Jan 25, 2023 at 8:24 PM
There is broad support in the House of Representatives for the fund that the cabinet wants to set up to counteract the effects of the slavery past. This is a one-off amount of 200 million euros that can be spent over several years. Not much is known about the exact implementation. Both the House and the cabinet want those involved to think about this.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the fund in his historic speech on December 19. On that day he apologized on behalf of the state for the slavery past.
The fund will be split into two parts, Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations) explained to the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The cabinet wants to release 100 million euros to enable, for example, the free changing of surnames that have a link with slavery. This amount can also be spent on research.
In addition, there will be a subsidy pot of 100 million euros. People and organizations with a good idea can claim this. It must concern plans that contribute to awareness of the slavery past or its effect in the here and now. Bruins Slot emphasized that it must be an “accessible” and “widely supported” scheme, so that the subsidy pot is accessible to all parties involved. Both in the Netherlands and “in Suriname, on the islands and in the autonomous countries”.
The fund can count on broad support in the House of Representatives, both from the coalition and from part of the opposition. Only PVV, JA21, FVD, BBB and Groep Van Haga are not in favour. VVD MP Pim van Strien expressed support for the fund. Last November he still labeled it as “madness” when the news about it leaked. The VVD does want a guarantee that the money ends up in the right place. SP Member of Parliament Renske Leijten also expressed her concerns about this.
Members of parliament stay away from debate about money
THINK Member of Parliament Tunahan Kuzu also expressed his support for the fund, but prefers it to be structural money. These are not amounts that are spent once, but, for example, annually. Other left-wing parties and coalition parties D66 and CDA also spoke of “appropriate structural” financing.
However, the debate on this point was not vigorous. Salima Belhaj (D66) wanted to avoid being too much about money. According to her, that would give the impression that the descendants of enslaved people are mainly interested in this, while this is not the case, according to her. Moreover, Belhaj emphasized that it is not up to the House to determine what the fund should look like. The government must specify this together with the parties involved.
“The biggest blunder we can make has nothing to do with how much money is involved, how long the process takes and whether it is structural or not. The biggest blunder we can make today is when we decide on the fund, instead of also with”, said Don Ceder (Christian Union).
Sylvana Simons (BIJ1) is in favor of organizing citizen forums, so that all people can have a say in how the fund should take shape. But also be involved in all other points of recovery that still need to be worked out.
Rutte does not want to enshrine apologies in law
The debate proceeded calmly, without major clashes between members of parliament or between the House and the cabinet. PvdA member Kati Piri spoke at the end of a “worthy” debate. However, there was a difference of opinion about whether the apologies should be included in the law. It is one of the recommendations that the Advisory Board Dialogue Group Slavery History has given to the cabinet. The National Coordinator against Racism and Discrimination, Rabin Baldewsingh, is also in favor of this.
The cabinet does not intend to do this, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte. He does not want apologies to become a “legal process” and fears that it will cause “delays and obscurities”. The cabinet will lay down the 200 million fund in law, the prime minister emphasized.
The MPs of the SP, PvdD, D66, GroenLinks and BIJ1, among others, are not yet resigned to it. They hope that the cabinet will still want to include in the law that slavery was a crime against humanity. Although Rutte did not promise anything, he did promise to send a letter to the House in which he will explain why the cabinet has come to this decision. In that letter he will also discuss D66’s proposal to see whether reference can be made to the apologies in the legal text of the fund.
Sylvana Simons (BIJ1) talks during the suspension of the debate with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations) and Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf (Education, Culture and Science). Photo: ANP
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PoliticsSlaveryDiscrimination and Racism
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