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Demand for slavery reparations deposited at Dutch embassy in Suriname

Friday, June 28, 2013 | 9:17 AM    

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PARAMARIBO, Suriname (CMC) -- The compensation many descendants of Dutch slavery feel is due to them became official after members of the Committee Reparations Slavery Past Suriname deposited a claim at the Dutch embassy.

“We want to discuss the material and immaterial damage,” said Committee Chairman Armand Zunder as he presented a petition to Dutch charge d'affaires Ernst Noorman.

Zunder was joined at the presentation by Committee member Guno Rijssel, who stressed “we’re did not go begging. We only demand a satisfactory settlement that is due to us.“

In its petition, the Committee requests that The Netherlands acknowledges the suffering of people who were enslaved in Suriname.

“We request that the Dutch Government appoint an institute with which we could enter into dialogue regarding the reparations of the damage we suffered,” Zunder said.

He acknowledged efforts by The Netherlands to give Afro-Surinamers a place in the Dutch community -like the Slavery Memorial statues of Amsterdam and Rotterdam-, but said that these were but feeble.

The Dutch shipped an estimated one million Africans to work on plantations in “the new world”. Slavery was officially abolished on July 1st 1863, which this year is 150 years ago. The Netherlands has not offered a formal apology.

Zunder, an economist, has previously published research results that showed that the Netherlands earned some Euro125 billion (One Euro =US$1.29 cents) from Suriname during slavery.

“That money was earned through the hard work of the slaves and they were never compensated; in contrast, the traders and the plantation owners were. They got Euro 100 million. And that has been invested in the Dutch economy. The country still benefits from these investments,” he said.

Charge d'affaires Noorman urged the committee to “wait and see” what message Dutch Social Affairs Minister Lodewijck Asscher will have when he addresses the slavery abolition memorial event at Amsterdam’s Oostpark on July 1.

“Whatever Asscher will have to say is for the wider public. The Committee expects a formal response in writing from The Hague to our petition. The Netherlands only seems to want to talk about oppression and the slavery that exists today, and disregard the riches they earned from enslaving our ancestors,” he said.

Zunder said that he did not consider his Committee a mouthpiece of the Surinamese government, but stressed that he was following a path that has been laid by Government.

“Government never changed the standpoint it took at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. We simply filled in the blanks and used that as our point of departure. Slavery was a crime against humanity, and that has no statute of limitations,” he said.

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