In what is the clearest sign yet that the Netherlands will take some positive action for its role in the brutal transAtlantic slave trade, the Hague is sending out advanced parties of ministers for talks ahead of a planned apology for its genocidal past later this month.
Local and international media, including the Dutch Telegraaf, are reporting that Prime Minister Mark Rutte thinks it is better for the ministers to smooth the way ahead of a planned formal apology for Dutch slave era horrors, officials said. The date being floated is Dec. 19.
Rutte himself had visited the former Dutch Caribbean Community nation of Suriname in September, weeks after a multiparty delegation of lawmakers had come on a factfinding mission to assess the lingering effects of slavery. They promptly recommended that a formal apology be made to Suriname and Dutch colonies around the world. The delegation has also visited existing Dutch colonies such as St. Maarten, where they found the same level of bitterness about slavery, the lingering effects on health of today’s generation, and a slew of other complaints.
Minister Sigrid Kaag, the first deputy prime minister, is identified by media as the one who will fly to Paramaribo for talks with President Chan Santokhi, the local reparations commission and other stakeholders.
Additional reporting is indicating that PM Rutte could even raise the issue in the Dutch parliament this week while the selection of ministers fly out to the region “to smooth out” any political, cultural and other wrinkles that could spoil what could be a landmark event.
This is because the umbrella Caribbean Reparations Commission had long written to European governments asking for a summit to discuss the issue and also because demand letters setting out a host of atrocities had been sent to various capitals. Several of them, including France and Portugal, have not replied, while the British has so far refused to even discuss the genocide against Black Africans. An apology from the Dutch could open the door for the Caribbean and others seeking reparations as it signals an admission of culpability for wrongdoing.
Next year, Suriname will observe 150 years of the abolition of slavery, so all sides have jumped at this opportunity to do something meaningful, officials said.
And, apparently leaving nothing to chance, two representatives from the Surinamese commission are headed to Holland for talks with the deputy PM and others this week.
Armand Zunder and Audrey Christiaan are scheduled to meet midweek as planning intensifies.
“This matter now seems to be a hot item. Everyone seems to be getting involved in this matter, while committees are being set up from various quarters who believe they are the legitimate representatives of the descendants of enslaved Indigenous and Africans,” the local Star News online publication quoted Zunder as saying.
The committee wants the apology to be at least at the level of the Dutch king, make a distinction between the atrocities in Suriname and the Caribbean islands, take responsibility for crimes committed against Africans and indigenous people, accept the lasting effects on descendants, establish a major reparatory fund, and legislate the apology to make it formal and legal.
“If the Dutch government announces the non-limitative points before or on December 19 in a meaningful statement for acknowledgment, apology and repair, then the basis has been laid to extend the repair process of the Caricom that has been under discussion since 2013 for the coming years’ roles,” Zunder said.
Taking no chances with begging Europe to come on board and talk reparations, Caricom governments have already hire a British law firm which won reparations compensation for Kenyan tribesmen mass murdered by soldiers during the colonial era to represent it. The feedback as told to governments is that there is a strong case to make.
In the meantime, Barbados has taken the lead to target individual families such as those of British lawmaker Richard Drax to start talking about their past. He flew to the island recently for talks with PM Mia Mottley. The Draxes are known for their role in establishing the plantation system on the island and across the region. They are reported by British newspapers to be fabulously wealthy today thanks to slavery.