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Netherland's Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives for the EU-ASEAN summit in Brussels today. AP/PA Images

Dutch PM to make landmark slavery speech next week

The Dutch government would not confirm reports that he would give a formal apology for the Netherlands’ role.

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER Mark Rutte will make a speech on slavery on 19 December, the government said today, without confirming reports that he would give a formal apology for the Netherlands’ role.

Ministers will also travel to former colonies in South America and the Caribbean that suffered during 250 years of the slave trade that helped fund the Netherlands’ economic and cultural “Golden Age”.

Groups in a number of colonies have vocally opposed any formal apology at this stage, saying the Netherlands had not consulted with them in advance about its plans.

The Dutch government said Rutte would give the speech at the National Archives in The Hague “in response” to an advisory group’s report in 2021, which recommended that the government should apologise.

Representatives from the tiny South American former colony of Suriname and from six Caribbean countries that still remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands would attend Rutte’s speech, the government said.

Ministers would also travel to Suriname, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius to “discuss the cabinet response and its significance on location with those present” after the Dutch PM speaks, it said.

During a meeting with Rutte last week, groups from ex-colonies called for any apology to come on 1 July, 2023, the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery in Dutch-held lands.

Rutte insisted that he would push on with a “meaningful moment” on 19 December, but did not confirm whether it would include an apology.

The Netherlands has been slowly coming to grips with the legacy of its colonial history and its role in the slave trade in South America, Asia and South Africa.

The city of Amsterdam has formally apologised for its role in the slave trade, while the capital’s famed Rijksmuseum last year held the first exhibition confronting the issue.

© AFP 2022 

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