Hoorn says no to slavery apology, despite its slave trade past

The statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen in the town centre. Photo GerardM at Dutch Wikipedia

Councillors in Hoorn have decided not to make a formal apology for the town’s role in slavery or formally recognise its slave trade history, despite research showing it had a major stake.

A majority of councillors refused to back a motion calling for an apology, and even more refused to back a motion calling for the past to be acknowledged, some of whom said that motion did not go far enough. 

The research, published earlier this year, showed that Hoorn had a key role in the slave trade because it was one of the few cities represented in both the VOC and the WIC, the two firms that are estimated to have traded in 1.5 million people while slavery was legal. 

In addition, Hoorn’s governor general Jan Pieterszoon Coen laid the basis for the slave trade in Asia. A statue of him stands still stands in the town centre. 

A spokesman for the council said that councillors do recognise that slavery is a dark page in the town’s history. However, the spokesman said, an apology is not in order because the town was not managed at that time by elected representatives. 

“Some councillors don’t feel they have any connection to them, and don’t see why they should apologise for something that they do not feel involved in,” the spokesman told broadcaster NOS.

Prime minister Mark Rutte and king Willem-Alexander earlier apologised for the Dutch role in the slave trade this summer.

In the last two years year the mayors of all four major cities have apologised for their role in facilitating the slave trade, while the Dutch central bank has published a report detailing how it was founded with capital from colonial entrepreneurs and provided financial services to slave traders.

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