Of all the topics addressed at IPKO Netherlands, the topic of slavery was one of the most heated and left with many questions. The Netherlands did not express whether they would do anything about it other than simply create a museum and tell the story of the damage they caused to the islands, but at no point did they talk about compensating the islands, freeing them from debt so they could start a new and stronger stage.
The Netherlands doesn’t seem to want to put despair behind the comma, so that the islands can breathe again and start anew. However, all the islands have brought this point forward on several occasions, with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, saying that the Netherlands is extending their apologies for the past that the Dutch have caused slavery and at the same time saying that it is not a point but a comma and we all know that after a comma something always follows.
However, what comes after the comma is not clear to any of the countries and no price is set for the islands to get more clarity about what will happen after the comma, the islands have no say in this.
First of July marks the 60th anniversary of the end of slavery in the Netherlands and Prime Minister Rutte is expected to make a statement soon on what decisions will be made after the comma. All the islands in the Caribbean want a response, but St. Maarten pushes much further and points out that when a country has been part of a history of slavery where its country and its people are slaves, it takes away from the country the opportunity for people to develop properly, this is because the country falls into a role where it is undermined where the people of the islands did not have the same opportunities as the people of other countries where they lived and benefited from the profits of the slaves.
At the same time, it showed how rich the countries that were at the top of the slavery mines became, while the countries that were victims of slavery did not have the same wealth and development. The conversations and discussions were quite strong and remain prominent as well, according to Misha Raymond of the IPKO Aruba delegation.
What is obvious is that a simple lesson and a museum to tell the story of what the Dutch did to the islands in the Caribbean will not be enough. The parliaments of all three countries are pushing for more clarity on what happens behind the comma.