CARICOM reparations sub-committee to meet soon

Sir Hilary Beckles (L) with the U.S. civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Photo by Nelson A. King

A prime ministerial sub-committee pushing Europe to pay reparations for the TransAtlantic slave trade is to meet in the coming weeks to discuss replies to payment demand letters from the Caribbean a top officials said.

Sir Hilary Beckles, the chairman of Caribbean Reparations Commission, told this publication that governments had last year sent formal complaint letters to Britain, France, Spain, The Netherlands and other former European slave trading nations setting out the case for payment of reparations to member countries in the 15-nation grouping. The letter has also asked for a summit between Europe and the Caribbean.

Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is head of the regional committee.

“We are aware that some of the European governments have actually replied to our letter of complaint. There are variations in the nature of those replies. We are going to get the details when the sub committee meets,” Beckles said on the sidelines of the just ended Caribbean leaders summit in Guyana. He was in Guyana to update leaders on progress to make Europe pay for slavery.

Britain has already indicated that it has no plans to pay the region but “plans to make a contribution to the development of the Caribbean. They lodged $300M Sterling with the Caribbean Development Bank and said this is the first tranche but so far they have said they won’t pay reparations or apologize,” Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies.

Back in 2013, regional government decided to establish the commission to prepare the case against Europe for forcing millions of Africans to work on sugar and other plantations without payment.

They also ordered that the University of the West Indies establish a research unit to gather evidence about the brutalities of the slave trade. Beckles said the unit has already been established.

He said that it appears that the Caribbean movement has spawned and encouraged groups in Africa, the Middle East, the United Kingdom, North and South American to form similar groups. All have established contact with the regional body he said. The region will be represented at several major international reparations conference in the coming months including one in Colombia, South America and another at in Boston.

The bloc has already hired the British law firm of Leigh Day to prepare the case. The firm had won millions in payments for Kenyan tribesmen who were killed by British soldiers during the colonial era.

CARICOM has given Europe two years to settle the case or it will be referred to the World Court in The Netherlands for a ruling.

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