Nuevos países se suman a la iniciativa del Caricom de establecer un comité para impulsar el reclamo. Suriname se comprometió a conseguir apoyo de Unasur. Coinciden en que no se buscan dádivas sino reparar un daño histórico y un delito contra la humanidad.
Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not hide his passion for wanting reparation for slavery, which he describes as a “brutal, exploitative and dehumanising system”.
He insists that Caribbean countries do “have a very strong case to put to an appropriate tribunal” and has welcomed the decision of his fellow Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders to establish acommittee under the chairmanship of the Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to drive the issue.
Suriname has already said it would instruct the councils of the Union of South American States to collect “all relevant information for Suriname and CARICOM” on the reparation matter.
Gonsalves said the Caribbean is demanding reparation from Europe for native genocide and African slavery.
“Principal reason for under development in the Caribbean and Latin America is the legacy of native genocide and African slavery and we do so with the spirit and with the examples, in this new period, of the combatants of Moncada,” he said as he addressed an audience in Cuba marking the 60th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister insists that the Caribbean must remain “part of the leadership on the reparation debate” even though the Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE) is warning regional leaders of adopting a “top down approach” to the issue.
PARCOE fears that the Caribbean will “end up not achieving the reparations aspirations of the masses of Afrikan descendant and indigenous citizens”.
But Kafra Kambon, chairman of the Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) in Trinidad and Tobago, said one way to ensure support for the regional governments’ initiative, is for non-government organisations (NGO) and the Caribbean population in general to show support.
He has warned that the moves by the governments may well come under intense scrutiny from Europe to the point that pressure may be asserted to get them to abandon the idea.
“It is good to see the movement is building again,” said Kambon in reference to the new efforts at reparation, noting there are those who believe that Africans should not be engaged in any call for reparation.
“We have to get our people to understand who they are,” he said, adding that the “Tarzan image” of swinging of vines in forests in Africa is still something Africans have to deal with.
“We are equal to everybody,” he said, adding that NGO’s and the Caribbean population must “give the strength to that call for reparation as a principle” likening the slave trade to “massive crimes that go beyond the human imagination”.
“People have been damaged psychologically, we came out of slavery suffering extreme trauma,” he said, adding it is important that descendents of African people understand that at the time of the slave trade, Africa was far superior to Europe, with, for example, its own universities.
Suriname’s Foreign Minister Winston Lackin said people must read the work of the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano titled “Bloodletting of a Continent”.
In addition, Caribbean people can also read the book ““Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations owed the Caribbean for Slavery and Indigenous Genocide” by Barbadian academic, Professor Hilary Beckles, the pro-vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Speaking at a lecture titled, “Britain’s Black Debt: reparations owed the Caribbean for Slavery and Indigenous Genocide” in Guyana earlier this year, Sir Hilary examined the damage done and wealth created through the slave trade particularly by Britain.
He said that reparation is not about people getting handouts, but about repairing historical damage and how to find a way forward and that while all races experienced some form of slavery, African slavery was unique in its scope and brutality. Comparative studies note that it was the only system of slavery in which people were viewed legally as property and seen as non- humans.
African slavery was also unique in that it reproduced itself, meaning the children of slaves were born as slaves, they had no rights, and females in particular were seen as the prefect property since their offspring would add their value.
Sir Hilary said landmark cases such as the 1781 Zong Massacre in which 350 slaves were thrown to sharks after the ship’s captain went off course, helped to shape the discussion on the legality of slavery.
He said the issue of slavery has in recent years been viewed as a crime against humanity and these types of crimes have attracted calls for reparation for victims, in various forms.
He cited the case of Haiti noting Western countries had no qualms about requesting and obtaining compensation. Haiti had to pay, from 1825 to 1922, 150 million gold francs to France after its slave population fought and successfully gained its freedom.
In Suriname, the National Reparations Committee has already filed the first ever petition to The Netherlands for reparations to the descendants of slaves in Suriname.
“We request that the Dutch government appoint an institute with which we could enter into dialogue regarding the reparations of the damage we suffered,” committee chairman, Armand Zunder, told Charge d’Affairs Ernst Noorman at the Dutch embassy here.
Zunder, who has applauded the move by CARICOM, said that previously published research results that showed that the Netherlands earned some 125 billion Euros from Suriname during slavery.
In 2011, when they addressed the United Nations General Assembly as part of the International Year for People of African Descent, Gonsalves and his Antigua and Barbuda counterpart, Baldwin Spencer, demanded reparations for injustices suffered by African slaves, arguing that segregation and violence against people of African descent have impaired their capacity for advancement as nations, communities and individuals.
“Antigua and Barbuda has long argued that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and racial violence against peoples of African descent have severely impaired our advancement as nations, communities and individuals across the economical, social and political spectra,” Spencer said.
Gonsalves said racial discrimination was justified and became itself the justification for a “brutal, exploitative and dehumanising system of production that was perfected during the transatlantic slave trade and ingrained over the course of colonial domination”.
PARCOE co-vice chairs – Esther Stanford-Xosei and Kofi Mawuli Klu – in a lengthy letter to Caribbean leaders, wrote that the Caribbean should nonetheless seek to avoid “the same errors that were made with the former Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU) Group of Eminent Persons (GEP) in failing to effectively consult on reparations strategies, be informed by and act in the best interests of the various Afrikan countries respective citizenries”.
They referred the regional leaders to the works of the American activist and law professor, Mari Matsuda, who advocates that approaches to reparations incorporate a “looking to the bottom” approach in recognition of the fact that reparations are a legal concept generated from the bottom.
“By “bottom,” Matsuda refers to the lived experience of those individuals and groups who are alleging the violation of rights rather than those who have traditionally defined the scope of legal redress such as judges, lawyers associations and other groups who are part of upholding the existing social, legal and economic status quo,” they wrote.
PARCOE is also urging Caribbean countries not to be taken in by the recent “historic victory for the Mau Mau survivors of British colonial era torture and abuses in detention committed between 1952 and 1963 during Britain’s suppression of the Mau Mau war of liberation”.
PARCOE said the “the financial compensation aspect of the settlement represents a paltry sum and is not commensurate with the torture and suffering of Mau Mau patriots considering that the British Government paid out £20 million, the modern equivalent of around £16.5 billion, to compensate some 3,000 slaveholding families for the loss of their “property” when slavery was purportedly abolished in Britain’s colonies in 1833.”