Dutch State advised to apologize for slavery, make July 1 a national holiday
The Dutch State should offer a formal apology for its participation and establishment of the slave trade during its colonial past, a government-commissioned advisory group recommended in its final report on Thursday. The Netherlands must recognize that slavery and the slave trade were crimes against humanity and acknowledge that the consequences of it can still be felt through society, the committee stated according to several media reports.
The advisory committee was appointed to investigate the Dutch colonial past and effects it had on modern-day society. The final report was submitted to Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren on Thursday, one year after it was commissioned.
Recommendations include making July 1 a national day to reflect on the country’s involvement in slavery. July 1, 1863, was when the Netherlands abolished slavery in Suriname and the former Dutch Antilles. Some freed people were still forced to work on plantations in Suriname until a decade later.
An annual national memorial on that date should involve King Willem-Alexander and the Cabinet to acknowledge “that the history of slavery affects the entire country,” the report said.
The establishment of a national slavery museum, long discussed as an option in Amsterdam, was also seriously suggested. The education sector must also do a better job teaching about the history of slavery in the Netherlands.
The broad set of recommendations also noted the importance of making improvements in present-day social conditions that can lead to marginalization of people of color. "Combating institutional racism in the labor market, the housing market, education, and the police require specific and urgent attention," the report read.
The group stopped short of recommending that reparations be paid to the descendants of slaves, but it did say that significant amounts of money should be spent to make up for the damage caused between the 17th and 19th centuries. A recovery fund could be established to make up for wealth stolen from Suriname and the parts of the Caribbean where the Netherlands was present at that time.
A commemoration for the abolition of slavery takes place on Thursday at the National Monument of Dutch Slavery Past in Amsterdam's Oosterpark at 1 p.m. It was rumored that Mayor Femke Halsema will offer her apology for the city’s involvement in slavery during the ceremony, which would make Amsterdam the first Dutch city to officially do so.