My friends answer the Question of Restitution

Over last weekend Dutch King, Willem-Alexander spoke in Amsterdam at the country’s annual commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Caribbean colonies to formally apologize for the Netherland’s role in the Caribbean slave trade, and for his family’s role in it.

We commemorated 160 years since the abolition, and 150 years since it was enforced.

This was a festive occasion, but the MEP faction of GOA’s coalition issued a statement that saying sorry without restitution is not enough.

While the local senators said they would stay away from the ceremonies, the Minister Plenipotinciario, a MEP member, Aruba’s representative in the Netherlands, attended there, the Minister of Finance spent a weekend in Curacao to partake in the festivities and the Minister of Nature traveled to Surinam, the most enslaved country in the kingdom, to support Keti Koti, broken chains day, also known as Freedom Day.

Still a press release announced that MEP is unhappy, and there needs to be more than an apology note, because to this day, the release stated, the island’s relationship with the kingdom amounts to modern day slavery.

The Dutch Secretary of State who visited here over the weekend, said she was surprised, but she probably wasn’t. Alexandra Van Huffelen, is smart enough to know that the MEPISTAS used the opportunity to lobby for a one billion florin forgiveness, the money owed to the Netherlands, by Aruba, for the pandemic aid.

If MEP expressed difficulty to accept the king’s apology, I asked some friends for their thoughts regarding the parliamentary faction’s statement:

Pfffff

All the Aruba ‘developments’ make me mad, said a political observer. If it is just the ‘suggestion’ to forgive the aid received during the pandemic, that is rubbish, and only illustrates the habit of translating everything into money. Especially taking into account that Aruba hardly had a slave business and thus has little reason to blame the Netherlands.

Moreover, taking into account that Croes, Oduber, and Eman families all had slaves in their possession, it makes them complicit in the slave trade, and negates their right to accuse others. They have the moral obligation to offer their excuses, to their own slave descendants, whom they should compensate for the abuse of holding them and treating them like possessions. There is no justification to demand ‘repair-payments,’ to descendants, and/or countries. The Netherlands makes great efforts to help their former colonies and eliminate remnants of modern day slavery by combatting human trafficking.

Pffffffff

I haven’t followed, says a lawyer friend, the whole thing, I think, is a waste of time. I don’t see the logic. I fail to see how this is relevant today, and how this will make things better for Aruba and its people. We have bigger issues, like budget deficits, foreign debt etc. to deal with and we must prioritize.

Pffffff

It is such a controversial topic, says another Legal Eagle. Aruba never had a plantation economy with lots of slaves like Curaçao did. Neither were we a hub for the slave trade like Curaçao. So in light thereof the demand seems sort of odd, and not very serious. Strikes me as more something to guilt-trip the Netherlands and deflect attention away from our real problems. Negotiating a better deal for the pandemic loans we received, would make much more sense to me. In the EU the corona support for the southern countries for example was about 55% subsidy or gift and 45% loans, albeit with strict conditions for economic and financial reforms. There is no justification for treating your own islands like 2nd class citizens, and being tougher on Aruba.

The demand for reparations is legally complicated because of statute of limitations issues, the questions of who should pay and who should benefit etc. That said, there is no question that slavery and Colonialism enriched the West and impoverished the Third World and that these effects are still present today. The solution should be a more generous and inclusive policy and attitude towards the Third World former-colonies, and their inhabitants by the West.

This is not purely altruistic, but also reflects common-sense and a self-interest. We are all interconnected and if you do not help the Third World cope with political turmoil, economic and financial problems, climate change and more, the Third World shows up on Europe’s doorstep, and then Europe has to deal with it, on their turf.

(Incidentally, many economists believe that refugees contribute MUCH MORE to Western economies, that are burdened by declining and aging populations, than they cost the host-country.)

 

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July 06, 2023
Rona Coster