The Dutch government has no plans at the moment to offer an apology for slavery and the Dutch role in the slave trade, prime minister Mark Rutte said during an often heated debate on racism and discrimination on Wednesday evening.
Two of the four coalition parties – D66 and ChristenUnie – had called on the government to take a stand but, Rutte said, a formal apology could end up increasing polarisation.
‘I understand the request and I know what an apology can mean,’ Rutte told MPs. ‘But the question is, can you hold the people who are alive today responsible for the past. Some could experience that as painful.’
D66 leader Rob Jetten reminded Rutte that the descendants of black Dutch people have grandparents who were born on plantations. The risk of polarisation should not be central but the ‘pain felt by black Dutch people,’ he said.
Rutte told MPs that the government’s position is that of this moment. ‘The debate is certainly not over,’ he told MPs. The cabinet has set up a special committee to look into the slavery and its impact on the presence and an apology will certainly come on board, the prime minister said.
More importantly, there is no parliamentary majority for an apology, broadcaster NOS pointed out.
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