Prime Minister Rutte will give a speech today on the past of slavery, and he may apologize for it on behalf of the Dutch state. What we can expect and what’s been going on with the apologies lately can be read below.
What’s going on today?
Rutte speaks at 3 p.m. The discourse on the Dutch slavery past is in the National Archives in The Hague. The Prime Minister responds to the report strings from the past History of Slavery for the Advisory Board Dialogue Group. In it, he advises the Cabinet to make an apology.
Rutte and Deputy Prime Minister Kaag said this would be a “meaningful moment”. Everything indicates that an apology is indeed being expressed, but this has not yet been officially confirmed.
After the speech, the ministers will speak with participants in seven different locations, including Suriname.
The speech at the National Archives will be attended by members of the Advisory Council Dialogue Group on the History of Slavery, representatives from the kingdom’s countries, Suriname and those involved with whom the Cabinet has spoken in recent weeks.
Deputy Prime Ministers Hoekstra, Kaag and Schouten and Ministers Bruins Slot (home affairs and kingdom relations) and Dijkgraaf (education, culture and science) also attend.
In Suriname and the six islands in the Caribbean part of the kingdom, after the speech in The Hague, members of the Cabinet will address those present at the site.
- Minister Werwind (Legal Protection) in Suriname.
- Minister Van Gennep (Social Affairs and Employment) in Bonaire.
- Minister Cuipers (Public Health, Welfare and Sport) in Sint Maarten.
- Minister of State Van der Burgh (Justice and Security) in Aruba.
- Foreign Minister Van Hoevelin (Kingdom Relations and Digitization) in Curaçao.
- Minister of State Van Ogen (Health, Welfare and Sport) in Saba.
- State Secretary van Rij (Department of Excise and Excise) in St. Eustatius.
What happened during slavery? What role did the Netherlands play in this painful history? Watch it in the special below:
What’s in the report?
The 217-page report is called strings from the pastIt was written last year on behalf of the Home Office and deals with the period between the seventeenth century and July 1, 1863 (the day slavery was officially abolished) and the consequences of slavery.
The advisory committee makes a large number of recommendations in the report. She says the Netherlands must realize that slavery and the slave trade were crimes against humanity and that the consequences are still being felt. According to the committee, the Cabinet should also commission a national investigation into past slavery and make July 1 a national day of remembrance.
The issue of apology was also discussed at length in the report. Advice is not an excuse from individuals, but from the state as a whole. As the “legal successor to the former Holland,” it is up to the current government to apologize for “directly or indirectly allowing” slavery and the slave trade, the advisory board believes. The committee also noted that countries such as Germany, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom and the United States had already apologized.
Who criticizes this date?
At the end of November, it was leaked that the Council of Ministers intends to apologize today, in the run-up to the 2023 anniversary, which led to the surprise and frustration of a number of civil society organizations and institutions. It bothers them not to share the date with them, and the apology seems to be “upside down”.
Six organizations went to court, but they weren’t right in these initial relief measures. There was also criticism among Dutch people of Indonesian descent that the apologies focus too much on Suriname and the Caribbean.
Discontent has also grown in Suriname itself: the Surinamese National Committee for the Remembrance of Slavery wants the Dutch government to declare itself on July 1, 2023. Then exactly 160 years ago slavery was officially abolished in the Dutch colonies and 150 years ago. There was also the practice came to an end. For this reason, the date has great symbolic significance for many.
What is the apology support in the Netherlands?
At the end of November it turned out that the number of people who believed Holland should make excuses for its slavery past had increased, but the larger group still disagreed. This became evident from research by I&O Research commissioned by NOS.
38% of the respondents support an apology, and 49% oppose it. Last year it was 31 percent and 55 percent. This shift can mainly be attributed to the native Dutch. Support for an apology remains high among people of immigrant background: two-thirds of Surinamese and the Netherlands Antilles support it.
After weeks of debating the apology, Linda Neutemeyer (NiNsee) and Kenneth Stamm (co-founder of Slavery Monument Tilburg) tell what this moment means to them:
Why apologies mean so much to Linda and Kenneth
Why December 19?
The considerations for this date seem mainly practical. And the government wants to apologize before the 2023 memorial year, because it believes it is strange to enter such an important year without taking any position. History also has to do with the agendas of seven ministers. In December, there are fewer days available to plan something due to holidays and emotionally charged days, such as December 8 (the commemoration of the December 1982 murders in Suriname).
The fourth reason for this date is the unstable political situation. If there is a different locker, the apology may be delayed.
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