Minister of Culture Gunay Uslu explained that the Dutch government made this decision following the recommendations of a special committee that investigated the issue of cultural property taken from the colonies. In a report published in 2020, this committee called on the government to give expropriated valuables to the former Dutch colonies if these countries so desire.
“The Netherlands must take responsibility for its colonial past by making the recognition and restoration of justice a key principle of policy towards colonial collections [of art, artifacts],” the report said.
“This is the first time we are returning items that should not have ended up in the Netherlands. Minister Uslu said. “But we don't just return items. We are truly ushering in an era in which we will cooperate more intensively with Indonesia and Sri Lanka."
Among the valuables that will be returned to the Netherlands are the so-called "Lombok treasure" - a large amount of precious stones, gold and silver, which were seized by the Dutch military in the royal palace on the Indonesian island of Lombok in 1894. Sri Lanka will receive, in particular, a 17th-century bronze cannon richly adorned with precious stones, which is now on display in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum - the Rijksmuseum. This cannon, as historians suggest, was presented by a local nobleman to the monarch of Kandy. The Kingdom of Kandy before colonization was an independent state on part of the island of Sri Lanka.
In 1765, the Dutch captured it (and ceded Sri Lanka to the British half a century later).
In recent years, the Netherlands has begun to officially reconsider its attitude towards its own colonial past. Last week, King Willem-Alexander publicly apologized for Dutch involvement in the slave trade. Holland had colonies all over the world, including gigantic Indonesia, and hundreds of thousands of people passed through the hands of its slave traders. Other European countries, in particular, Britain and Germany, are also gradually starting the process of returning the exported valuable artifacts to the former colonies.