GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 5, 2023)—On July 1, 2023, King Willem Alexander of the Netherlands kingdom acknowledged that Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade constituted “a crime against humanity.” By apologizing for the Dutch involvement in Slavery and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Dutch king has accepted his kingdom’s culpability in the crime. The king asked for forgiveness “for the obvious lack of action against this crime against humanity,” but failed the penitence test.One SXM acknowledges His Majesty King Willem Alexander for his gesture on July 1, 2023, Emancipation Day in the southern part of St. Martin, the only territory in the kingdom where the day is an official public holiday.
However, we believe that the apology is incomplete as it does not contain a commitment to non-repetition, eradication of colonialism by the Dutch kingdom, or Reparations and other forms of reparatory justice. Secondly, the king’s apology explicitly mentions Suriname and Indonesia, two sovereign countries that were once Dutch colonies, but fails to acknowledge the remaining Dutch territories in the Caribbean by name. For One SXM, this amounts to an erasure of our identity, which is a core aspect of Slavery and colonialism. Moreover, the Dutch king did not acknowledge that the southern part of St. Martin remains a Dutch colony or indicate what his government would do to eradicate colonialism.While the king’s statement asks citizens of the kingdom to work at building a world free of racism, at every opportunity to denounce racism and xenophobia at several United Nations fora, the kingdom has consistently maintained a diametrically opposite stance by refusing to join the rest of the world in denouncing these ills.
The United Nations records of 2022 would show that the Netherlands kingdom abstained from voting for the resolution approving the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism. Actions speak louder than words. To act as if the Dutch king is only now learning about their atrocious history and their participation in that evil system only adds insult to injury.
One SXM welcomes the Dutch king’s gesture as important in setting a precedence for other European countries, but it does not go far enough to address the real effects of Slavery, such as colonialism and debt entrapment. As the perpetrator of the acknowledged crime, the king and the Dutch kingdom government cannot unilaterally decide what the penalty will be for their crimes against humanity.
One SXM is further requesting that the Dutch government acknowledge that colonialism is also a crime against the people and to work with the people of St. Martin to finally eradicate colonialism on our island, fulfilling their obligation in accordance with the UN Resolution 1514, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
In December 2022, One SXM issued a statement rejecting the “apology” by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on behalf of the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the Dutch involvement in Slavery because the statement of December 19 fell short of a sincere apology. In the subsequent “Open Letter to King Willem Alexander” on February 2, 2023, One SXM demanded “a sincere apology for the Dutch Kingdom’s involvement in Slavery, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, and continuing colonialism.”
1 One SXM Association (One SXM) is an association that advocates for