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Monday Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, on behalf of the Dutch Government, made a formal public apology for the country’s role in abetting, stimulating, preserving and profiting from centuries of slave trading.
Rutte said, “for hundreds of years, people were made merchandise, exploited and abused in the name of the Dutch state.” He went further to state, among other things, that: – “We are doing this – and doing it now – so that, standing on the cusp of an important commemorative year, we can find a way forward together. We not only share a past; we share a future too. So with this apology we are writing not a full stop, but a comma.”
According to the Government of Netherlands’ website: “The prime minister’s apology and the dialogues elsewhere are an important part of the government’s response to the report entitled ‘Chains of the Past’, which was presented by the Slavery History Dialogue Group in July 2021. The report advised the government to proceed with acknowledgement, apology and recovery, in relation to slavery in the Kingdom. The government response to the report was sent to the Dutch House of Representatives this afternoon.”
Rutte’s apology has been met with various responses. Some said the government did not go far enough. Others have been accepting and saw it as a signal of correcting historical wrongs. One such person is Vincent Alexander, Chairman of the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G). In an open letter to Rutte, Alexander stated the organisation “consider[s] this apology a significant step in the acceptance of guilt and the demonstration of penitence for the involvement of the Dutch in the worst crime ever committed against humanity.” Further, said Alexander, “[e]ven as we acknowledge these aspects of the legacy woven into the fabric of our society and enduring today, we, as African Guyanese and descendants of the victims of this unspeakable crime, look forward to the formal apology.”
See full text of Alexander’s letter below: –
Open Letter to His Excellency Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands
Please accept felicitations from the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPADA-G), Guyana’s Coordinating Mechanism for the UN declared International Decade for People of African Descent, on the occasion of the Netherlands’ public apology for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans, the slave trade and all of the attendant and enduring ills.
We consider this apology a significant step in the acceptance of guilt and the demonstration of penitence for the involvement of the Dutch in the worst crime ever committed against humanity.
We look forward to subsequent initiatives on your Government’s part in response to the just and global call for reparations as the ultimate act of recompense.
Your Government’s commitment in that regard is manifest in some actions taken in the post-colonial era. We presently enjoy beneficial relations in the archival sphere. Those relations can go a far way in the pursuit of recognition for the peoples of African descent, recognition being one of the goals of the UN declared decade to which your government subscribed.
Much of Guyana’s legal and land conveyancing systems are legacies of the long period of Dutch colonial administration that ended in 1803. Even as we acknowledge these aspects of the legacy woven into the fabric of our society and enduring today, we, as African Guyanese and descendants of the victims of this unspeakable crime, look forward to the formal apology.
May this initiative enhance our countries’ current relations based on the universal principle of mutual respect and the embrace of the principles which we all subscribe to as members of the United Nations.