Caribbean nations are joining together to seek reparations for slavery from three former colonial powers. The prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is leading the effort. Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves tells The Associated Press that the 14 nations of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) organization have enlisted help from a British human rights law firm. Gonsalves says Caricom is also creating a special commission to pursue what he calls an “honest, sober and robust conversation” with Britain, France and the Netherlands about the legacy of slavery and the genocide of native people. Individual nations and organizations have sought reparations in the past but this is the first push by Caricom. The British High Commissioner to Jamaica said in a radio interview Wednesday that his government opposes reparations.
The legacy of slavery includes widespread poverty and the lack of development that characterizes most of the region, Gonsalves said, adding that any settlement should include a formal apology, but contrition alone would not be sufficient.
“The apology is important but that is wholly insufficient,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. “We have to have appropriate recompense.”
The notion of forcing the countries that benefited from slavery to pay reparations has been a decades-long quest. Individual countries including Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda already had existing national commissions. Earlier this month, leaders from the 14 Caricom nations voted unanimously at a meeting in Trinidad to wage a joint campaign that those involved say would be more ambitious than any previous effort.
Each nation that does not have a national reparations commission agreed to set one up, sending a representative to the regional commission, which would be overseen by prime ministers. They agreed to focus on Britain on behalf of the English-speaking Caribbean as well as France for the slavery in Haiti and the Netherlands for Suriname, a former Dutch colony on the northeastern edge of South America that is a member of Caricom.
Martyn Day, the attorney for Caricom, is hoping to resolve the issue amicably. Day cites the statement of regret issued from the British government to Kenya as well as the $21.5 million that was given to the surviving Kenyans.
“I think they would undoubtedly want to try and see if this can be resolved amicably,” Day said of the Caribbean countries. “But I think the reason they have hired us is that they want to show that they mean business.”
So how much would the countries seek in reparations?
Currently there isn’t a monetary amount, but they mentioned the fact that Britain at the time of emancipation in 1834 paid 20 million pounds to British planters in the Caribbean, the equivalent of 200 billion pounds today, which is the equivalent of $90,718,474. 000!
Do you think these nations will ever receive reparations?