so keen to develop and show to the world. It is most definitely not the sort of Flanders we wish to see in the future.

According to Minister-President Kris Peeters of the Flemish Executive, is it clear that during this term of the executive there will be no decision about the future of Doel. If the Minister-President speaks the truth why pushing this radical and destructive policies?

The same Minister-President Kris Peeters was only a month ago talking about the developments on the left bank of the river Schelde as the search for a socially best achievable alternative. If words still have a meaning to Kris Peeters then the future of Doel should be at the centre of a broad social debate.

Whoever wants to demolish a whole village, destroy a region, should have really good argumentation. The inhabitants of that village and region seem however not to have the right to hear that 'really strong argumentation' according to our own minister-president.

The demolition of Doel contravenes every legal principle. Moreover there is even not one legal basis to justify these demolition works in the manner it happened this week.

Protest

Doel 2020 will not stop its protest. The many positive reactions of ordinary Flemish people of all regions gave us the necessary strength to carry on. Both, politically and via the courts we will finish tomorrow and the days, months, years ahead if necessary what we started a long time ago. But now we don't stand alone anymore.

The protest around Doel is by now not solely about the preservation of the village anymore. It became now the struggle for a Flanders fit to live in, where respect for the people, nature and heritage mean something.