Several important developments relating to demands by the Caribbean Community for reparations payments from Europe for the slave trade have occurred in recent weeks with regional governments making formal moves to ratchet up pressure on former slave trading nations.
Just recently, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the regional coordinator of the reparations effort, announced that she is preparing another formal letter to European capitals in a bid to get Europe involved in a structured conversation about the issue. She has not indicated that there has been a reply.
Ironically, the letter was drafted for Europe a few days before London had sent Prince William and his wife on a carefully scripted royal Caribbean charm tour that backfired badly as several Caribbean leaders felt compelled to make public statements demanding reparations payments and as the touring party had faced protests from NGO groups, forcing the Prince to smile through a tour that had clearly gone awry. Jamaica also used the opportunity to tell the Prince and London that, “We are moving on,” meaning that the island will this year dump Queen Elizabeth as its head of state, switch to a republic and appoint a Black or Brown person as its highest ranking office holder.
In the letter for Europe on behalf of regional governments, Mottley complains that “the countries in the Caribbean region were subjected to generations of resource-extraction and dehumanization of their people in order to fund the economic growth of European countries which colonized those nations. We had no development compact given to us at the point of independence, but there was a compensatory package for those who were slave owners, and there was a further package for the apprenticeship system,” she said.
She argued that Britain deliberately ignored the victims of the brutal slave trade and had set about finding about Sterling 47 million pounds way back at the time of abolition, to pay slave owners.
“Fast forward now, 130 years to Jamaica becoming independent, Trinidad, Guyana, Barbados and we go down the line. None of us were given a development compact. We had to start providing for our people without the benefit of any sort of development funding. We had to deal with lack of housing, educational opportunities, and healthcare facilities, and we had to do this in spite of the fact that substantial wealth was extracted from our countries for centuries.”
As the groundswell for reparations continues unabated, Jamaican government parliamentarian Mike Henry said at the weekend that a team of regional and London-based attorneys have joined forces to sue Britain in courts to make the U.K. comply with regional demands.
The team is preparing to act because many in the 15-nation bloc seem to believe that not enough is being done to force the hand of former slave traders.
“I have given them the case, which is being done pro bono by a select team of lawyers, including U.K. lawyers, for the attorney general to take it to the Jamaica cabinet for approval. If they are going to take two years more then I must assume that they don’t want it, and I am about to take a decision to go public in order to get it done,” the Observer newspaper quoted Henry as saying.
In recent weeks, several Caribbean leaders have thrown their weight behind the reparations movement with Trinidad Prime Minister Keith Rowley being among them. Most commented while the Prince was in the region.
“Recently I was very pleased to hear Prince William say that he acknowledged that slavery was wrong, and that the British government, the British people, have some responsibility. In that piece of unforgettable history, I was pleased to hear a member of the royal household in the United Kingdom. But I want to say to Prince William, having said that, I believe you. But I believe you more if you do what you must now do, which is the offer of reparation to the people who were wronged. If you repent, then salvation could be yours.”
The region has also asked for a summit with Europe and recently amended tactics to link up with the African Union.