I am currently investigating this rather interesting question.
The Netherlands is a tiny country and little attention has been paid to maritime archaeology in the past. It is clear that this area has been receiving more attention for a few years now. Nevertheless, it seems that maritime archaeology is strongly driven by a small group that seems to be in control of most aspects. During my investigations, I came across various peculiarities and I have had to cautiously conclude that I have not been able to establish that this could not be the case in the Netherlands; however there are indications that there is intensive collaboration between certain parties. In addition, I have been able to establish that a great deal of influence is being exerted in order to avoid sharing certain issues that occur in the Netherlands. I have experienced this first hand. In one instance, I was informed by the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency that if I were to release certain evidence to the wider world I would also be complicit in the wrongdoing contained within that evidence. They also said, ‘Are we not rid of you yet?!’. This surprised me a great deal as I have been dealing with them for many, many years. I would have thought they realised that I do not dismiss questions just because they do not want to answer them!
I am pretty robust and am not sensitive to threats and refusals. However, I can understand that many people and companies do not have my thick skin and prefer to back down rather than persist. I also believe this approach does not make me many friends. I do, however, believe strongly, that society benefits from transparency in this area. Even Minister Van Engelshoven gave, on 1 March 2018, in response to parliamentary questions from SP members Kwint and Beckerman, a very clear answer to the question, ‘Who do you think our archaeological heritage belongs to?’ We all agree with the minister that ‘The archaeological heritage belongs to us all’. You would like to think so, wouldn’t you?
Perhaps the most important right for standing up for my beliefs, is the right to freedom of speech (Dutch National Constitution Article 7 and Penal Code Articles 111-113, 131, 132, 137cde, 261, 262 and 266.)
In September 2017 I had a meeting with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency, in which I presented a number of issues and asked for the House of Representatives to be kept well informed. I am of the opinion that the House of Representatives has not been fully informed and have made the decision to provide the House with facts myself. This is so that Members of Parliament can form a balanced opinion with all the available information. I am still trying to fathom why the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science decided to paint an incomplete picture to the Members of Parliament.
The investigation is complex and difficult because of procedures that are delayed in various ways. Fortunately, a lot of important information is pouring in from various sources and I hope to have my report ready for the House of Representatives before the end of 2018.
To be continued…