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Foundation threatens international action to force slavery apology

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PARAMARIBO–With just over a month to go before Suriname (and other former Dutch colonies) marks the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, an Afro-Surinamese foundation has refueled the calls for an apology from the Netherlands. Rudi Bottse, chairman of the Broki (Bridge) Collective said that if the Dutch don’t apologize in 2013, he will lodge a complaint at international organizations against the former colonizer.

 

“If the Dutch don’t apologize this year, I will seek support from other countries with a slavery past to bring this matter to the attention of the European Union and the Unit Nations and force the Netherlands to formally apologize,” Bottse said.

The history of Slavery in the former Dutch colonies is about as old as Dutch colonial history. Over more than three centuries a lively slave trade existed, during which the Dutch shipped an estimated one million Africans from their continent to work on plantations in “the new world”. Slavery was officially abolished on July 1st 1863, but it has always remained a sour point that the Netherlands didn’t actually free the slaves out of humanity and never offered a formal apology to their descendants.

While the USA in 2008 passed a formal resolution apologizing for slavery and segregation and a London Mayor in 2007 apologized for that part of Britain’s history that is tainted by the slave trade, the Dutch have so far stopped short of saying they regret slavery took place.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Social Affairs hinted in the Dutch press earlier this month that Minister Lodewijck Assen will likely express his “deeply rooted regret” regarding “this dark page in our history” when he speaks on July 1st at an emancipation event in Amsterdam.

Broki chairman Bottse said on Wednesday that 2013 is the opportune time for the Dutch to go express more than regret. Bottse said on Wednesday that he will table the issue at the international Slavery Memorial  Conference to be held in Paramaribo from June 26 to 26. Speakers from the Caribbean, Cuba, the former Netherlands Antilles, Brazil, the USA and the Netherlands are expected to attend. The conference is one of several activities planned around July 1st, which is a national holiday in Suriname.

Bottse said he initially approached Suriname’s Foreign Ministry in hopes that Government would urge the Netherlands to apologize, but was advised that as per the rules of protocol this was possible. “Which is why we will raise the issue at the Slavery Conference,” he said.

It is not the first time this year that the issue of apologies are raised. Earlier Second Chamber member Harry van Bommel (SP), Amsterdam southeast city council chairman Tjeerd Herrema and the National Platform for Slavery Past called for an apology. The historic occasion of the crowning of King Willem Alexander was suggested as an appropriate consideration for an apology in 2013.

Suriname marks multiple historic anniversaries this year. Aside from the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, it is also the 140th anniversary of the Indian immigration Indians and the 160th anniversary of the immigration of people from China.

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