Ministro de Cultura de Barbados: “No es una cuestión de venganza, sino una causa justa”
Minister Lashley Says: Reparations Are For A Just Cause
The challenges that have resulted from slavery and the slave trade cannot be brushed aside because this will restrict the development of future generations of descendants of African slaves.
So says Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, as he addressed the Regional Reparations Conference in Kingstown, St. Vincent, yesterday.
Reiterating Barbados’ call for reparations, Mr. Lashley confirmed that Barbados supported concrete and tangible measures to make this possible.
“For us, it is not a matter of retribution, but a just cause…All around us, the reality of our economic, political and social circumstances point to historical developments that have resulted in inequality and deprivation of the descendants of African slaves,” he said, adding that this has led to structural and economic challenges which “plague our societies to this day”.
He further emphasised equity needed to be introduced to the emancipation process and stressed that reparations provide closure “to the criminal activity that was racial chattel slavery”.
The Culture Minister outlined that reparations should come in the form of funding which would target specific components of national economic development. He added that resources should be provided to support social programmes designed to strengthen the identity and self-confidence of people of African descent.
Moreover, he pointed out that the United Nations had agreed in 2001 that slavery and the slave trade were crimes “against humanity and should always have been so”, and he noted that the Durban Declaration called on the perpetrating countries to find appropriate ways to contribute to the restoration of the dignity of the victims.
Reasoning that Britain’s arguments against the reparations movement “are flawed”, Mr. Lashley pointed out that Britain, as “the largest beneficiary of African chattel slavery is still opposed to the question of reparations, arguing that no court is currently competent to handle such claims”.
“This argument is quite flawed, since the reparations movement has pointed out repeatedly, [that] international institutions are innovated enough to establish a competent tribunal to handle the claims. British laws, at the time, also recognised slavery as being repugnant to the laws and customs of the realm and there are no legal barriers to descendants making claims in some instances,” Mr. Lashley contended.
Also insisting that the UN recognised slavery and its resulting atrocities as crimes against humanity, he said this “strengthened the case for establishing a global reparations agenda and promoted the need for meaningful dialogue about repairing the damage caused by slavery and colonisation within the context of international law.”
The Culture Minister indicated that Britain also argued that when it was instituted, slavery was not a crime; that slavery was “too far in the past”; it was impossible to establish defendants in the 21st century; and reparations, in this case, are too complex a claim to be settled.
Adding there was opposition locally and regionally, he said some persons believed pursuing reparations would lead to confrontation and divisions in society and would result in a breakdown of racial relations. Furthermore, he said naysayers argued that Africans also participated in the transatlantic slave trade and that the pain and shame of slavery could not be valued.
“…Many of our historians, legal minds and Pan-Africanist scholars on the matter agree that none of these things mentioned diminishes the moral or legal force of argument in favour of reparations.
“In light of these facts, one can understand why a statement of regret is deemed inadequate as an indication of any moral abhorrence to the transatlantic trade in Africans and their enslavement. There is really the need for an apology which would legally imply acceptance of responsibility and a commitment to repay,” Mr. Lashley affirmed.
Ministro de Cultura de Guyana: “Tenemos el deber de garantizar que se adopten las medidas justas y apropiadas”
Guyana backs fight for slavery compensation
Guyana has backed calls for Europe to compensate Caribbean states for the inhumanity of slavery, saying the injustice had left a deep wound and the desire to right this wrong was a component of the anti-colonial struggle.
“Guyana agrees that we must look at this dark history in order to understand and move forward in the present. But apart from the duty to remember, we have the duty to ensure that just and appropriate measures are adopted to compensate for those wrongs,” Culture Minister Dr Frank Anthony told a regional conference on reparations being held in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The conference, which opened on Sunday, is the first major event on reparations following the 34th Caricom conference of heads of government in Trinidad and Tobago in July. At the summit, heads of government agreed to the establishment of a National Reparations Committee in each state, with the respective chairs sitting on the Caricom Reparations Commission. The community’s approach would be to hold a development conversation and to use all reasonable avenues to reach an amicable solution on reparations.
“As a Guyanese, and as a descendant of ancestors, all of whom were uprooted, transported and transplanted into an environment of atrocities and injustices, designed to maximise profits by plunder, I join with my brothers and sisters in voicing this claim for reparations,” Dr Anthony said. He said Guyana also supported the call for an apology from those countries which benefited from the proceeds of the slave trade.
The Abolition Act of August 1833, abolished enslavement throughout the British Empire from August 1, 1834. From this date, there was to be a six-year apprenticeship for field labour during which the slaves would work for a fixed number of hours each week.
This apprenticeship period ended in 1838, two years early. British Guiana planters were generously compensated for the 84,915 Africans who were now free. The emancipated Africans received no compensation for their years of labour. “Not a single solitary cent,” Dr Anthony lamented.
He said the issue was openly discussed in the immediate post-independence era.
Subsequently, a number of organisations, including Guyana’s African Cultural and Development Association, led the campaign for reparations and requested that President Bharrat Jagdeo add his voice to the reparations campaign. “…. President Jagdeo responded in kind when in 2007 while addressing a commemorative ceremony for the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic trade in captive Africans he observed: “Now that some members of the international community have recognised their active role in this despicable system, they need to go one step further and support reparation.”
In 2011, President Jagdeo in launching a year of celebratory activities commemorating the International Year for People of African Descent restated his support for reparations.
Guyana fully committed
The culture minister said in a recent report on slavery and justice by Brown University, it is stated that crimes against humanity… “are not simply random acts of carnage. Rather they are directed at particular groups of people, who have been degraded and dehumanised that they no longer appear to be fully human or merit the basic respect and concern that other humans command. … By implication, all human beings have a right, indeed an obligation, to respond – to try prevent such horrors from occurring and to redress their effects when they do occur.”
He said when the issue of slavery being a crime against humanity comes up, an argument is usually made that it was legal and permissible, because some countries had implemented the Code Noir or Black Code, which was described as the most monstrous legal instrument of modern times. He said there is a fallacy in this argument, because the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal defined crimes against humanity as “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population…. whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated”.
Minister Anthony told the conference that they had to build consensus and alliances at three levels, starting in individual countries. “We must also work more cohesively and consistently at the regional level. Not just mapping what must be done, but by timetabling the task that must be accomplished and by when,” Dr Anthony asserted.
“We also have to build the international alliance; we must coordinate our foreign policy to articulate our call at the multilateral levels. We must recruit international voices of reason men and women of influence that must add their voices to right this historic wrong. And we must keep knocking at the door,” he stressed.
In addition to Dr Anthony, Drs James Rose and Eric Phillips represented Guyana at the conference.