Caribbean youth need to contribute to reparation debate – Beckles
The chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission, Professor Hilary Beckles, is urging young people in the region to ensure that they make a meaningful contribution to the debate on reparation.
“This subject is going to go forward and we are going to have justice only when young people step up and play their role,” Professor Beckles said, as he addressed the first in a series of lectures to commemorate Founder’s Week at Kingston College (KC).
Speaking on the topic, “Reparation Justice for the enslavement of black people and the genocide of natives of the Caribbean,” the Barbadian-born academic said that international law provides that chattel slavery, as practised by Britain, was a crime against humanity.
He told the students Tuesday that no other race on this planet has endured the kind of slavery that was imposed on the African people, and informed that slavery was invested in by the royal family, the Government, the established church, most elite families, and large public institutions in the private and public sectors.
Professor Beckles, therefore, argued that based on the legal principles of unjust and criminal enrichment, Britain must pay up on the debt owed to subsequent generations of Caribbean people.
He said Caribbean students had a significant part to play in the reparation movement, urging them not to allow the conversation to end before they have received justice for the crimes committed against their ancestors.
“There are many people in the world who believe that all they have to do is sit quiet and allow the older leaders of this campaign to pass away.
“You are the descendants of those who have survived and that gives you, the younger generation, a special responsibility to honour this history,” Professor Beckles added.
The discussions on reparation have intensified in the Caribbean over the years, leading to the formation of a coalition of Caribbean countries. Under the movement, the group is seeking compensation from Britain and other European nations for the enduring legacy of the slave trade.
Professor Beckles, who is also Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, argued that international law provides that chattel slavery, as practised by Britain, was a crime against humanity.
He said that for the reparation movement in the Caribbean to be successful, those involved must be organised and that they must have pride and dignity in self.
“No matter how long it takes, we are not giving up. Weak people and weak nations do not get reparations. All the cases of reparation in the last 100 years have been won by people and governments who are determined, organised, committed, and by people who have pride and self-esteem,” he said.
During the lecture, Professor Beckles said that the reparation movement in the Caribbean made significant strides last month, with the adoption of a 10-point reparation plan by regional leaders during their Inter-Sessional summit in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.