: Former colonial power Holland is struggling for an apology for slavery

: Former colonial power Holland is struggling for an apology for slavery

Former colonial power Holland is struggling to apologize for slavery

The National Monument created by Erwin de Vries to commemorate slavery in Amsterdam.  Photo: Peter Dejong/AP/dpa

The National Monument created by Erwin de Vries to commemorate slavery in Amsterdam. photo

© Peter Dejong/AP/dpa

The Netherlands are considered tolerant and cosmopolitan. But there is a dark side to the country’s history – slavery. The government now wants to apologize for this. That leads to discussions.

It’s a gesture that comes late and bumpy. the Netherlandswhose wealth as a trading nation began with the exploitation of colonies in the so-called “Golden Age” of the 17th century, want to apologize for slavery.

Before the Prime Minister’s speech Mark Rutte But there were heated debates this Monday and an apology from government officials in the former colony of Suriname and overseas territories. Some do not like the date and form, some descendants feel badly integrated. Others want King Willem-Alexander to apologize and Holland to pay compensation.

Rutte’s apology plan was unwittingly made public at the start

The start was already tough. In 2001 and 2013, the government expressed its regret, but descendants of slaves and residents of former colonies tried in vain for an apology from the former third-largest colonial power in the world. A commission set up by the government then declared in July that the Netherlands had to apologize and actively work to combat the consequences, such as racism. Next year the country will now commemorate the end of the slavery. Rutte’s apology plan was unintentionally made public at the start. For weeks it was printed around what it could be about – and some were already dissatisfied in advance.

Surinamese associations wanted to urgently ensure that the apology was not made on an arbitrary date but on July 1 of next year, 160 years after the official abolition of slavery by the Netherlands. A court dismissed the lawsuit on Thursday. The fact that Franc Weerwind, a Dutch minister in Suriname should speak, who is himself a descendant of slaves. A Surinamese representative demanded that “a white person” apologize. Rutte still lets Weerwind talk – but sent Deputy Prime Minister Sigrid Kaag to Suriname in advance to smooth the waves there.

From 1640-1670, the Netherlands were the world’s largest slave trader

It has long been known that the historical postcard idyll of the Netherlands with stately mansions on Amsterdam’s canals and the paintings of richly laden merchant ships has cracks. In addition to goods from the colonies, the boats also transported people – from 1640 to 1670, the Netherlands was the world’s largest slave trader. The country enslaved an estimated 500,000 people over 200 years. They were mostly deported from West Africa, sold and had to work on the plantations in what was then the colonies of Suriname and the Antilles in the Caribbean. As one of the last countries in Europe, the kingdom officially abolished slavery on July 1, 1863.

Prime Minister Rutte doesn’t think it’s a bad thing that his appearance on Monday will fuel further discussions, on the contrary. Last week’s debate had already led to “a wealth of reactions” and the intensity of the talks on slavery had increased, he said on Friday. An assumption of Excuse me If the Netherlands couldn’t demand it, that would be arrogant, admitted State Secretary Marnix van Rij, who was speaking on the tiny Caribbean island of Sint Eustatius on Monday. It’s going to be a long process. “We are doing something as the Netherlands that we probably should have done a lot sooner.”


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