Afro-Guyanese organisation welcomes Dutch apology for slavery

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2022, 0:40 by Denis Chabrol

The International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDAPADA-G) on Monday welcomed The Netherlands apology for the role that European country had played in the capture and enslavement of millions of Africans, many of whom had been brought to Guyana to work on plantations.

“We consider this apology a significant step in the acceptance of guilt and the demonstration of penitence for the involvement of the Dutch in the worse crime ever committed against humanity,” IDPADA-G Chairman, Vincent Alexander said in an open letter to The Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

While that apology was targeted at the former Dutch colony of Suriname and Netherlands’ existing dependencies- Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba and Dutch St Maarten- Mr Alexander indicated that present day Guyana and African Guyanese feel connected to the apology. “Even as we acknowledge these aspects of the legacy woven into the fabric of our society and enduring today, we, as African Guyanese and descendants of the victims of this unspeakable crime, look forward to the formal apology,” he said.

Mr Alexander noted that much of Guyana’s legal and land conveyancing systems are legacies of the long period of Dutch colonial administration that ended in 1803.

IDPADA-G said it viewed The Netherlands’ apology for the Trans-Atlantic Trade in captive Africans as the start of a process that would eventually lead to compensation for slavery and all of the attendant and enduring ills.

“We look forward to subsequent initiatives on your Government’s part in response to the just and global call for reparations as the ultimate act of recompense,” said Mr Alexander who is closely associated with the People’s National Congress Reform political party whose supporters are mainly Afro-Guyanese.

IDPADA-G praised The Netherlands government’s commitment to reparations, saying that it is manifest in some actions taken in the post-colonial era. The organisation noted that it enjoys beneficial relations in the archival sphere. “Those relations can go a far way in the pursuit of recognition for the peoples of African descent, recognition being one of the goals of the UN declared decade to which your government subscribed,” he said.

Mr Alexander hoped that that initiative would strengthen the current relations of The Netherlands and Guyana based on the universal
principle of mutual respect and the embrace of the principles which they all subscribe to as members of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Suriname, the Federation of Grassroots Afro Surinamers has rejected the Dutch government’s apology and wants compensation of 400,000 euros per descendant of transatlantic slavery for people living in Suriname, the Netherlands or elsewhere. Further, that organisation is calling for a tax-free, unconditional advance of 50,000 euros per descendant.

Suriname’s opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) refused an invitation for the viewing of Prime Minister Rutte’s apology at The Netherlands embassy in Paramaribo, labelling the action by the Dutch as unilateral. “In order to arrive at reconciliation and reparation with regard to slavery and indentured labor practiced in Suriname, agreements can only be made in a bilateral process with all actors involved. Unfortunately, so far the Dutch government unilaterally determines what acts can be committed and when they will take place,” the NDP said.