Call for Africa to join lobby for reparations

The University of the West Indies' Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. -
The University of the West Indies' Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. -

A call has been made for more support to come from the African continent for the descendants of slavery to be compensated for the inhumane treatment their ancestors faced.

It came from the University of the West Indies' (UWI) vice-chancellor and chairman of the Caricom Reparations Commission Prof Sir Hilary Beckles.

He said while the commission has had some bilateral conversation with some African states and has taken its message to them, it was still awaiting greater support.

In the virtual discussion hosted by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest called the Case for Reparations held on Sunday, Beckles said, "They have reached out to us, the conversation is going on. But I believe when the African states step up into this conversation it is going to be the game changer.”

According to its website, the commission first met in September 2013 and sets out a 10-point reparation plan including debt cancellation, a full formal apology and illiteracy eradication.

The 90-minute discussion was chaired by UWI professor Andy Knight and touched on a number of issues among them the historical case for reparations. The discussion was held in commemoration of the International Day for Reparations observed on Monday.

Beckles said in the last five years or so the Caribbean governments have done more than other nations in leading the call for reparations.

“The Caribbean governments established the reparations commission to lay the foundation for the research for the advocacy. The Caribbean governments went out there on a limb and told the world this is where we stand,” he said.

He added that Caribbean governments were in a very noble position and the commission was working in a framework of government support from regional prime ministers like St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Barbados’ Mia Mottley.

Beckles said Caricom has done "a magnificent job" in taking the issue to the international forum.

In response, political leader of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) Kwasi Mutema said he believes TT has not done enough on the issue.

Mutema said there was a local reparations committee set up in TT under the People’s Partnership administration, of which NJAC was a coalition member, but when the PNM came into office in 2015 the question of reparation “just went out the window.”

He said since then NJAC wrote to the Prime Minister raising the issue of the commission, its importance and significance and seeking discussions to have the commission re-established but there was no reply.

He said the Dr Rowley-led administration has shown a complete disinterest and disregard for the local commission.

“The future development of the Caribbean is very much closely linked to this issue of reparations. This issue of reparations has a lot to do with the future of the development of Caribbean people. The Caribbean as a whole needs to be fully 100 per cent behind this issue,” he said.


"Call for Africa to join lobby for reparations"

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