As the U.S. Virgin Islands (formerly Danish West Indies) commemorates its 165th anniversary of emancipation on 3rd July, a number of other countries in the Caribbean region have stepped up their calls for formal apologies and reparations to address this crime against humanity perpetuated by European colonial powers.
BSP demands apology for 229 years of slavery
WILLEMSTAD — In letters to King Willem-Alexander and the Dutch premier Mark Rutte (VVD) the local peace movement Ban Sembra Pas (BSP) demanded that the Netherlands apologize for 229 years of slavery on Curaçao. The organization sent these letters after it initially requested the (previous) government of Curaçao to demand an apology from the Netherlands. However, this request was never honored, according to BSP. In the letters to King Willem-Alexander and Premier Rutte, BSP mentioned the year of Tula, which was announced recently by the government of Curaçao.
BSP also mentioned Tula’s leading role with the slave revolt of August 17th 1795. According to the peace movement, from 1634 to the abolition of slavery in 1863 Curaçao was one of the largest slave depots of the West India Company (WIC).
“Tula’s battle is commemorated on Curaçao on August 17th. The island government of Curaçao declared Tula national hero on August 16th 2010. Within the framework of commemorating the abolition of 150 years slavery on Curaçao on July 1st 2013, we respectfully request His Majesty to use you influence so that the government of the Netherlands will finally sincerely apologize for the 229 years of slavery on Curaçao”, BSP wrote in its letter to King Willem-Alexander. However, in the letter to government of the Netherlands, BSP specifically requested that the former apologizes.
According to BSP, an apology from the government of the Netherlands will close the darkest chapter in the history of mankind, and mark a new beginning for a new friendship between Curaçao and the Netherlands. The request to Premier Rutte was also addressed to him in his capacity has chairman of the National Council of Ministers, while Willem-Alexander was addressed as ‘king of all citizens in the Kingdom of the Netherlands’.
CONVENTION POUR UNE GUADELOUPE NOUVELLE
COMMUNIQUÉ SUR LA COMMÉMORATION PAR LES FRANÇAIS DE L' ABOLITION DE L'ESCLAVAGE DU 10 MAI 2013
Ce 10 mai 2013 , les français commémorent dans la discrétion, le peuple français étant profondément esclavagiste, l'abolition de leur esclavage , en pensant que cela suffira à faire oublier tous les crimes qu'ils ont commis , qu'ils continuent de commettre et qu'ils commettrons dans l'avenir , le gêne impérial étant solidement ancré dans leur mémoire.
Encore une fois leurs dirigeants , cette fois socialiste et de gauche , déclarent à nouveau à qui veut les croire qu'il ne peut y avoir de réparations , la loi sur l'esclavage comme crime contre l' humanité n'étant pas une loi, pour reprendre un attendu d'un arrêt de leur cour de cassation du 5 février 2013, normative qui peut servir de fondement légal à une poursuite pour apologie ou pour tout autre motif certainement . Toujours engoncé dans une grandiloquence d'un autre temps qui malheureusement pour lui ne manipule plus,, le président français François Hollande a utilisé Césaire le martiniquais dont la détermination anti-colonialiste est simplement restée poétique pour affirmer « l’impossible réparation » des traites négrières et de l’esclavage et a prôné « la paix des mémoires réconciliées » auxquelles il faut « donner un avenir ».« Le seul choix possible, le plus digne, le plus grand, c’est la mémoire, la vigilance et la transmission ». Le mémorial act qu'il veut financer en Guadeloupe n'est manifestement pas le nom pour désigner tout monument pour apaiser l'esprit de ces milliers de femmes et d'hommes si injustement traités qui continuent de souffrir. Nous sommes partisans d'un mausolée ouvert sur la mer avec le nom de toutes et de tous . Un nouveau charabia est donc inventé pour tromper et tenter de faire oublier .
N'en déplaise aux français, nous n'oublierons jamais le calvaire qu'ils nous ont fait subir .Haïti que l'état français a contraint à payer pour son indépendance , aujourd'hui est le symbole de cet acharnement contre la liberté, la dignité et le droit au développement collectif .Les amérindiens propriétaires de cette terre qui ont subi un génocide dont ils ne se sont jamais relevés ne doive,t pas rester les oubliés de la réparation . Les français qui font assaut de belles paroles pour échapper à la nécessaire opprobre refusent toujours de ratifier la convention internationale sur les peuples autochtones qui tente de régler leur sort . Les peuples et l'état qui les représente doivent savoir que rien n'est impossible et que le retour du passé est toujours possible .
Notre démarche pour les réparations se déploie dans deux directions :
◘Tout d'abord, des excuses officielles de la France , adressées clairement et sans détour . Selon le droit international les états se succèdent et sont responsables de ce que leurs prédécesseurs ont fait .Tout le reste n'est que du verbiage
◘Le deuxième geste qui est exigé est celui de l'indemnisation qui dans ce domaine ne peut être que collective . Exiger comme le font les tribunaux français des arbres généalogiques pour continuer les poursuites et condamner est scandaleux compte tenu de l'histoire . C'est un tribunal pénal international institué dans le cadre des Nations unies qui doit juger pour condamner les représentants de ceux qui ont fauté y compris les dirigeants de certains états africains et déterminer le montant des indemnisations et leur destination .
Le combat pour la condamnation et l 'indemnisation de la traite , de l'esclavage et de l'exploitation coloniale doit donc continuer et s'accélérer.Il ne sera gagné que si nos soeurs et nos frères s'unissent .
MARIGOT--The 165th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery was commemorated at a ceremony held at the Lady Liberty statue in Agrément on Monday with a programme of official speeches, interspersed with theatrical skits from a dark period in history with actors posing as slaves.
Fortunately the weather remained fine and sunny for the outdoor ceremony although dignitaries were seated under a tent should rain have fallen.
Préfet Philippe Chopin, Senator Louis-Constant Fleming, and Parliamentarian Daniel Gibbs, were present joining President Aline Hanson, her Vice-Presidents, the Territorial Council, and Presidents of the District Councils and Culture Associations.
The programme was opened by Natisha Hanson who sang an interpretation of Bob Marley's Redemption Song." She also closed the ceremony with a rendition of the St. Martin Song.
Short addresses to mark the occasion were given by Préfet Chopin and President Hanson who also read out a message from President of the French Republic François Hollande.
"Our children must know what happened in the past," she said. "Here in St. Martin they must know the various areas where cultivation took place and who the families were who were brought in from Africa to work. We have to make sure slavery never happens again, that human beings are never exploited. We are all equal and humanity must be respected."
The theatrical programme was once again well organised by the Collectivité's Arts and Culture Department. The roundabout was decorated with props and authentic items that would have been used during the period on plantations or in the home.
The first segment directed by Melissa Fleming and Romaric Benjamin from One Poet Society had actors as slaves dressed in period costume being beaten by the plantation owner for trying to escape, and then forced back to work cutting the sugar cane. Finally the slaves rejoice after learning of their freedom.
Another entertaining exchange between a local woman (played by Reinette Petit) and a fish seller (played by Patou from Youth Waves) drew laughter from the audience.
Gwoka drum music to accompany the performances was provided by Hélié and Company.
President of the Nature Valley Colombier Association, Vernicia Brooks, then read out an ancestral roll call of names from the region and St. Martin, to remind people that those persons, not slaves, fought for rights in their communities and who have passed on.
"We have a tendency to forget them and this was a reminder," Brooks explained.
A minute's silence to remember the slavery period concluded the ceremony.
THE HAGUE--Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, experts, representatives of various social organisations and members of the Antillean and Surinamese communities discussed the Dutch slavery past on Thursday.
The meeting can be considered historical because it was the Dutch Parliament that formalised the concession for the Dutch West India Company (WIC), set up in 1621, to engage in slave trade, which started in 1665 with the recognition of the Antillean islands and the establishment of the claim to colonial rights over the Wild Coast (Suriname, Berbice, and Essequibo-Demarary).
The WIC transported some 273,000 slaves from Africa to the Americas between 1621 and 1730. In total the Dutch companies transported about 600,000 slaves between 1601 and 1803 and some 90,000 slaves died on board the Dutch slave ships.
The Dutch Parliament also was the setting where the discussion took place about compensation for the plantation owners on the abolition of slavery in the former colonies, the Antilles and Suriname. The Dutch abolished slavery on July 1, 1863, as one of the very last countries in Europe to emancipate its slaves.
More than 300 years after the first ships left The Netherlands to collect slaves on the West African coast, the Christian Union (CU) took the initiative to organise a consultation with members of the African Diaspora in The Netherlands to discuss this aspect of shared history on the eve of the official commemoration in Amsterdam this Monday in the presence of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima.
The CU and its leader Arie Slob, who chaired Thursday's consultation, were commended. "You took a courageous step," said National Platform Slavery Past Chairperson Barryl Biekman. She pointed out that the Dutch Government had shied away from this topic for a long time. There also was praise for Second Chamber Member Harry van Bommel of the Socialist Party (SP) who has brought up the topic several times in past years.
Second Chamber President Anouchka van Miltenburg gave the official opening words. "We want to see our country in the role of pioneer. Yet, we were not in the lead in abolishing slavery and it also took a long time before we started talking about it. That attitude has caused a feeling among the descendants that history has been falsified," she said.
Several Members of Parliament (MPs) attended the consultation.
Many in the Surinamese and Antillean communities are hoping for a formal apology from the Dutch State, formally headed by the King, for the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a topic that dominated Thursday's meeting.
Chairperson of the National Committee that coordinates the commemoration of the abolition of slavery Joan Ferrier pointed out in her ardent plea for a formal apology that other countries already had done so in the past.
"The Dutch State needs to recognise what has taken place. It is about a psychological gratification for the descendants of slaves," she said. "Deep expression of regret is essential. The slavery past is a great emotional burden. It is of national importance that justification is done to this part of history."
Consultative Body for Dutch Caribbean persons in The Netherlands OCAN Chairman Glenn Helberg said a formal apology was the first step, and should be followed by reconciliation and a broad dialogue on this shared history. Part of the process is dealing with the "collective trauma" of the slavery past and "superiority feeling," the source of slave trade. The superiority feeling also leads to racism and discrimination, and that vicious circle has to be broken, he added.
According to Helberg, not only the Dutch Government, but the Second Chamber too has a role to play. Parliament needs to take responsibility, show respect and take a stand on this issue, he said. "We should recognise that slavery was a crime against humanity. Let's look at our mindset, reconcile and work on a joint future."
Poet and theatrical producer Quinsy Gario of St. Maarten said recognition started by acknowledging that The Netherlands was a multicultural society where people of African descent had as many opportunities as native Dutch people. Recognition of what really happened during the times of the slave trade was also important, he said. Furthermore, discrimination and racism today should be tackled by issuing serious fines and punishments.
Mitchell Esajas of the New Urban Collective youth action group and Caribbean history expert Alex van Stipriaan also made a case for a formal apology of the State.
"Youngsters need that piece of recognition so they can make something of themselves. Apologies are needed to solve this issue," said Esajas.
"The Dutch Government absolutely has to apologise, accompanied by a gesture. It shouldn't be an empty gesture," said Van Stipriaan.
MP Van Bommel (SP) said he was a fierce advocate of formal apologies. "We have to take responsibility for the past and present. We, the people in this room, were not actually there during the times of slavery, but we are part of the heritage of slave traders. It is important to talk about it, because slavery is a red wire through our history," he said.
MP Pierre Heijnen of the Labour Party PvdA said that although The Netherlands had a "great responsibility for this gross violation and crime" it was important to get out of the victim and perpetrator roles, because otherwise the process of reconciliation and getting rid of the superiority feeling would take even longer. "Let's not keep dancing around this totem pole. Cooperation, working on a future together is more important," he said.