Speech of the acting Kingdom Representant, Jan Helmond at the Remembrance day ceremony

Ladies and gentlemen,

Last year, when we had gathered here as a select committee to commemorate 75 years of freedom, I ended my speech by expressing the hope that we would meet again under ‘normal circumstances’ the following year. We all know it has not come to pass; we are still facing many restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Again, we are gathered today with a small party in an adjusted manner to commemorate the victims of the Second World War and the victims of conflicts, wars, and peacekeeping missions.

Every year, the National Committee for 4 and 5 May chooses an overall theme for the commemorations organised throughout the Kingdom. This year, the theme is ‘The Foundation of Freedom’.

Freedom, what does this actually mean? Does freedom mean you can go wherever you please? That you can think and say anything you want? Everybody has his own idea of freedom.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, the vulnerability of freedom and the fact that freedom cannot be taken for granted have become acutely clear. When I look at the foundation of freedom in this crisis, there is a major responsibility on governments, mayors, and island governors. They have had to take drastic measures concerning the foundation of freedom we all cherish. They have had to make decisions with drastic consequences for freedoms we consider normal and take for granted nowadays.

Restrictions to the freedom which are only allowed in unsafe and exceptional situations. Restrictions to the freedom of all people in our society in the interest of our own health and safety, as well as to protect those in our society who are vulnerable. Restrictions to freedom to be able to continue to ensure that all people in our society can receive the care they need.

Sometimes, we experience the measures taken by those in charge during times of COVID-19 as unpleasant, they are inconvenient to us, and sometimes we do not understand them. It feels like a freedom restriction we do not wish to accept. Sometimes, this is because we want to lift the restriction because it makes it impossible for us to meet our friends or family in the way we are used to. Sometimes, because a road or beach is closed, we cannot celebrate an important holiday in the way we normally do. Sometimes, because we are simply not used to having our freedom restricted. Yet, we have to respect and comply with the measures, even though we do not always understand them.

At the same time, it is essential that we realise we live in a society where the people in charge are also supervised. They are supervised by the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament, by the city councils and the island councils. And this is a foundation of freedom too. A foundation in which it has been stipulated that a person in charge cannot restrict our freedom just like that. Such foundation entails that those in charge and everybody in society realise that these restrictions to freedom cannot and should not take longer than necessary. That we have open and respectful discussions at those places that are officially intended for these discussions to take place.

This is a crucial foundation of the freedom in our system. These checks and balances ensure that our foundation of freedom is not unnecessarily affected. That we may and can have differences of opinion and that we have the freedom to discuss the necessity of taking measures. To me, this system – in which it is safeguarded that a government can only interfere in exceptional situations and that this government is supervised by representatives of the people – is currently the most striking example of a foundation of freedom.

Fortunately, we can regain this freedom one small step at a time. Perhaps, we learn to appreciate the freedom we actually had in this COVID-19 period.

Let us be there for each other, especially now. Let us realise that peace and freedom should never be taken for granted. That we have to continue to work together on peace and freedom. Let us commemorate together in mutual solidarity, every individual with his or her own recollections and thoughts. 

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