KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday September 29, 2015 – Chairman of CARICOM’s Reparation Commission Sir Hilary Beckles is pleading with the United Kingdom prime minister David Cameron, ahead of his visit to Jamaica today, to acknowledge his country’s role in the slave trade and start the process of cleaning up the “monumental mess” that it left behind.
In an open letter to Cameron, Sir Hilary said the lingering effects of the slave trade continue to haunt the Caribbean’s efforts at “sustainable economic development and the psychological and cultural rehabilitation of our people” and must be addressed.
“In this regard I urge you to be aware that the issue of reparatory justice for these crimes is now before our respective nations, and the wider world. It is not an issue that can be further ignored, remain under the rug, or placed on back burners, as your minister who recently visited us so aptly described your agenda for Jamaica and the Caribbean. It will generate the greatest global political movement of our time unless respected and resolved by you, the leader of the state that extracted more wealth from our enslavement than any other,” he wrote in the September 26 correspondence.
“The Jamaican economy, more than any other, at a critical moment in your nation’s economic development, fuelled its sustainable growth. Britain as a result became great and Jamaica has remained the poorer. Jamaica now calls upon Britain to reciprocate, not in the context of crime and compulsion, but in friendly, mutually respected dialogue. It is an offer of opportunity written not in the blood of our enslaved ancestors but in the imagination of their offspring and progeny who have survived the holocaust and are looking to the future for salvation.”
Sir Hilary, who is Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, told Cameron that he owed it to Jamaica to give a commitment to reparatory justice that will enable the UK to play its part in cleaning up the “monumental mess” from slavery and colonialism.
The reparations proponent stressed that the country was not asking for handouts.
“We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal. The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility,” Sir Hilary said.
“In the four corners of Kingston there are already whispers that your strategy will be to seek a way to weaken Jamaica’s commitment to Caribbean reparations in a singular act of gift granting designed to divide and rule and to subvert the regional discourse and movement. You Sir, are a Briton, not a Greek, and we have no reason therefore to fear what you bear. But we do ask that you recall that the Caribbean region was once your nation’s unified field for taxation, theatre for warfare, and space for the implementation of trade law and policy. Seeing the region as one is therefore in your diplomatic DNA; and this we urge that you remember.”
— Chris A. Grant (@MCAGrant) September 29, 2015
The UK prime minister arrives in Jamaica today and departs tomorrow.
While in Jamaica, Cameron will be involved in several official activities, including a floral tribute in honour of soldiers of World Wars I and II; bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller; a reception with representatives of the Jamaican government, business community and civil society; and an address to a joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament.