Bahamas announces 24-member reparations committee
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell has appointed The Bahamas’ National Reparations Committee ahead of a formal push by CARICOM heads to get reparations, debt cancellation, and an apology from former European colonisers.
During a press conference at the ministry of foreign affairs on Monday, Mitchell announced that former attorney general Alfred Sears and former member of parliament Philip Smith are co-chairs.
Mitchell said he expects the committee to present its preliminary research and recommendations by June.
He said the committee will carry out a wide public education campaign as it seeks to illustrate links between historic and modern-day discrimination and outline racial discrimination resulting from slavery in areas of health, education, living conditions, property and land ownership, employment participation and migration.
“I believe that the public discussion that will ensue… will be instructive and I think that is what the government hopes in its essence takes place; that there is a national discussion and dialogue on this, which has been treated as a silent subject for too long,” Mitchell said.
“And those of us who were raised in the 1950s and 1960s and saw the struggles pre-1967 in this country are somewhat astounded at how polite of a society we have become on this subject.”
Sears and Smith attended a CARICOM reparations commission meeting in Barbados in January.
Sears said Martyn Day, the lawyer leading CARICOM’s claim, will more than likely lodge a claim in the International Court of Justice.
Mitchell said before CARICOM heads make any legal claim they have agreed to convene a conference with the European countries.
Asked to respond to those who may disagree with seeking reparations, Mitchell said it is in the best interest of the country to have the research done.
“I think what often happens with these things is as it unfolds it turns out that people will come to accept that it is the right thing to do,” he said.
“I think you are going to have naysayers either way you look at it.”
Following a CARICOM heads meeting earlier this month in St Vincent and the Grenadines, The Bahamas and other member states agreed to establish a ten-point plan that would seek a formal apology, some form of debt cancellation and reparations.