She traveled across the country last week to strengthen ties with the former Dutch colony. But in the Surinamese press, Halsema got the wind in front because money is now not forthcoming after her extensive apology. Because apologies are ‘inextricably linked’ with reparations, Armand Zunder of the National Repair Commission claimed in the Surinamese newspaper. The True Time.
“We want to sit down with Amsterdam and determine the content of the apologies. And then we must jointly determine how, where and when those apologies are offered. Apologies are not accepted if there is no program of recovery,” said activist Zunder.
But Amsterdam does not intend to make the cut, Halsema says in conversation with the watchword† “I find it painful that you make the value of the excuse dependent on money. We were the first city in the Netherlands to apologize and I repeated them this week on Surinamese radio. Those apologies are heartfelt and are the starting point for new debates. We are working on a slavery museum and are interested in further collaborations, but reparations are out of the question.”
She did apologize again during a radio interview on ABC Suriname. “It is important to me that we set foot on Surinamese soil and that I repeat that excuse. Amsterdam has become rich thanks to the colony of Suriname,” she said. “The Amsterdammers of today bear no blame whatsoever. But as many Surinamese are heirs of enslaved people, I am an heir of a city council from that time. I apologized on behalf of that city council.”
Chain on wrist
Incidentally, the visit to Suriname did not go smoothly. Het Parool reports an uncomfortable meeting during a visit to a ‘plantation tour’: the Boni trail. Halsema had to walk there like a slave with a chain around her wrist, her spokesperson confirms. According to the newspaper, that was against the sore leg of the mayor. She says about this: ‘As a white Dutchman, who suddenly has to walk a few meters in chains, I feel embarrassed when I have to relive the slavery past through a kind of game, while I am aware of the atrocities and crimes. We may have a different need for an experience of slavery than in Suriname’. She called the experience “Disneyfication.”
The organization hit back hard. The Boni trail was made from the ‘perspective’ of Surinamese. Something that the municipal council itself has insisted on for the past four years: always look at abuses and issues from the perspective of the ‘oppressed’. Disneyfication called the organization a “cultural imperialist thought.”