Saturday, 13 June 2020
Patrick Dewael, the chair of the federal parliament, has lent his voice to calls for a Belgian Truth & Reconciliation Commission to deal with the problems of racism and the country’s colonial past.
Dewael (Open VLD) is a veteran Limburg politician who has already been minister-president of Flanders and a leading member of the investigative commission looking into the judicial investigation into serial killer Marc Dutroux.
“It is time for Belgium to come to terms with its colonial past,” he tweeted yesterday.
“Parliament is a suitable forum for research and social debate. On Wednesday I will discuss with the groups how we can reach a truth and reconciliation commission with experts.”
Dewael refers to the truth and reconciliation commission set up in South Africa in 1996 to look into the widespread abuse of human rights in the republic during the apartheid regime.
The commission was chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu, and as well as holding hearings, also offered the possibility for ordinary South Africans to post their own expressions of regret and remorse.
The idea has been a long time in the pipeline, but Dewael is now seizing the opportunity presented by last weekend’s Black Lives Matter protests to confront a problem that has long been percolating in Belgium.
Belgium, a former colonial power, has its own problems with its colonial past, and with the matter of institutional racism. The protests last weekend against racism saw statues of King Leopold II vandalised, and the campaign has continued during the week, with busts of Belgium’s second king voluntarily removes from the universities of Leuven and Mons, and another taken down in Auderghem by protestors.
Dewael’s proposal will be put to the leaders of the parties in parliament before its plenary session on Wednesday next week.
The Brussels Times