Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende and his Suriname counterpart Ronald Ventiaan agreed on a number of measures to increase ties between the two countries during the Dutch PM’s visit to the former colony on Tuesday.
‘We have not talked enough for a long time,’ Balkenende was quoted by the Telegraaf as saying. Balkenende also said he was impressed by developments in the South American country, pointing out that ‘the economy is growing, democracy has strong roots’.
While not officially apologising for the Dutch role in the slave trade, Balkenende did say he would personally attend a ceremony to mark 145 years since slavery was abolished in Suriname this summer. ‘The Netherlands regrets the suffering which slavery caused. The memories of that time must be kept alive,’ he was reported as Trouw by saying.
Trouw said Balkenende told a news conference he was not afraid of financial claims from the descendants of slaves, pointing to the 3.5bn guilders which the Netherlands gave Suriname on its independence in 1975.
Ventiaan pointed out that money had been given as development aid, not as financial compensation for slavery, Trouw reported.
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