PARAMARIBO, Suriname, The main opposition National Democratic Party (NDP) says it will not accept the invitation to attend the presentation of the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte about slavery in the Dutch-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.
In a letter sent to the Dutch ambassador, Henk van der Zwan, the NDP leader in Parliament said that “to arrive at reconciliation and reparation about slavery and indentured labor practiced in Suriname, agreements can only be made in a bilateral process with all actors involved. Unfortunately, the Dutch government unilaterally determines what actions and when they will take place.”
Prime Minister Rutte will make the presentation on Monday via a live stream.
The NDP, led by former president Desie Bouterse, said it also believes that the response by Prime Minister Rutte on behalf of the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands has been approached too one-sided.
It said there had been no consultation with stakeholders here and in the Netherlands, while the consultation with the Surinamese government and the Parliament, among other things, including the entire process to arrive at a public response from the Dutch government, has yet to bear fruit.
The NDP believes that the approach of apologizing for the slavery on December 19 instead of July 1, 2023, will most likely be misunderstood by the descendants of those who had been enslaved and other civil society organizations in Suriname and the Netherlands.
It said the date is only a symptom of the fact that the Netherlands believes they can decide unilaterally what to do about the history of slavery in Suriname.
“In addition, the perpetrator cannot unilaterally determine what the repair program entails without consulting the victims, the faction emphasizes. Perpetrators can apologize, ask for forgiveness and possibly agree on compensation. Only in close consultation and with the approval of victims the whole process and the repair program be discussed. It cannot be done unilaterally, the letter noted.
“For our part, we will support and continue the processes set up in Suriname to achieve recognition and reparation. It is also important that we enter into an organized national dialogue with the descendants of the enslaved, the Indigenous, and all social groups that have contributed and wish to contribute in this context in order to arrive at an appropriate recovery program in material and immaterial terms,” the NDP added.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Grassroots Afro Surinamers Sunday protested at the Kwaku statue, saying that the Netherlands’ apologies would not be accepted.
The organization wants compensation of Euro 400,000 (One Euro=US$1.29 cent) per descendant of transatlantic slavery for people living in Suriname, the Netherlands, or elsewhere. It also wants an advance of Euro 50,000 euros per descendant must already be given, tax-free and without any conditions.
Another demand is that the Dutch government pay for genealogical research of the descendants of enslaved people.
It’s about “the right to know who we are,” the Federation said, adding that as of July 1, 2023, there must also be a cancellation of all government debts to all descendants of transatlantic slavery. King Willem-Alexander must pronounce the apologies. Preparations for apologies must be made with all representatives of the descendants of transatlantic slavery.
“The preparation towards the apology, the giving of apologies and reparations is a matter for the Surinamese people.” It is not a political matter but of the descendants of the enslaved Africans who were transported to Suriname by ship as commodities and the descendants of the genocide committed against the Indigenous.
“It should be clear that we descendants of the enslaved in Suriname in no way tolerate that we are treated by the State of the Netherlands as cattle, as goods, as was done to our ancestors, by refusing to communicate with us as people of equal value.”