PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — In the budget meeting behind us, I recommended to Minister Samuel that he gets in on the talks regarding “what comes after the comma”. This is the statement from the Dutch government following their apology for the Transatlantic slave trade in December 2022.
While there has been much to-do about the apology, the MP stated over the weekend that “it is, what it is”.
More important than wrangling with an already issued statement, is paying keen attention to what comes next.
How genuine are the expressions by the Dutch government of wanting to undo the blemishes of the slave trade? How genuine are the expressions of wanting to right the wrong and how genuine is the Dutch government’s stated commitment to repair the Kingdom structure?
In the opinion of MP Wescot, while many of the foregoing questions are unlikely to be answered soon, St. Maarten needs to get ahead of the curve and be ready for whatever the outcome of the questions as stated above. This window of opportunity, if it is such, is not as big as some would like to believe.
“In this context, I advised the minister of culture, Drs. Samuel to look closely at, and commission a plan for the restoration of Fort Amsterdam. After all, the fort remains a stark reminder of the occupation of St. Maarten by European imperialists.
The €200 million to be made available in a fund for ‘measures aimed at raising awareness, fostering engagement and addressing the present-day effects of slavery’ is but a starting point.”
While this fund regards the entire kingdom and Suriname, and is therefore but a drop in the bucket, we need to consider tangible and visual objects as well. I believe Fort Amsterdam is such a remembrance and needs to be restored so its story is never forgotten.
To get such an idea on the table, we need to be clear and resolute in our own objectives, first and foremost. In fact, this clear and resolute approach needs to be evident from every approach we make, MP Wescot continued.
The government of St. Maarten unfortunately does not present that resolve, in my opinion.
“We continue to make much of the call for debt relief/cancelation, knowing full well that just putting this out there to say you did it, only puts it further out of reach. What is your plan, government?”
We need a paradigm shift in our negotiations with the Dutch government and I am convinced that we need to do that now and write our own narrative for “what comes after the comma”.