Flag of Suriname (224107)
Flag of Suriname Credit: Wikipedia

Authorities in The Netherlands are preparing to formally apologize for the role of the Dutch in the brutal trans Atlantic slave trade following visits by a multiparty parliamentary delegation and Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Dutch protectorates and Suriname in the past three months, local and international media are reporting.

Until Rutte’s visit to Suriname in September, cabinets led by him and other prime ministers have stoutly resisted calls for an acknowledgement and an apology for slavery but the mutterings from The Hague have changed in recent months in the wake of increasing pressure from rights groups both in The Netherlands and the Caribbean.

For example, the delegation of lawmakers who had spent several days in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community nation in August has recommended a formal apology be made after noting the lingering effects of the genocide on local society. Rutte had also said in his recent comments that perhaps the time had come for the nation to “take the next step” in the conversation of the role of The Dutch in slavery.

And in a recent throne speech, King Willem Alexander hinted that next year would be a landmark one for relations with Suriname and other former or existing Dutch colonies, noting, “If we want a society where there is no place for racism and discrimination, where everyone feels heard and appreciated, we must openly reflect on the less pleasant chapters in our history. Not to judge our forebears through the prism of modern values, but to understand what our history means to various groups and cultures that form part of our society. By engaging in a dialogue about the past, the government hopes to foster necessary recognition, and help people connect with each other. As we approach next year’s 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, we need to acknowledge this part of our history, too,” the King said.

All the political fuss about whether an apology will be made is firmly linked to 150 anniversary celebrations of the end of the slave trade next year. This is one reason why the lawmaker delegation visited Suriname and other Caribbean countries this year to determine how The Hague should handle increasing calls for an apology and reparations, well aware that the 150th anniversary will attract such demands.

At the weekend,  a number of Dutch and international media including the NL Times, Fortune.com, ANP, as well as Surinamese publications, reported on the imminent move by the cabinet to deal with the issue.

Additionally, they are even reporting that a special fund of  200 million Euroswill be set aside to create awareness and improve the delivery of education, while an additional 27 million is expected to be budgeted for a slavery museum and memorial in Suriname.

Rights groups argue that if The Dutch follow through with the plans being reported, The Netherlands will be the first among European former slave trading nations not only to apologize but to set aside money as a start in dealing with compensation for the genocide against Africans. Demands for reparations have gained significant traction in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. Britain has already been forced to pay Kenyan tribesmen for mass murders committed by troops during the colonial era. Caribbean governments have hired the same firm which fought for the tribesmen to engage European governments. The British attorneys say the region has an extremely strong case to make.

As all eyes are now on The Hague’s next move, the umbrella Caribbean Reparations Commission and other groups have taken note of a move by Canada to set aside Canadian $40 billion to compensate indigenous peoples for separating families and other atrocities Fortune.com is reporting.

Fortune is also reporting that a number of Dutch cities’ commercial banks and other entities have already issued apologies for their role in supporting plantation life, participating as shippers and insurers of Dutch slavery business in the West Indies.

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