Reparations Resource Center
By Renwick Rose
It is the great irony of our times, and a major tragedy at that, that the victim is being made to feel guilty for crimes perpetrated against them. Even prominent opinion-shapers among us, who one would expect to be in the forefront of the reparation claim, are somewhat hesitant to be in the frontline. Perhaps it has to do with approaches on the part of governments in whom they do not repose a lot of confidence, but our reparation is bigger than any CARICOM or any individual government or leader.
We will have to blow our own trumpets in this regard; no one is going to blow them for us, and the reparation battle may very well turn out to be a protracted one in which our unity of purpose and determination will be critical. Our first battle will be to convince ourselves of the justness of our cause, for one of the lasting effects of colonialism and slavery is that we lack confidence in ourselves as a people. Perhaps if the late John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton had endorsed the claim for reparation, many more of our own would have found it more acceptable.
All kinds of red herrings are being strewn in our path, creating more confusion in mapping the way forward. Among them is the spurious argument that we are not likely to succeed in our claims. Well, all I could say in reply, is that there were slaves who doubted whether they would ever be freed and whilst desiring freedom, thought it wiser not to be clearly identified with the fight to end slavery.
A lot of this confusion in the minds of many of our people stems from the fact that we are yet to fully comprehend the lasting effects of genocide, slavery and colonialism and how it relates to our condition today. It is really no fault of ours; our educational system was not designed to so enrich our understanding. The result is the rather simplistic view that slavery ended nearly 200 years ago, so why are we still harking back to the past. Associated with this view is an acceptance of the rape and plunder of the Callinago and Garifuna people and resources, as if they were of no value. Those people lost land, culture and dignity and are still among the poorest, here, in Dominica and Guyana. Do they not have a rightful claim to reparation?
At the recent CARICOM Heads meeting, held here two weeks ago, approval was given to a document prepared by the Caricom Reparations Commission (CRC), entitled the Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme. It is a 10-point action plan which sets out simply what the reparations claim is all about. It is a very important document in helping our people to understand the issue. Strangely, and here I continue to harbour grave concerns about how we are going about the reparations business, not much publicity has been given to the document. Even our journalists seemed to be focusing more on the issues related to marijuana and the St Kitts/Nevis situation, rather than publicizing the document.
But my own reservations about the handling of the reparations issue does not in any way undermine my own staunch support for the righteousness of the cause. I urge the various national committees to publicize the 10-point plan, so that it can be known by all just what we are seeking. In particular, we need to answer the false, and dangerous, idea, that this is all about money; that we cannot succeed, or if we do, to whom the money will be paid, and that this will be a recipe for in-fighting and disaster.
For the record, the 10-point plan makes it plain that “international reconciliation” is part of the process, that Caribbean people “have a duty to call for reparatory justice” and that “the persistent harm and suffering experienced today by these victims,” (of genocide and slavery), is “the primary cause of development failure in the Caribbean.” If we get to understand this, we would realize that notwithstanding the failings, shortcomings or even misdeeds of our post-independence leaders, we are poor because of our historical experiences.
This is what those who profited from plunder refuse to acknowledge, to apologize for, or to compensate the victims and their descendants. Hence, the reparations claim is a just call and must begin with “the offer of a sincere formal apology by the governments of Europe” (Point No. 1). We must not be ashamed or timid; we are the wronged.
Please, please, Reparations Committee and media – educate our people – publish the 10-point plan!
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator in St. Vincent & the Grenadines.
Ten Point Action Plan
This document, prepared by the CRC, proposes the delivery of this mandate within the formulation of the Caricom Reparations Justice Program [CRJP]. The CRC asserts that victims and descendants of these CAH have a legal right to reparatory justice, and that those who committed these crimes, and who have been enriched by the proceeds of these crimes, have a reparatory case to answer.
The CRJP recognizes the special role and status of European governments in this regard, being the legal bodies that instituted the framework for developing and sustaining these crimes. These governments, furthermore, served as the primary agencies through which slave based enrichment took place, and as national custodians of criminally accumulated wealth.
THE CRC ASSERTS THAT EUROPEAN GOVERNMENTS:
- Were owners and traders of enslaved Africans • Instructed genocidal actions upon indigenous communities
- Created the legal, financial and fiscal policies necessary for the enslavement of Africans
- Defined and enforced African enslavement and native genocide as in their ‘national interests’
- Refused compensation to the enslaved with the ending of their enslavement
- Compensated slave owners at emancipation for the loss of legal property rights in enslaved Africans
- Imposed a further one hundred years of racial apartheid upon the emancipated
- Imposed for another one hundred years policies designed to perpetuate suffering upon the emancipated and survivors of genocide
- And have refused to acknowledge such crimes or to compensate victims and their descendants
Their call for justice is the basis of the closure they seek to the terrible tragedies that engulfed humanity during modernity. The CRC comes into being some two generations after the national independence process, and finds European colonial rule as a persistent part of Caribbean life.
The CRC operates within the context of persistent objection from European governments to its mandate.
The CRC, nonetheless, is optimistic that the CRJP will gain acceptance as a necessary path to progress.
The CRC sees the persistent racial victimization of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today.
The CRC recognizes that the persistent harm and suffering experienced today by these victims as the primary cause of development failure in the Caribbean.
It calls upon European governments to participate in the CRJP with a view to prepare these victims and sufferers for full admission with dignity into the citizenry of the global community. The CRC here outlines the path to reconciliation, truth, and justice for VICTIMS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS.
CRJP: Ten Point Action Plan
1. FULL FORMAL APOLOGY
Such statements do not acknowledge that crimes have been committed and represent a refusal to take responsibility for such crimes. Statements of regrets represent, furthermore, a reprehensible response to the call for apology in that they suggest that victims and their descendants are not worthy of an apology. Only an explicit formal apology will suffice within the context of the CRJP.
This trade in enchained bodies was a highly successful commercial business for the nations of Europe. The lives of millions of men, women and children were destroyed in search of profit. The descendants of these stolen people have a legal right to return to their homeland.
A Repatriation program must be established and all available channels of international law and diplomacy used to resettle those persons who wish to return. A resettlement program should address such matters as citizenship and deploy available best practices in respect of community re-integration.
3. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Genocide and land appropriation went hand in hand. A community of over 3,000,000 in 1700 has been reduced to less than 30,000 in 2000. Survivors remain traumatized, landless, and are the most marginalized social group within the region.
The University of the West Indies offers an Indigenous Peoples Scholarship in a desperate effort at rehabilitation. It is woefully insufficient. A Development Plan is required to rehabilitate this community.
4. CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS
These facilities serve to reinforce within the consciousness of their citizens an understanding of their role in history as rulers and change agents.
There are no such institutions in the Caribbean where the CAH were committed. Caribbean schoolteachers and researchers do not have the same opportunity.
Descendants of these CAH continue to suffer the disdain of having no relevant institutional systems through which their experience can be scientifically told. This crisis must be remedies within the CJRP.
5. PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
This pandemic is the direct result of the nutritional experience, physical and emotional brutality, and overall stress profiles associated with slavery, genocide, and apartheid. Over 10 million Africans were imported into the Caribbean during the 400 years of slavery.
At the end of slavery in the late 19th century less than 2 million remained. The chronic health condition of Caribbean blacks now constitutes the greatest financial risk to sustainability in the region. Arresting this pandemic requires the injection of science, technology, and capital beyond the capacity of the region.
Europe has a responsibility to participate in the alleviation of this heath disaster. The CRJP addresses this issue and calls upon the governments of Europe to take responsibility for this tragic human legacy of slavery and colonisation.
6. ILLITERACY ERADICATION
Jamaica, the largest such community, was home to the largest number of such citizens. Widespread illiteracy has subverted the development efforts of these nation states and represents a drag upon social and economic advancement.
Caribbean governments allocate more than 70 percent of public expenditure to health and education in an effort to uproot the legacies of slavery and colonization. European governments have a responsibility to participate in this effort within the context of the CRJP.
7. AFRICAN KNOWLEDGE PROGRAM
A program of action is required to build ‘bridges of belonging’. Such projects as school exchanges and culture tours, community artistic and performance programs, entrepreneurial and religious engagements, as well as political interaction, are required in order to neutralize the void created by slave voyages.
Such actions will serve to build knowledge networks that are necessary for community rehabilitation.
8. PSYCHOLOGICAL REHABILITATION
This history has inflicted massive psychological trauma upon African descendant populations. This much is evident daily in the Caribbean.
Only a reparatory justice approach to truth and educational exposure can begin the process of healing and repair. Such an engagement will call into being, for example, the need for greater Caribbean integration designed to enable the coming together of the fragmented community.
9. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER
The Caribbean was denied participation in Europe’s industrialization process, and was confined to the role of producer and exporter of raw materials. This system was designed to extract maximum value from the region and to enable maximum wealth accumulation in Europe.
The effectiveness of this policy meant that the Caribbean entered its nation building phase as a technologically and scientifically ill-equipped- backward space within the postmodern world economy.
Generations of Caribbean youth, as a consequence, have been denied membership and access to the science and technology culture that is the world’s youth patrimony. Technology transfer and science sharing for development must be a part of the CRJP.
10. DEBT CANCELLATION
The pressure of development has driven governments to carry the burden of public employment and social policies designed to confront colonial legacies. This process has resulted in states accumulating unsustainable levels of public debt that now constitute their fiscal entrapment.
This debt cycle properly belongs to the imperial governments who have made no sustained attempt to deal with debilitating colonial legacies. Support for the payment of domestic debt and cancellation of international debt are necessary reparatory actions.
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