Commitment to finance multiple slavery past initiatives on islands

Genealogic re­search to determine where peo­ple come from in Saba, a slavery monument in St. Eustatius, the rehabilitation of freedom and re­sistance fighter Tula in Curacao, a name monument in Bonaire and a statue to honour resis­tance hero Virginia Dementricia in Aruba — these are some of the commitments that the Dutch gov­ernment will finance in the Dutch Caribbean in light of the Slavery Past Commemoration Year which will start on July 1 throughout the Dutch Kingdom and in Suriname.

The commitments were men­tioned in a letter that Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Re­lations Hanke Bruins Slot along with four other ministers and three state secretaries sent to the Dutch Second Chamber of Par­liament last Friday.

The commitments to the islands will be funded from the 100 mil­lion euros that the Dutch govern­ment has allocated for measures related to “knowledge and aware­ness”, “acknowledgement and commemoration” and “impact and psychological processing”. No specific initiatives have been committed for St. Maarten as yet. St. Maarten Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs in February 2023 appointed the nine-member Ad­visory Committee on Slavery, Atonement and Reparations which will advise the St. Maarten government about the response to the apology by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Decem­ber 19 last year.

The St. Maarten committee will begin by studying the colonial past and the slavery past within the island’s context and the impact of that past in contemporary society. The committee will then issue a report, including recom­mendations.

This process in St. Maarten will run its own course without outside pressure. “The Dutch government believes it is important that St. Maarten is able to com­plete this process at its own tempo and wishes to work together on the response to the apology once the process is complete,” it was stated in the letter.

Slavery monument

As for St. Eustatius, the Dutch government has made a commitment to fi­nance a slavery monument or memorial on the island and to support the work of the St. Eustatius Cultural Heritage Implementation Committee. Various ideas in response to both commitments have been discussed, including a me­morial to all Africans who were enslaved and the re­burial of ancestors who are buried in St. Eustatius.

Representatives of de­scendants, civil society or­ganisations and the public entity St. Eustatius are de­veloping a plan outlining the desired implementation of the commitments. This measure is one of the com­mitments in the govern­ment response, for which the Dutch government has reserved 100 million euros.

The implementation of the commitments should be seen in the context of the wider process of rais­ing awareness of the slavery and colonial past in St. Eu­statius. There are various ways of raising awareness, including the further de­velopment of teaching ma­terials on the slavery past in St. Eustatius, facilitating a public dialogue and oral history projects.

Genealogical research

Various discussions have been held in Saba with representatives of descen­dants, civil society organisations and the public en­tity. These resulted in vari­ous ideas for implementing the commitments to fund a memorial and to identify opportunities and support for genealogical research for descendants.

The genealogical research initiative in Saba is lined with the adopted motion of Member of the Second Chamber Sylvana Simons of the BIJ party which asked the government to facilitate measures to allow individu­als to investigate their exact origins with DNA research by non-profit organisations, including Erasmus Univer­sity. Implementation of the commitment in Saba can serve as a pilot for this ini­tiative.

The implementation of this commitment is part of the broader efforts to raise awareness of the slavery and colonial past in Saba. These include facilitating a public dialogue, organis­ing oral history projects, developing teaching mate­rials on the slavery past in Saba and making July 1 an official public holiday on the island. These ideas are further being developed together with the public entity Saba and civil society organisations.

Colonial Archives

The Aruba Slavery Past Awareness Committee has made a swift start to an awareness campaign. The Aruban National Archives has started the process of using handwriting recog­nition software to make it possible to search the Co­lonial Archives. This will make an important con­tribution towards improv­ing the accessibility of the information in the archives and will also make it pos­sible to search more effi­ciently and effectively for information about enslaved people.

The need for improved education and educational methods about the slavery past in Aruba prompted the commitment to make sure that the books Education on the Legacy of Slavery and Slaves Without Plantation can be reprinted. These books are intended for use in the education system and will be updated, translated into Papiamento and made available to schools.

Work is also ongoing to have a statue erected in honour of the Aruba resis­tance heroine Virginia De­mentricia. The committee is discussing a suitable loca­tion with an artist and the Aruba government.

Rehabilitate Tula

The rehabilitation of resis­tance hero Tula has been a long-held wish in Curacao and was an explicit recom­mendation in the Chains of the Past report. The Dutch government is commit­ted to rehabilitating Tula. The rehabilitation will take place in Curacao on Octo­ber 3 this year, the anniver­sary of Tula’s death.

For the Curacao Slavery and Legacy of Slavery Plat­form, the rehabilitation of Tula is a symbol of the emancipation movement. The platform has developed an extensive programme to take place around October 3 in response to the com­mitment. The platform has been awarded funding for this programme.

Name memorial

Bonaire has installed the July 1 Working Group to raise local awareness about the slavery past. The Dutch government has commit­ted to realising a (sur)name memorial to the slavery past. The Bonaire Dialogue Group will identify the re­quired additional name re­search. A variety of ideas for the design and the lo­cation of the memorial are being looked at.

The reprint of the book Bonaire, A colonial salt history and the associated teaching materials will be made available to schools in Bonaire to raise aware­ness of the slavery past and colonial past.

The July 1 Working Group is working with the Bo­naire Dialogue Group and the non-governmental or­ganisation support point NGO Platform Bonaire to develop a broader plan in response to the apology.

Since the apology in De­cember, digital and physical meetings have been held on each island with represen­tatives of governments, civil society organisations and descendants. The Dutch government finds it impor­tant that the islands lead the process initiated in re­sponse to the apology.

Additional research and discussion on the islands are required for some of the commitments. The manner and speed in which the commitments are implemented differ per island. The Dutch govern­ment is looking at how the work of the various organ­isations can be supported, with particular attention for grassroots organisations and community engage­ment. A meeting will be or­ganised in the Dutch Carib­bean after the summer, to which stakeholders from all six islands will be invited.

Increased subsidies

In the letter it was fur­ther announced that the two subsidy schemes for the entire Kingdom, of one million euros each by the Mondriaan Fund and the Culture Participation Fund, will be tripled to accommo­date the approval of more project initiatives.

It became apparent early this year that there is a great deal of interest in organising cultural, com­munity and educational activities at the Mondriaan Fund and Culture Partici­pation Fund. Because the government recognises the importance of this broad social movement and sup­ports the establishment of as many good, high-impact initiatives as possible, it has decided to increase the sub­sidies.

The subsidy for projects through the Mondriaan Fund will be increased by two million euros to three million euros. The Cul­ture Participation Fund scheme will be increased by two million euros as well, to three million euros. A percentage of this will be reserved for the six Dutch Caribbean islands.

The Daily Herald.

Computer-illiterate persons on islands not overlooked
Letter of progress in response to the apology for the slavery past


  1. Please keep me informed of the progress of the DNA research initiative. I am of Saban descent.

  2. The apology For the participation of the Netherlands in the enslaving Trade of African People in the Caribbean by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Decem­ber 19, 2022 last year; makes him a “Dutch World Class Statesmen!”

    Yes, If we do not know our Past then We will not know where we are going! Remembering the past of “Enslaved People” or human beings of particularly African Descent who were of black skin color is something very Noble and Altruistic to do for all Lovers of Equality and Justice!
    Nonetheless, I always say that the New color of slavery nowadays is not black is Green or Money since the Dollar is Green. We are all unfortunately enslaved to Money where ever we may be in the world. The World has been formed and organized in a way that: if you do not have money you are not going anywhere, it is that simple.
    The Power of Money and the Evil of money are as old as the Sacred Scriptures: The Bible says: The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil: (1 Timothy 6:10 King James Version)

    For Money Thieves steal, for money women prostitute themselves and sell their body and create pornography, they say that Sex sells, For money Rapperts and Music Artist and singers, Exotic Naked Dancers all kinds of Perverse and Abominable things, For Money people risk their lives to sale and traffic Drugs, For money all kinds of Evils and Injustices are shown on Your Television Screen, For money Politicians Lie and Robb the Poor the most needy in our Society and trample on children’s future.

    More important than Commemorating Slavery these days is Fighting Racism and Discrimination to teach our children the injustice of such practices. We much teach them that Silent Racism and Inaction go hand and hand.

    The commitments for Slavery to the islands will be funded from the 100 mil­lion euros that the Dutch govern­ment has allocated for measures related to “knowledge and aware­ness”, acknowledgment and commemoration” and “impact and psychological processing”.
    This Commitment should also include Fighting Racism and helping Poor Black people who have been left behind and defeated by Racism and are living in extreme Poverty in The Netherlands and on the islands to help them pull themselves out of Poverty, I think this is more important.

    “The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”
    Martin Luther King Jr.
    Cristian Hassell Feliciano

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