September 3, 2015

Reparations grouping concerned over Caricom’s approach to issue

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister  Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister
Kamla Persad-Bissessar

The Pan-Afrikan Re-parations Coalition of Europe (PARCOE) has voiced concern about the approach being taken by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) in establishing national reparations committees.

At the recently concluded Caricom heads of government conference in Trinidad, the leaders agreed to set up national reparations committees in each of the 15 member states as a first step toward tackling an issue that was previously ignored.

While lauding the decision, PARCOE said “that the top down approach being taken to this issue will end up not achieving the reparations aspirations of the masses of Afrikan descendant and indigenous citizens in the Caribbean”.

Constructive engagement

“In our humble opinion, this may not happen unless concerted efforts are made to enable the facilitation of constructive engagement, dialogue, debate and deliberation within and between civil society, non-governmental organisations and social movements across the respective Caribbean nations in the region to allow for the negotiation of the best reparations common interest,” PARCOE said in an open letter to Caricom heads of government.

PARCOE also voiced concern about the decision to enlist the services of law firm, Leigh Day & Co to provide a legal brief in order to present a case for reparations for Caribbean slavery and native genocide to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Heads of government on the final day of their 34th regular meeting agreed on follow-up action on the matter of reparations for native genocide and slavery.  The meeting agreed to the establishment of a National Reparations Committee in each member state with the chair of each committee sitting on the Caricom Reparations Commission. The heads of government of Barbados (chair), St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago will provide political oversight.

The decisions were taken followed presentations by member states, led by St Vincent and the Grenadines, and their unanimous support of the road map. Chair of the community, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar at an end-of-meeting press conference at the Hilton Hotel, described progress on the subject as a very positive outcome.

Earlier during his contribution to the discussions, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said he conceptualised the call for reparations as an integral element of the community’s development strategy. The legacy of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean severely impaired the region’s development options.

“We know that our constant search and struggle for development resources is linked directly to the historical inability of our nations to accumulate wealth from the efforts of our peoples during slavery and colonialism. These nations that have been the major producers of wealth for the European slave-owning economies during the enslavement and colonial periods entered independence with dependency straddling their economic, cultural, social and even political lives,” Prime Minister Spencer said.

Enhance awareness

Reparations, he added, had to be directed toward repairing the damage inflicted by slavery and racism. “We, as political leaders, must encourage our various reparation agencies to continue the education of our Caribbean people and our diaspora, and enhance their awareness of the reparations issue. It is important that there is solid people and multi-party support for our efforts and we must impress on our colleagues in both government and opposition that this is not an issue we should use as party-politics fodder.

Our various reparation organisations must see the forging of bi-partisan political support and civil society consensus for reparations as one of their main objectives,” the Antigua and Barbuda prime minister added.

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