Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte set up an independent panel last year – in the wake of the death of George Floyd and under pressure from the Black Lives Matter campaign – to look into the role played in the slave trade by the Netherlands.
After publishing the report on 1 July, 2021 the chair of the panel, Dagmar Oudshoorn said that “History cannot be turned back”.
However it is possible to state the intention that this historical injustice, whose ill consequences are still being felt today, to be corrected as far as is possible, to make that the starting point of adjusted policy.
On the same day, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, said that on behalf of the city, I issue an apology for the Amsterdam city council’s active involvement in the commercial system of colonial slavery and global trade of people reduced to slavery.
Amsterdam’s Jewish bankers and merchants were key to the slave trade in Dutch colonies such as Suriname, Curacao, and Aruba.
But Rutte has said his government will not apologize for slavery because he did not want to divide public opinion by passing judgement on Dutch history. In fact the capitalist enslaved machine has not changed since the lucrative trade in Africans started some centuries ago.
The Dutch West India Company operated a chain of fortresses in what is now Ghana and shipped around 500,000 African slaves to the Caribbean and Brazil.
The Netherlands banned slavery in all its overseas colonies, including Suriname, in 1863. But what about the other nations involved in slavery?
The British Empire – or England as it was until 1707 – did not invent slavery but it was responsible for turning it into a huge wealth-creating industry.
From the middle of the 17th century until the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, English ships were exporting iron goods, guns, cloth, and other manufactured products like glass beads to Africa where they would be used to buy slaves from local African chiefs.
The slaves would then be put in chains and transported across the Atlantic to the Caribbean or to the southern states of what would become the United States, where those that survived would be put to work on sugar, tobacco, or cotton plantations.
The crops would then be sent back to Britain on the same ships and the triangular trade would go on. Merchants and bankers in Bristol, Liverpool, and London played a leading role in the slave trade.
But the monarchy, the government, and the church all benefited from it financially and saw little unethical about it until independent MP William Wilberforce embarked on a campaign to end it.
In recent years, the Bank of England and the Church of England have both apologized for the role they played in the slave trade.
There has been much debate in cities like Bristol about renaming venues and removing statues of slave merchants like Edward Colston who also happened to be philanthropists.
In June of last year, the Lloyd’s of London insurance market apologized for its “shameful” role in financing the slave trade and promised to fund job opportunities for black people?
In 2007, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said during a visit to Ghana that I have said we are sorry and I say it again. It is important to remember what happened in the past, to condemn it and say why it was entirely unacceptable.
But Hilary Beckles, chairman of a Reparations Commission set up by Jamaica and several other Caribbean countries, told Reuters: “It is not enough to say sorry.
We are not asking for anything as mendicant as handing out cheque’s to people on street corners. The issue of money is secondary, but in this instance the moral discharge of one’s duty does require in a market economy that nations still contribute towards development.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point History Human Trade News 2021.