BY TONY BEST
NNPA NEWS SERVICE
Caribbean nations that revised the century-old issue of reparations for slavery with their announced plans to bring a lawsuit against Britain for its commercially profitable role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade are moving a step further in preparing their case.
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, Suriname, the Bahamas and their neighbors are accelerating the pace of research, collecting evidence at the individual national levels to boost the region’s legal argument for compensation for the brutality of slavery and native genocide.
The evidence collection exercise picked up steam when representatives of almost a dozen Caricom states met recently in Barbados and decided to gather the relevant evidence that would support the demand for reparations.
Research in the United Kingdom where a case is to be filed has already shown that some of Britain richest and most influential families, including the British Royal family, benefitted from slavery, and the United Kingdom should therefore provide financial compensation to the developing countries for the lingering effects of the abhorrent trade in human beings.
Earl Bousquet, chairman of St. Lucia’s National Reparations Committee, who represented his Eastern Caribbean country at the meeting in Bridgetown, said the states agreed on a regional approach designed to guide the way evidence was compiled and presented in a court of law.
“The meeting adopted a regional strategic and operational plan to guide the work of the reparations movement at the regional and nation levels and in its interface with Africa and Europe as well as the Caribbean and African Diaspora,” said Bousquet.
“We also looked at research and translation, mobilization and public education, inter-governmental relations, media strategy, preparation of a regional strategic and operational plan and financial of the regional commission and the national committees,” he added.
In the meantime, the threatened lawsuit is attracting attention Europe where legal experts, historians and analysts are assessing the case’s merits and are already warning the case was going to trigger a protracted battle.
A British cabinet minister, reflecting the attitude of the current David Cameron administration has rejected the Caribbean’s claims for compensation. In Scotland, which is mounting its own campaign to become a sovereign nation, separating itself from the U.K., the issue hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Scotland will no doubt hear” about the human rights abuses that are central to the reparations case “as it prepares to move forward into self-government, history speaks to the present,” wrote a reader of the Herald Scotland publication.
Debate in Denmark
In Copenhagen, Enhedslisten, a far-left party, has called on Denmark to apologize to the Caribbean for its role in the slave trade between 1670 and 1802.
“An official apology is important for two reasons: one is to pay sympathies to the descendants of slaves and the other is to have a debate in Denmark about slavery and our slavery past,” said Nikolaj Villumsen, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman.
Denmark had a colonial presence in the Caribbean for several decades, ending in 1917 when it sold the U.S. Virgin Island to Washington for $25 million. It is estimated that as many as 100,000 slaves were transported on Danish ships to the Caribbean, North America and Europe before the European country became the first to prohibit slavery in 1792.
With Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, St. Vincent’s Prime Minister, taking over the chairmanship of Caricom, the 15-member grouping of English, Dutch and Creole-speaking Caribbean states, the reparations issue is expected to become more highly visible over the next six months.
This story is special to the NNPA from the New York Carib News.