The Caribbean has not forgotten
By Roberto Castellanos
IN their fight for the vindication of their peoples and the search for justice, the Caribbean nations are to demand from their former metropolises economic and moral reparations for slavery, the genocide of their peoples, and the colonial practices to which they were subjected.
The cornerstone of this demand was affirmed during the 34th Summit of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which took place in July in Trinidad & Tobago, and which gave the green light to the formation of a regional reparations group, to be supervised by prime ministers and presidents of the region.
The new institution will be responsible for coordinating the national commissions of each state.
The next step is a meeting in St. Vincent & the Grenadines in the first week of September, at which various leaders will have discussions with lawyers and historians to draw up a common strategy. The legacy of slavery includes endemic poverty and the lack of development which characterizes a large part of the region. Any agreement must contemplate a formal apology, but remorse by itself is not sufficient, stated President Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
For this reason, CARICOM has retained the UK law firm Leigh Day & Co, which recently won a claim forcing London to compensate hundreds of Kenyans tortured during their liberation struggle, in the so-called Mau Mau rebellion (1952-1960), with more than $20 million. "Our first step will be to seek a negotiated agreement with the governments of France, Britain and the Netherlands in an attempt to resolve the issue amicably," stated lawyer Martyn Day.
However, David Fitton, British High Commissioner to Jamaica, made clear his government’s position by denying that this ruling set any precedent.
"We don't think the issue of reparations is the right way to address these issues," he said. "It's not the right way to address an historical problem."
Although there is no official data, it is estimated that 12 million Africans were taken by force from their continent and transported to the Western Hemisphere to work as slaves. Moreover, a significant number of them never reached their destination as they died in the crossing due to abysmal hygienic conditions, poor food and crowded into the ships’ holds.
While the Caribbean nations have not as yet presented a concrete monetary amount as compensation, regional media have referred to the compensation granted by the British to owners of Caribbean plantations after the emancipation of slaves in 1834.
Then, London paid colonialists approximately 20 million GBP, currently worth $200 billion.
According to Armand Zunder, president of the Suriname National Reparations Committee, during its occupation of this Caribbean nation, the Netherlands alone obtained a sum amounting to 125 billion euros at the current rate.
Nor is there consensus as to the destination of any sums contributed, but Gonsalves called for the creation of a compensation fund for the economic and social development of the region. (Orbe)
August 29, 2013