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Dutch Officials Struggle with Issuing a Formal Apology for 250 Years of Slavery

The Netherlands has been dealing with claims of systematic racism in its police force

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NETHERLANDS: The Netherlands is about to issue an official apology for its part in 250 years of slavery, but the move is threatening to stoke divisions within the nation and has been criticised as “complete nonsense” by others.

According to a parliamentary briefing, the prime minister, Mark Rutte, will make a public statement on December 19 that aims to “do honour to the meaning and experience of former slavery.”

It is widely believed that this will be an apology for the 250 years during which the Dutch used more than 600,000 people from Africa and Asia as slaves to finance an economic and cultural “Golden Age”—roughly 5% of the 12 million people held as slaves by Europeans from the 17th to the 19th century.

Plans call for spending €27 million on a slavery museum and €200 million on awareness initiatives, according to broadcaster NOS.

However, organisations like the Nationale Reparatie Commissie in Suriname, a country that was colonised by the Dutch, have previously objected to the Netherlands’ “hasty and tarnished” approach and lack of participation, which some people say has colonial overtones.

However, there is increasing pressure for national government action. After a working group reported on a study trip to Suriname, Curaçao, and Bonaire in October, a parliamentary majority favoured issuing an official apology.

The mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and The Hague, as well as the leadership of De Nederlandsche Bank, have all expressed regret for their cities’ complicity in slavery and financial gain from it during the past 18 months.

According to research, 70% of the predominantly descendants of slaves African-Caribbean community in the Netherlands believe that an apology is crucial.

As a result, he asserted, “the persistent [absence] of an apology by the Dutch government has had more disruptive consequences for reconciliation than people seem to realize.”

The mayor of Utrecht, Sharon Dijksma, said it would be significant to acknowledge that the ruling class had unjustly benefited from trade with long-lasting effects.

An apology is appreciated, but Linda Nooitmeer, chair of NiNsee, the Dutch centre for the study of slavery, said it is simply the beginning of tackling inequality and providing equal opportunities for underrepresented groups of people.

Tendayi Achiume, the former UN envoy on racism, stated in 2020 that a self-image of “tolerance” was preventing the confronting of discrimination.

The Netherlands has been dealing with claims of systematic racism in its police force.

After tens of thousands of parents, many of whom were dual nationals, were wrongly accused of fraudulently receiving childcare benefits, deputy finance minister Marnix van Rij acknowledged there was institutional racism in the Dutch tax office earlier this year.

After King Charles III and the Prince of Wales both expressed “personal” and “profound” sorrow in speeches in Rwanda and Jamaica earlier this year, some people think the Dutch, one of the last western nations to abolish slavery, may set a precedent for the UK. The Netherlands abolished slavery on July 1, 1863.

Also Read: FIFA World Cup 2022: Netherlands Crushes US 3-1, Marching on to the Quarterfinals


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