Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte has apologized on behalf of his government for the Netherlands’ historical role in the slave trade, saying slavery must be recognized in “the clearest terms” as a crime against humanity.
Netherlands Apologizes For Its Role In Slave Trade
The Dutch PM issued the apology in a 20-minute speech that was greeted with silence by an invited audience at the National Archive on Monday, December 19, 2022.
In a speech, Rutte acknowledged that the past “cannot be erased, only faced up to”, stressing that for centuries, “the Dutch state had enabled, encouraged and profited from slavery”.
“People were commodified, exploited and traded in the name of the Dutch state”, he said, adding: “It is true nobody alive today bears any personal guilt for slavery.
“But the Dutch state bears responsibility for the immense suffering of those who were enslaved, and their descendants. Today, on behalf of the Dutch government, I apologize for the past actions of the Dutch state.”
Rutte went ahead with the apology even though some activist groups in the Netherlands and its former colonies had urged him to wait until July 1 of next year, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery 160 years ago.
Activists consider next year the 150th anniversary because many enslaved people were forced to continue working in plantations for a decade after abolition.
“Why the rush?” Barryl Biekman, chair of the Netherlands-based National Platform for Slavery Past, asked before the prime minister’s address. Some of the groups went to court last week in a failed attempt to block the speech.
Some even went to court last week in a failed attempt to block the speech. Rutte referred to the disagreement in his remarks Monday.
“We know there is no one good moment for everybody, no right words for everybody, no right place for everybody,” he said.
He said the government would establish a fund for initiatives to help tackle the legacy of slavery in the Netherlands and its former colonies.
The Dutch government previously expressed deep regret for the nation’s historical role in slavery but stopped short of a formal apology, with Rutte once saying such a declaration could polarize society. However, a majority in parliament now supports an apology.
Rutte’s gave his speech at a time when many nations’ brutal colonial histories have received critical scrutiny because of the Black Lives Matter movement and the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in the U.S. city of Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
The prime minister’s address was a response to a report published last year by a government-appointed advisory board.
Its recommendations included the government’s apology and recognition that the slave trade and slavery from the 17th century until abolition “that happened directly or indirectly under Dutch authority were crimes against humanity.”
The report said that what it called institutional racism in the Netherlands “cannot be seen separately from centuries of slavery and colonialism and the ideas that have arisen in this context.”
KanyiDaily had also reported how American comedian, Steve Harvey,62, broke down in tears during his visit to a castle that housed the horrors of the slave trade centuries ago.