Westerlaken foundation

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Decision on returning looted heritage (NL) declared controversial and cannot be dealt with now.

The decision of the Minister of Education, Culture and Science has been declared controversial and cannot be dealt with by the current caretaker cabinet.

This means that the return of looted items will not be undertaken just yet.

Keris RV-3600-193, Collection Museum Volkenkunde.


The minister wrote a letter to the cabinet on January 29, 2021, before the subject was declared controversial:


I believe, in line with the Commission's first recommendation, that taking possession of cultural goods against their will has wronged the indigenous peoples of the colonial areas. Given the colonial context at the time of the acquisition of the cultural goods - and with it the unequal balance of power - there is a reasonable chance that there will be an involuntary loss of possession of the objects in question. This recognition is therefore the first step in the careful handling of colonial collections.


The next step is that I am willing, in accordance with the second recommendation, by returning

cultural goods to countries of origin and international cooperation to contribute to remedying this historical injustice, which is still experienced as injustice to this day. It is this willingness that forms the basis for the policy framework for dealing with colonial collections.


Cultural goods that have been involuntarily taken from a former Dutch colony

The first category consists of cultural objects in state possession of which it can be demonstrated with a reasonable degree of certainty that they were involuntarily lost at the time in countries where the Netherlands exercised colonial authority for a longer period, including Indonesia, Suriname and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom. In accordance with recommendations 4 and 5, I am prepared to proceed to an unconditional return of such a cultural object in the possession of the State to these countries. With a view to redressing injustice, additional conditions or balances against other interests in the assessment of a request for restitution are not appropriate. Refunds will of course only take place insofar as the country of origin also wishes this refund. At the same time, I will discuss the importance of broad accessibility and sustainable management and preservation with these countries cultural objects.

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