Should the cabinet apologize for the Dutch slavery past? This question is central to the working visit of the House of Representatives to Suriname, Curaçao and Bonaire. A parliamentary delegation today embarks on a nine-day journey, intended to prepare for the 2023 commemorative year, which is 150 years since slavery ended in the Netherlands.
The MPs will have all kinds of conversations, including with representatives of the people and scientists. In Suriname, a meeting with President Santokhi is also scheduled.
Among other things, the delegation wants to investigate how the slavery past in Suriname and the Caribbean continues to work. On Wednesday, the MPs in Curaçao attend the commemoration of the slave uprising led by the freedom fighter Tula. He stood up to the owner of his plantation in 1795 and was sentenced to death.
In 1863, the Netherlands officially abolished slavery in its colonies, but ten years later, the enslaved were in fact only free. Last year, a committee advised the Dutch State to apologize. The cabinet has not done so far, but has promised to come up with a response this year. Several cities have already made excuses, just like De Nederlandsche Bank, for example.
The delegation will also enter into discussions with the National Committee for Commemoration of Slavery Past in Suriname. “We are very positive about their arrival and about the planned conversation,” says chairman Johan Roozer.
“We have created a twelve-point program that we will share. For example, we do not want to emphasize reparations. For us, it is important that if the Netherlands opts for reparations, we would opt for research and sustainable projects to strengthen the future generation. How much depends on the extent to which the Netherlands recognizes that the slavery past continues to work in today‘s society. We can indicate that very concretely and will do so.”
Roozer calls the visit a ‘very serious matter‘. He emphasizes that the consequences of the slavery past are still visible. “For the future generation, for the descendants of the enslaved, we need to transform that into actions to sustainably promote well-being and prosperity among the descendants of enslaved ones.”
First Chamber visit to Suriname in years
This is the first time in thirteen years that a delegation from the Chamber goes to Suriname. The relationship between the Netherlands and Suriname was severely cooled during Desi Bouterse’s presidency. Last year, his successor Santokhi visited the Netherlands. Prime Minister Rutte, for his part, goes to Suriname in September.
The delegation consists of nine MPs and is led by Kiki Hagen (D66). Among the participants are also group chairmen: Klaver (GroenLinks) and Simons (Bij1). Hagen characterizes the visit as a research trip. This could lead to recommendations to the cabinet.
VVD no longer
The largest group, the VVD, is not participating in the trip. According to VVD MP Van Strien, a nine-day trip currently has insufficient added value. Van Strien says that he has been informed about the slavery past in many different ways over the past period and that he continues to do so: “Through conversations, work visits, lectures and round tables, I speak to relatives of enslaved people and with experts, scientists and thinkers.”
its own words, the VVD does not yet have a definitive position on any excuses. In any case, D66, ChristenUnie, PvdA, SP, GroenLinks, Party for the Animals, Denk, Volt, Bij1 and the Den Haan Group are in favour of apologizing. Hagen is in favour as a D66 member, but, as chairman of the delegation, does not want to anticipate the question of whether there should be an excuse: “I hope that this trip makes an important contribution to having a good understanding of what the slavery past still means and that we can look ahead.”