By Sean Douglas
Anthony Carmona, President of Trinidad & Tobago, yesterday publicly supported a call to have European governments, whose countries benefited from slavery in the West Indies, to pay reparations to the descendants of African slaves.
In his Emancipation Day message, Carmona said TT should support the efforts of Caricom governments as expressed by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and Chairman of the Caricom Reparations Commission, in an address to the British House of Commons on July 16, 2014.
Carmona quoted Sir Hilary’s address, saying, “That the Government of Great Britain and other European States that were the beneficiaries of enrichment from the enslavement of African people, the genocide of the indigenous communities and the deceptive breach of contract and trust in respect of East Indians and other Asians brought to the plantations under indenture, have a case to answer in respect of reparatory justice.” “As a former judge and a firm believer in reparatory justice, I am of the view that as we celebrate Emancipation Day 2017, we must examine affirmatively the case for reparations as adopted by Caricom Governments and advocated by Sir Hilary and other spokespersons.
“We in TT must view the call for reparations in the context of the duty we owe to our forefathers who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose contribution to our present well-being must be recognized in a world which now accepts that compensation and reparation are prerequisites in the dispensation of justice.” Carmona recalled that the United Nations in 2007, declared March 25 as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
“I wish to call on all citizens to take time out during the Emancipation Holiday to focus on their life’s journey: from whence they started, where they consider themselves to have reached and what is to be their life’s achievement.” Carmona said, “Emancipation Day must therefore, be a moment of regeneration, to renew in our lives a purposefulness to lead a life of quality, of sustainable ambition, independence, personal self-worth and vision.” He hailed those who laboured for Emancipation Day to be named a public holiday, as he referred to the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC).