Rutte’s apologies for ‘Indies’ fit in with global trend

Apologies have become so normal in the social interaction between politicians and citizens that it is hardly surprising. The Rutte III cabinet said sorry at least four times in its last, outgoing six months. In July 2021 for the premature relaxation of the corona measures in June, and in September the first three hundred ‘personal apologies’ from Prime Minister Mark Rutte were sent by letter to victims of the Allowance Affair.

In November there were apologies from emancipation minister Ingrid van Engelshoven for the ‘dehumanizing’ old Transgender Act and from justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus to Wilco Viets and Herman du Bois, who were wrongly imprisoned for seven years in the 1990s for the Puttense murder case.

The virginal fourth Rutte cabinet has already made its first apologies. For the unexpected extra gas extraction in Groningen and – last week – for the ‘widespread extreme violence on the part of the Dutch side’ in the then Dutch East Indies in the years 1945-1949. More apologies are in the air for Rutte IV. For example, for the national slavery past, or for the ‘box 3 drama’.

‘Indies’ apologies from Prime Minister Mark Rutte, February 17, 2022:

For the systematic and widespread extreme violence on the part of the Dutch side in those years and the consistent disregard by previous cabinets, I make a deep apology today on behalf of the Dutch government to the people of Indonesia. Today, we must also note that the government’s apologies are in order to everyone in our country who had to live with the consequences of the colonial war in Indonesia, often to this day. And that includes all groups, including the veterans who behaved like good military at the time.

Expert Marieke Zoodsma responds:

‘It is interesting that Rutte here specifically names the recipients of the apologies: both Indonesians and ‘everyone in our country who had to live with the consequences of the colonial war’. He specifically mentions the veterans and their “good behavior at the time”. This proves how precarious the situation is. The content of apologies is weighed in any case, but I can imagine that the copywriters have been extra careful this time to keep all tempers in check.’

Outside the Binnenhof, the sorry also sounds loud. Amsterdam apologized in July for the role of the then city council in the slave trade, Rotterdam in December. The Council of State apologized in November for its legal harshness in the Allowances affair. And recently there was another mea culpa for the people of Groningen. Their King’s Commissioner René Paas apologized for the ‘shameful’ implementation chaos in the housing improvement subsidy.

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