Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It appears the Netherlands suddenly has a strange post-colonial problem. In our glorious former colony of Suriname, which we once traded (quite profitably) for New York, parliament passed an amnesty bill shielding the perpetrators of the 1980 coup d'état and the 1982 December killings, including the current president and convicted (in the Netherlands) drug dealer Dési Bouterse, from further prosecution. Understandably, the Dutch government does not think this is a very good idea, and they've recalled their ambassador for consultations

Now this puts the Dutch in a bit of a bind. Unless they can get the international community to join them in doing something substantive, they are completely powerless. For the Netherlands, Suriname is not Belarus; eventually that ambassador has to go back. For the Dutch, diplomatic relations with Suriname are not optional, at least not as long as there are more Surinamese living in the Netherlands than in Suriname. At least it appears that almost all of the € 1,65 billion in White Liberal Guilt money* that was promised when Suriname became independent has now been spent. (About € 6,5 million remains for this year and next year.) Still, the Netherlands cannot and should not allow itself to be put in a position where it cannot tell the Surinamese to take a long walk off a short plank.

With that money gone, it appears to me that the remaining difficulty is rhetorical as much as anything. Not even our current VVD/CDA/PVV government likes to be referred to as a bunch of neo-colonial white people. It seems to me that the government should never allow itself to become a hostage, rhetorical or otherwise. Just like we don't negotiate with terrorists (at least not openly), we shouldn't negotiate with a rhetorical gun to our heads. Treat Suriname exactly the same as every other small South-American country, except maybe for work visas. Tell them they can have their ambassador back when they get rid of Bouterse. Tell them the 100% drug checks stay. And then: brace for impact.

* Just to emphasise how ridiculously high that sum is: at the time of independence, in 1975, there were about 365.000 people in Suriname, making for a going away present of € 4520 per person. Even today, that is barely less than a year's worth of GDP per capita.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it is a very interesting and informative article. I think I will add your site to my favorites.