Dutch government expresses ‘deep regret’ over slavery

Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher has expressed the government’s ‘deep regret’ at the Dutch slave trade at a ceremony to mark 150 years since the Netherlands banned slavery in its former colonies.

Speaking in the presence of king Willem-Alexander, queen Máxima and black community leaders at the ceremony in Amsterdam, Asscher said: ‘I look back and express deep regret and repentence over how the Netherlands dealt with human values’.

Nevertheless, many Dutch Surinamese were angry the minister stopped short of an outright apology, television news broadcaster Nos reported. They were also unhappy the royal couple did not lay a wreath on the slavery monument, unveiled by the king’s mother Beatrix in 2002.

Golden Age

Amsterdam’s mayor, Eberhard van der Laan, said in his speech that slavery shows the other side of the Netherlands’ Golden Age and the 400-year-old canal rings. A large part of the construction of the canals was financed through slavery, the mayor said.

‘This history fills us with shame,’ the mayor said. The Golden Age should not be spoken about without reference to ‘that pain and injustice’, he said.

Slavery was banned in the former Dutch colony of Suriname and on the Caribbean Antillean islands in 1863. The Netherlands was among the last western countries to abolish the practice.

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