BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Thursday October 15, 2015 – Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris has declared his government’s unwavering support for the call for reparations for the atrocities of slavery.
But he concedes that getting that compensation won’t be easy.
Harris made his position clear amid public debate over whether Caribbean governments should expect and/or get compensation. A recent discussion on the issue was sparked by UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggesting, while on a visit to Jamaica, that countries should put slavery behind them and move on.
“I believe what we have to do is find the correct messaging. I believe it has been and will continue to be a difficult message for a conservative government in the UK to accept the notion of reparations if it comes packaged as compensation,” Harris said as he responded to questions at his monthly press conference.
He recalled that at the recent United Nations General Assembly, he argued that the call for reparations be packaged within the context of the post-2015 development agenda.
The Kittitian leader said it was imperative to call on the countries that should be providing support to accept that slavery was an atrocity against humanity.
“It did irreparable damage to the psyche of the people who underwent that wicked system. In the consequence of that disadvantage there is a need now to help those societies that have suffered to get their development agenda fast tracked,” he said.
The issue of reparations has been hotly debated in the past few weeks.
Ahead of Cameron’s Jamaica trip, Chairman of CARICOM’s Reparation Commission Sir Hilary Beckles issued an open letter to the British leader asking him to acknowledge his country’s role in the slave trade and start the process of cleaning up the “monumental mess” that it left behind.
However, Cameron ignored the reparations call and his comments have resulted in him being criticized severely by American actor and civil rights activist Danny Glover and former Jamaican prime minister PJ Patterson.