October 1, 2023

Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation

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Dutch Deputy P.M. to apologise for 250 years of slavery

December 18, 2022
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Netherlands Sigrid Kaag. (Tatan Syuflana/AP via CMC)

CMC – In Suriname, the Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Sigrid Kaag is in the country for a meeting with President Chandrikapersad Santokhi about the intended Dutch apologies for the slavery past. 

The visit comes as Dutch government intends to formally apologize to the descendants of the enslaved Africans in its former colonies on Monday.

The plans of the Dutch cabinet were leaked to the media a few weeks ago, after which a fierce discussion arose about this controversial issue.

During a press conference earlier this week and then  in parliament on Thursday, Santokhi indicated that his government has still not been formally informed by the Netherlands about the apology. 

The head of state indicated that he had no objection to the former colonizer’s intention but he believes the matter should have been discussed at government level. 

The president stated that  Monday should only be seen as a starting date for a process that should lead to the formal expression of regret. 

The president further noted that this issue will not a matter for the government, but the National Assembly, the National Reparations Commission of Suriname and interest groups of descendants of enslaved people who deal with this issue will also be involved.

“We want the slavery history and apologies to be handled with care and all parties involved to be heard so that proper policies are established,” said the President. 

The President, who is the current chairperson of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said  he  recently discussed the slavery and reparations issue with Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados as the issue of reparations has been on the CARICOM agenda for several years.

While here, Kaag will also meet with various ministers and a parliamentary committee. It is reported that she will explain the plans of the Dutch government about what exactly it wants to do on Monday. 

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands has said on several occasions that a “meaningful” message regarding the slavery past will be delivered .

Surinamese and Dutch-based interest groups are angered that the Dutch government has unilaterally set the date of December 19 and has not involved them in the decision-making process. 

They indicate that it makes no sense for the Netherlands to offer apologies that are not accepted. 

A number of Dutch-based organizations filed a lawsuit against the Dutch state last week to bar it from going ahead with its plan to issue a formal apology on Monday. Others  demands were also linked to this lawsuit, including the abolition of the visa requirement for Surinamese nationals to travel to the Netherlands.

However, the judge in The Hague rejected the claim of the Surinamese and Caribbean foundations.

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