UWI Clears the Air: No Agreement Yet on Reparations

UWI Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles


KINGSTON, Jamaica,
Wednesday November 28, 2018 – Not so fast, says the University of the West Indies (UWI), there’s no agreement yet on the payment of £200 million (US$256 million) in reparations from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow.

UWI Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles sought to make that clear yesterday, on the heels of a Jamaica Gleaner newspaper article on Sunday which indicated that the university in the United Kingdom had agreed to make the payments. He said that “while the quoted content of the story is correct, the headline that suggests an agreement to pay £200 million to The UWI is not.”

In a statement issued yesterday, Sir Hilary acknowledged that The University of Glasgow had admitted that the amount in fees, endowment and grants were received from Caribbean slave owners, but he stressed that deliberations on payment of reparations are still ongoing.

“The universities are working through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) built upon the principle of ‘reparatory justice’, but there is no ‘agreement’ about the repayment of £200 million to The UWI,” he said.

“In good faith, the two universities, ever since the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli indicated that his university seeks to be excellent and ethical, have had excellent conversations about how the University of Glasgow can contribute to cleaning up the colonial legacies of slavery that are holding back the region.”

“A working team has been established, which has made many reparatory justice submissions, but is yet to complete its deliberations,” he added.

A report entitled ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’, published recently by the university, reveals that it benefited directly from the slave trade in Africa and the Caribbean in the 18th and 19th centuries to the tune of almost £200 million in today’s money. It revealed that 16 bursaries, endowments and mortifications donated to the institution between 1809 and 1937 had a direct link to profits from slavery.

The university has announced that it has launched a wide-ranging and ambitious reparative justice programme that is based on the findings of more than two years of research. In addition, it announced that it intends to implement programmes and projects that will provide scholarships and exchange programmes for Jamaican and other Caribbean students through its links with The UWI.

Sir Hilary, who was one of three external advisors to the ‘Slavery, Abolition and the University of Glasgow’ report, had spoken about the issue during an interview on the Jamaica News Network (JNN) programme ‘Insight’, where he said that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow had opened up the university’s records, and that showed a “massive influx” of grants and endowments from Jamaica.

According to the university head, who recently returned from the UK, the university “recognized that Jamaican slave owners had adopted the University of Glasgow as their university of choice and that £200 million of value was extracted from Jamaica and the Caribbean.”

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