Chief Secretary Farley Augustine speaks during an interview with Newsday. Photo courtesy THA
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine claims a virtual presentation he made recently in Flushing, Netherlands, prompted the first major apology for slavery from the Dutch people.
“Yours truly represented you at such a conference, at such a time when Europe is beginning to recognise that what it did in a time past was wrong,” he told an audience on Tuesday night at a town meeting at the Canaan/Bon Accord Multipurpose Facility.
In July King Willem-Alexander apologised for the Netherlands’ historical involvement in slavery and its lasting effects. He spoke on the 160th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Netherlands, including its former colonies in the Caribbean.
During Emancipation celebrations at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, in August, the Prime Minister complained that his call for discussions on reparations had not even elicited an acknowledgement from the United Kingdom.
However, Dr Rowley noted then that members of the British royal family had expressed regret over the transatlantic slave trade.
He recalled that in Jamaica, in March, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, said, “Slavery was abhorrent and it should have never happened.”
Augustine’s claim about the Dutch apology for slavery came as he highlighted the THA’s relationship with the diplomatic corps since assuming office in December 2021.
“In fact, I am certain I have seen more ambassadors in my short time here than any previous chief secretary has seen in a four-year period, very certain of that. And that is because we have opened the doors to them. We have welcomed them and we have been engaging with them.”
He said the Dutch will be in Tobago some time in November to train divers from across the entire Caribbean on how to extract artefacts from under the sea.
“So they are bringing people from Jamaica all the way down to Guyana, bringing them to Tobago and doing the training right from off the port of Scarborough. That is because of our close connection with the Dutch.”
Augustine said the French government had also agreed to sponsor his upcoming trip to Paris for bilateral talks on matters concerning the environment, tourism and other areas of mutual interest.
“Again, that is because of how closely your government has been working with international partners, because we are saying the time has come for Tobago to open its doors to the rest of the world.”
He said Tobagonians must always strive to offer the best versions of themselves to the world.
“We have to ensure that when we open our doors, we are providing the best service and giving the best impression of ourselves.
“What I see every single Sunday, when you open your doors for a harvest, is what I want to see from you when you open your shop, your parlour, you open your box that you are selling pies from or you are selling cane juice by the road or roast corn. I want that same level of hospitality that says, ‘My heart, my home, my island is open and is welcoming to you.’”