Councillors in Hoorn have decided to delay a decision on removing a statue of a leading colonial figurehead and slaver from the town centre pending more “conversations” with locals.
Jan Pieterszoon Coen was Hoorn’s governor general in the early 17th century and laid the basis for the slave trade in Asia. He was also instrumental in the murder of thousands of people after leading punishment expeditions against locals on the Banda Islands while defending the spice trade.
Although there have been demonstrations against the statue since the 1960s, and it has been attacked with paint on several occasions, councillors have so far resisted calls to remove it. The council did put up a plaque next to the statue outlining Coen’s deeds in 2011, and many officials say that is going far enough.
On Tuesday night the town council agreed to again give give locals more input about what should happen to the statute, which was erected in 1893, and have kept the door open to a referendum on the issue.
Last December Hoorn also said it had 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.
Research published last 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.
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.
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