At the top of the BIJ1 party, a simmering conflict has surfaced. The party board has suspended the number two of the electoral list, Quinsy Gario, as a member.
The board says in a statement that it received “signals from and about Mr Gario”, but would not say what those signals were. This is because there has been no contact between the board and Gario in recent weeks. In response to these signals, an investigation was launched by law firm Van Overbeek de Meyer. The board says that following “disturbing” conclusions, suspension was inevitable. “We cannot ignore the seriousness of the situation and the advice associated with it. People must be safe within BIJ1. That is what we stand for.” Gario can still object, until then he cannot be expelled.
BIJ1 has one seat in the House of Representatives, which is occupied by Sylvana Simons. She worries about her health and suffers from chronic pain. If she ever resigns as a member of parliament for this reason, which some party members take into account, Gario would take her place. Formally, a cancellation does not change that. But Gario sympathizers say the imminent disbarment is intended to prevent him from taking the seat.
Gario himself says to wedding that he wanted to raise “bullying behavior and abuse of power” within BIJ1, but that his existence in the party was being made more difficult. He says he is not concerned with a possible seat in Parliament.
The number three on the list is Rebekka Timmer. She is also a close associate of Simons and a member of the party board. If Gario does not take any vacant seat, she would be the next candidate. Next Saturday, the general members’ meeting of BIJ1 will consider the composition of the board, which, according to insiders, has been rumbling for some time.
Activist and artist Quinsy Gario (1984) was one of the driving forces behind the Zwarte Piet-is-racism movement. In 2011, he and three other activists were arrested at the Sinterklaas arrival in Dordrecht. They wore a T-shirt with the same name there. The National Ombudsman condemned the arrest as disproportionate.
Gario, who is active on social media and in public debate, was brought in as a prominent face of the left-wing party. BIJ1 stands up for anti-racism, anti-capitalism and feminism, among other things. Gario sympathizers accuse the board of damaging him by not disclosing the signals he has been suspended for. The chair of the department in The Hague, Deborah Cameron, via Twitter know how to get behind Gario. “Putting a black man in the media as unsafe when we as members of the party have no insight into what happened is very damaging (..).”
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of July 20, 2021