‘Return to Sender’: SP calls on voters to send government’s Constitution pamphlet back

16 May 2005

‘Return to Sender’: SP calls on voters to send government’s Constitution pamphlet back

The SP is calling on all citizens to return the government's recently distributed pamphlet on the Constitution to the Minister of Foreign Affairs marked “unwanted post – return to sender”. SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel explained: “This is a way in which the public can let its feelings be known regarding the way the government is using taxpayer's money to wage a partisan campaign.” Neither the explanatory pamphlet distributed some time ago by the Independent Referendum Committee, nor the widely available summary known as the “Constitution Paper”, made any attempt to persuade voters to back the proposal, and because of this the cabinet has decided to spend €1.5m of the people's money on a new, extremely one-sided pamphlet. In addition, € 2 m has been earmarked for full-page ads and commercial radio time.

Harry van Bommel: “It is absolutely unacceptable that the cabinet has used unlimited amounts of taxpayers' money to persuade people to vote 'yes'. Both supporters and opponents of the Constitution can apply for funds from a pot of € 400.000 euro in order to inform the public of their views. Yet now that opponents are ahead in all the polls, the cabinet suddenly whips € 3,5 m out of state funds in order to bolster the Yes side. They are misusing taxpayers' money in order to win a propaganda battle. The more opposition amongst the people grows, the more the government shows its true face.”

The government has gone back on its promise of February 8, when in a press release it stated that: “The cabinet will actively disseminate its views on the European Constitution according to the principles laid out in the final report of the Wallage Commission on the Future of Governmental Communications in which it is stated that governmental information regarding a policy which has not yet been approved must be factual and objective, that the government must be recognisably the origin of the information and that the communication must adopt a reasonable attitude to communications from others.”

Both the quantity of money allocated by the cabinet for its Yes campaign and the flouting of the rule that content must be factual and objective (it describes, for example, the arguments of the opposition as 'myths') represent clear breaches of this promise. With this onslaught of promotional pamphlets and ads Mr Balkenende and his colleagues obviously hope to bring about a reversal of the Yes side's fortunes.

It is for these reasons that Mr Van Bommel is calling on people to show their disgust with such practices by sending their pamphlets, marked 'return to sender', to the freepost address of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The voters would certainly welcome clear and honest information, but do not expect to be bombarded with one-sided propaganda from the government, or further nonsense along the lines of 'a no vote would threaten war and a future in the Europe's bad books'. Even the Constitution's most convinced opponents admit that it contains some good things, but believe that these are greatly outweighed by the disadvantages. Yet in the government's 'information' not a single disadvantage is mentioned. We are calling on people not to swallow this nonsense and to show that they are not prepared to do so by sending the new propaganda pamphlet back.”

Van Bommel also intends to raise the matter of the excess spending in Parliament this week.

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