Opinion: Compensation for the role the Dutch played in the history of slavery

POSTED: 09/9/13 2:49 PM

Will St. Maarten – and with it the other Caribbean islands – ever see compensation for the role the Dutch played in the history of slavery? The late Helmin Wiels estimated that 200 million guilders would do it, but so far, not a penny is in our bank accounts and it is extremely doubtful that this will ever happen.

How double the Dutch attitude towards its own past is, became clear once more from an op-ed in Trouw by Hans van der Jagt about the atrocities the Dutch army committed in Indonesia in 1947.

The cabinet has apologized for its colonial past in Indonesia, but at the same time the Rutte-cabinet has made clear that it does not want an investigation into this rather painful part of the country’s history.

The survivors of a mass-execution in Salawesi will receive compensation from the Dutch state. Earlier, survivors of similar war crimes in Ragawede also received – 65 years after the fact – apologies and compensation

But when three different institutes wanted an investigation into the Dutch war-history in Indonesia, Rutte cut their subsidies and announced drastic reforms. Even the Royal Institute for the tropics had to close its impressive library in August because of these measures.

Yes, there is a national monument to commemorate the country’s slavery past in Amsterdam. That’s about it. Every year on July 1 stuffed shirts hold speeches that ooze apology, but practical steps towards reparation have never been made. Interestingly Ronald Plastkerk, our current Minister of Kingdom relations, said in 2007 during one of these commemorations that the slavery-past does not get enough attention in the Netherlands. He promised to give it a place in the National History Museum in Arnhem. That museum never became a reality and the history of slavery is still waiting for a proper home in the Netherlands.

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