Finance minister Sigrid Kaag will visit Suriname this week on a fence-mending expedition after the government’s plans to apologise for slavery this month were roundly criticised in the former Dutch colonies.
The South American country said it had not been consulted in advance on the proposed an apology by prime minister Mark Rutte in The Hague next Monday, December 19, supported by visits by ministers to Indonesia, Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean nations.
Representatives also condemned the choice of legal protection minister Franc Weerwind, who has Surinamese ancestry, to represent the government in Paramaribo.
Johan Roozer, of the Surinamese national committee for the commemoration of slavery, said the apology needed to be spoken by a ‘white person’. ‘He’s a descendant too, he should also have reparations,’ Roozer said of Weerwind after meeting prime minister Mark Rutte and other cabinet ministers in the Catshuis last week.
Kaag will speak to members of Suriname’s government as well as social organisations, but it is far from certain that the formal apology will go ahead on December 19 as planned.
The organisations said they would only accept the formal apologies if the Dutch cabinet agreed to a series of demands, including a speech by King Willem-Alexander on Keti Koti, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery on July 1 next year.
They also call for the use of the Dutch word neger as a racial slur to be made a criminal offence, a ban on the blackface character Zwarte Piet, the cancellation of the former colonies’ debts and a restoration fund to support cultural institutions.
‘From our point of view, we can only agree with December 19 and defend it in public if the cabinet commits to the peripheral conditions we have stipulated,’ they wrote in a letter signed by the prime minister of Aruba, Evelyn Wever-Croes and organisations including Kick Out Zwarte Piet, slavery research institute Ninsee and the Antillean Network Association.
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