St Vincent PM wants Caribbean reparations group established
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Friday March 15, 2013 – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is calling on Caribbean countries to establish a regional reparations committee, pledging to spend the rest of his life seeking compensation from the British for land, genocide against the Garifuna, and slavery.
Prime Minister Gonsalves said Cabinet will soon name its reparations committee
“But we want to see not only a reparations committee for St. Vincent but we want to see a Caribbean wide reparations committee involving other Caribbean countries. Jamaica has one, Antigua has one, Barbados has recently set up one,” Gonsalves said as the island observed National Heroes Day on Thursday.
Gonsalves, who turns 67 in August, noted that the average lifespan of a Vincentian male is 74 years.
“I have seven more years, to talk like this, with the help of Almighty God, and to demand a proper historical recompense for genocide, for the land, and for African slavery and for us to reclaim our history,” he said at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony in honour of National Hero Joseph Chatoyer.
Gonsalves reaffirmed the position of his government as stated at the United Nations and other fora that it is making a case and a claim for reparation from the British.
“I want to say that the quantification of what we are owed as reparations that quantification has to be complete with the appropriate technical work.”
He noted that in the 18th Century the British took 90,000 acres of land from the Garifuna, the original inhabitants of St. Vincent.
“Imagine the price of 90,000 acres of land (today). Even if you valued it then for 100 pounds an acre, you are talking about EC$500 million (One EC Dollar = US$0.37 cents) for the land, [at] the least. And then, what value you are going to put on people’s lives? That’s a number we will have to talk about,” he said.
He noted that at Emancipation the British gave slave owners in the British Caribbean 20 million pounds One British Pound =US$1.38 cents).
Prime Minister Gonsalves said a recent study by a British scholar concluded that 20 million pounds then is about 16.58 billion pounds now.
“Just forgetting for a moment the institution of slavery itself, that’s what they paid the owners of the slaves. If you take half of that representing for the Caribbean, you are talking about 8.25 billion pounds for the English speaking Caribbean,” Gonsalves said, adding that the figure is about EC$40 billion.
“Great homes in England — lord this and lord that — were financed by the compensation money for the slaves. So when I talk like this you, you have some people saying Ralph (is)] against the British.
“I have nothing against the British. I have nothing but admiration for the British and their achievement but there are some things for which we must take account.”
He said that some people argue that the British gives aid to St. Vincent.
“Well, I rather they give me that (reparation) than give me some aid. I rather we settle that. This is a matter which can’t be settled in law court. But this is a matter where, politically, we have to raise our voices,” Gonsalves said.
He said he expects “those who have suffered from French and Spanish colonialism to make those same claims against the relevant or appropriate European powers”.
Last month, Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles, called on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to begin efforts aimed at seeking some form of reparation from Western countries for slavery.
Speaking at the first of a series of lectures to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the 1763 Berbice Slave Revolt, Sir Hilary said an ongoing discussion was needed to address the issue and called for an “informed and sensible conversation” on what has been described as the, “Worst Crime against humanity”.
Sir Hilary said out that reparation is not about people getting handouts, but about repairing historical damage and how to find a way forward.
He said that while all races experienced some form of slavery, African slavery was unique in its scope and brutality. Comparative studies note that it was the only system of slavery in which people were viewed legally as property and seen as non- humans.
Concern about CARICOM’s approach to reparations
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday July 16, 2013 – The Pan–Afrikan Reparations Coalition of Europe (PARCOE) has voiced concern about the approach being taken by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in establishing National Reparations Committees.
At the recently concluded CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in Trinidad, the leaders agreed to set up national reparations committees in each of the 15 member states as a first step toward tackling an issue that was previously ignored.
While lauding the decision, PARCOE says “that the top down approach being taken to this issue will end up not achieving the reparations aspirations of the masses of Afrikan descendant and indigenous citizens in the Caribbean.”
“In our humble opinion this may happen unless concerted efforts are made to enable the facilitation of constructive engagement, dialogue, debate and deliberation within and between civil society, non-governmental organisations and social movements across the respective Caribbean nations in the region to allow for the negotiation of the best reparations common interest,” PARCOE said in an open letter to CARICOM Heads of Government.
PARCOE also voiced concern about the decision to enlist the services of law firm Leigh Day & Co to provide a legal brief in order to present a case for reparations for Caribbean slavery and Native genocide to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
PARCOE believes that the decision was based on the law firm’s role in securing compensation for thousands of Kenyans from the nationalist Mau Mau movement, who were tortured in the anti-colonial uprising in the 1950s.
According to PARCOE, the agreement reached with the British Government represented a “paltry sum and is not commensurate with the torture and suffering of the Kenyans. “It is therefore our firm contention that what is mistakenly being heralded as a ‘historic victory’ for the Mau Mau can be seen as a well orchestrated imperialist swindle, apparently hatched by Leigh Day & Co with their usual Afriphobic racist arrogance, in collaboration with British state authorities behind the back of the Mau Mau community of reparations interest in and beyond Kenya, including PARCOE.”
“We fear, what we in PARCOE consider to be, a dubious move on the part of Leigh Day & Co, whereby without any visible and transparent engagement with the Caribbean Community of reparations interest in the UK, (where they are based), they appear to have wormed their way into the confidence of Caribbean state authorities in order to once again misrepresent Afrikans and people of Afrikan descent on an issue of vital importance to our very survival.”
PARCOE is also concerned that CARICOM Heads were unable to secure the expertise of “outstanding legal brains that have come out of the Caribbean and stood firmly, proudly and successfully in the front ranks of our struggle against chattel, colonial and neo-colonial forms of enslavement.”
“In the case of reparations to the descendants of the enslaved in the Caribbean, it is important to ensure that law firms retained have the proven track record of being able to effectively work with and respect the political and legal self-determination of Afrikan and Afrikan Caribbean communities by adopting litigation strategies that these communities of reparations interest themselves have fashioned,” PARCOE added.
The organisation urged Caribbean leaders to engage in the necessary consultations with all Afrikans and people of Afrikan descent in the various countries of the Caribbean as well as with Afrikans and people of Afrikan descent living in the British Isles and other countries in Europe .
“The simple point being that what Britain owes the descendants of the enslaved in the Caribbean is not just a matter for those currently living in the Caribbean to determine.”(CMC)
Demand for slavery reparations delivered to Dutch embassy in Suriname
By Marvin Hokstam
PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Friday June 28, 2013 – The compensation many descendants of Dutch slavery feel is due to them became official after members of the Committee Reparations Slavery Past Suriname deposited a claim at the Dutch embassy here.
“We want to discuss the material and immaterial damage,” said Committee Chairman Armand Zunder as he presented a petition to Dutch charge d’affaires Ernst Noorman.
Zunder was joined at the presentation by Committee member Guno Rijssel, who stressed “we’re did not go begging. We only demand a satisfactory settlement that is due to us.“
In its petition, the Committee requests that The Netherlands acknowledges the suffering of people who were enslaved here.
“We request that the Dutch Government appoint an institute with which we could enter into dialogue regarding the reparations of the damage we suffered,” Zunder said.
He acknowledged efforts by The Netherlands to give Afro-Surinamers a place in the Dutch community -like the Slavery Memorial statues of Amsterdam and Rotterdam-, but said that these were but feeble.
The Dutch shipped an estimated one million Africans from their continent to work on plantations in “the new world”. Slavery was officially abolished on July 1st 1863, which this year is 150 years ago. The Netherlands has not offered a formal apology.
Zunder, an economist, has previously published research results that showed that the Netherlands earned some Euro125 billion (One Euro =US$1.29 cents) from Suriname during slavery.
“That money was earned through the hard work of the slaves and they were never compensated; in contrast, the traders and the plantation owners were. They got Euro 100 million. And that has been invested in the Dutch economy. The country still benefits from these investments,” he said.
Charge d’affaires Noorman urged the committee to “wait and see” what message Dutch Social Affairs Minister Lodewijck Asscher will have when he addresses the slavery abolition memorial event at Amsterdam’s Oostpark on July 1.
“Whatever Asscher will have to say is for the wider public. The Committee expects a formal response in writing from The Hague to our petition. The Netherlands only seems to want to talk about oppression and the slavery that exists today, and disregard the riches they earned from enslaving our ancestors,” he said.
Zunder said that he did not consider his Committee a mouthpiece of the Surinamese government, but stressed that he was following a path that has been laid by Government.
“Government never changed the standpoint it took at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa in September 2001. We simply filled in the blanks and used that as our point of departure. Slavery was a crime against humanity, and that has no statute of limitations,” he said.
He expected a tedious process, but said he was in for the long haul.
“We have to set up the organization, start the dialogue with our community and then be ready to tackle whatever will be thrown at us by the institute the Dutch Government will appoint to talk to us,” he said. “Fact is that reparations are due because our ancestors suffered material and immaterial damage.”
Asked whether he thinks compensation should be in the form of funds or in the form of projects that help the ancestors of slaves bridge disadvantages, he said: “Well that’s what we need to start the dialogues for.”
Talk of slavery reparations has been ongoing for a while, but this is the first time that an actual request has been submitted with the Dutch Government. The committee finds many likeminded individuals in the region.
Pro-vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles recently made a case for slavery reparations in his book, titled “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations owed the Caribbean for Slavery and Indigenous Genocide.”
Calls have also been made for compensation in Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Goncalves has also weighed in on the issue, saying that the Caribbean must remain part of the leadership on the debate of reparation for slavery.
Zunder said he felt reinforced because the reparations issue being a hot topic in the Caribbean.
“Our countries are all former colonies. Slavery and reparations are a shared history and reparations are a topic we can approach together. There is movement to have it become an agenda point for the Heads of Government to discuss,” he said.
“The process is developing and the good thing about it is that the Caribbean governments are starting to get involved, which gives us a stronger platform to work from. So far we have been footing the bill ourselves,” he said.
UWI Mona campus to offer course on reparation for Caribbean slavery
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday August 7, 2013 – The Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) is to offer a course on reparation, looking at the issue of compensation for slavery in the Caribbean.
The course is being designed by lecturer in the Department of Government in Political Philosophy and Culture, Dr. Clinton Hutton, who said the curriculum will examine the argument for reparation within a historical context.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their summit in Trinidad and Tobago in July, agreed to establish a committee under the chairmanship of the Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to drive the issue.
Suriname has already said it would instruct the councils of the Union of South American States to collect “all relevant information for Suriname and CARICOM” on the reparation matter.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the Caribbean is demanding reparation from Europe for native genocide and African slavery.
Hutton said that it is important to educate the Caribbean population about the issues of slavery and reparation, as many young people still do not see a connection between themselves and their enslaved ancestors.
“In other words, they are unable to feel empathy for their own ancestors,” he said, noting that the same lack of feeling displayed for our ancestors is the same that the Europeans had towards black people.
Hutton said that during his lectures, some students have argued that the reason their foreparents were enslaved was because they were uneducated.
He argued, however, that some of the people, who came across the Middle Passage, were state makers, scientists and highly skilled persons.
“In fact, the reason for Europeans going to Africa was that Africa was rich in tropical agriculture and not because of the physical makeup of our ancestors,” he stated.
“We need to walk through the passages that our ancestors walked, and we can only do that if we educate ourselves,” he added.
He said education will also generate a bigger and growing political voice to support the work of the National Commission for Reparations (NCR). “I have no doubt that if the people are educated they will begin to think differently,” he said.