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Author Topic: ProfBekcles: Compensation for sins of slavery a moral duty  (Read 8598 times)
Iniko Ujaama
Posts: 541

« on: July 24, 2014, 07:29:13 AM »


University of the West Indies (UWI) Pro Vice-Chancellor and Caricom Reparations Committee Chairman, Professor Hillary Beckles said Great Britain has a moral obligation to compensate Caribbean nations for the sins of slavery.

Addressing the House of Commons in the British Parliament last Thursday, Professor Beckles said Caricom Governments, like the Government of Great Britain, represent nations that are independent and equal.
He said as such, they should proceed on the basis of their legitimate equality, without fear of retribution, in the best interest of humanity, and for a better future.
It was the British Parliament that prepared the basis for the evil system of slavery, enabled Emancipation from slavery and made independence from colonialism an empowering reality.
Great Britain has a moral obligation to compensate Caribbean nations for the sins of slavery, Caricom Reparations Committee Chairman, Professor Hillary Beckles says

Great Britain has a moral obligation to compensate Caribbean nations for the sins of slavery, Caricom Reparations Committee Chairman, Professor Hillary Beckles says

“It is in here, we now imagine, that laws for reparatory justice can be conceptualised and implemented. It is in here, we believe, that the terrible wrongs of the past can be corrected, and humanity finally and truthfully liberated from the shame and guilt that have followed these historical crimes.

“We must believe in the corrective power of this Parliament to respond positively to this present challenge, and in the process, free itself from the bondage of its own sins and crimes,” the eminent Professor said.
The crimes committed against the indigenous, African, and Asian peoples of the Caribbean are well documented – some 250 years of slave trading, chattel slavery, and the following 100 years of colonial oppression.

When slavery ended in 1838, it was replaced by a century of racial apartheid, including the denigration of Asian people.

Wealth extraction

Indigenous genocide, African chattel slavery and genocide, and Asian contract slavery, were three acts of a single play – a single process by which the British state forcefully extracted wealth from the Caribbean resulting in its persistent, endemic poverty, Dr Beckles, a foremost Caribbean academic and the youngest ever appointed Professor at the University of the West Indies said.

“I wish to comment, as a result, on the 1833 Act of Emancipation, and how this august Parliament betrayed the enslaved people of the Caribbean by forcing them to pay more than 50 per cent of the cost of their own Emancipation. This is an aspect of the history long hidden from public view.

“We know, for example, that this Parliament in 1833 determined that the 800,000 enslaved people in the Caribbean were worth, as chattel property, £47 million. This was their assessed market value.

“We know that this Parliament determined that all slave owners should receive just and fair compensation for the official taking away of their property.

“We know that this Parliament provided the sum of £20 million in grants to the slave owners as fair compensation for the loss of their human chattel.”

The British Parliament determined that the enslaved people would receive none of this compensation, contending that ‘property’ cannot receive property compensation. This Parliament, in its Emancipation Act, upheld the law that black people were not human, but property.

Dr Beckles, an expert in Afro-Caribbean history, especially the economic and social impacts of colonialism and the African slave trade, said what the British Parliament has hid from the world is that it also determined that the remaining £27 million would be paid by the enslaved people to their enslavers, by means of a four-year period of free labour called the Apprenticeship.

Following Emancipation, the people of the Caribbean have been very courageous in their effort at self-development and self-help in respect of this terrible history and enduring legacy, the largely British educated Dr Beckles said.

“Our citizens have faced this past head on, and have established a vibrant culture of community self-help and sustainable regional development mobilisation. We are not beggars! We are not subservient! We do not want charity and handouts! We want justice! Reparatory justice!

“When all is said and done, our Governments these past 50 years have been cleaning up the mess left behind by Britain’s colonial legacy. Our finest Presidents and Prime Ministers have been devising projects to clean up the awful mess inherited from slavery and colonisation. They must be commended for this effort, but the fact is, this legacy of rubble and ruin, persistent poverty, and racialised relations and reasoning, that continues to cripple our best efforts, has been daunting.

Reparatory justice

“Britain, and its Parliament, cannot morally and legally turn their back upon this past, and walk away from the mess they have left behind. We cannot, and should not, be asked to do this by ourselves. We have done our part. This Parliament must now return, and do its part, within the context of reparatory justice, and within the framework of development cooperation.”

Explaining how reparatory justice can work, he cited two examples, singling out Jamaica and Barbados. Jamaica, Britain’s largest slave colony, the Caricom Reparations Commission Chairperson said was left with 80 per black functional illiteracy at Independence in 1962.

“From this circumstance, the great and courageous Jamaican nation has struggled with development and poverty alleviation. The deep crisis remains. This Parliament owes the people of Jamaica an educational and human resource investment initiative,” he told the House of Commons.

In the case of Barbados, Britain’s first slave society, which he said is now called the “amputation capitol of the world”, the stress profile of slavery and racial apartheid; dietary disaster and psychological trauma; and the addiction to the consumption of sugar and salt, have reached the highest peak.

“The country is now host to the world’s most virulent diabetes and hypertension epidemic. This Parliament owes the people of Barbados an education and health initiative.”

It is the same for The Bahamas, the Leewards, the Windwards, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, and beyond, the Region’s foremost academic said.

Enslaved Africans

British slave ships brought 5.5 million enslaved Africans into their Caribbean colonies over 180 years. When slavery was abolished in 1838, they were just 800,000 persons remaining. That is, a retention/survival rate of 15 per cent.
The regime of enslavement was crafted by policies and attitudes that were clearly genocidal, Professor Beckles said.
“Madam Chair, we call upon you, and all members of this House, to rise to this challenge and to assist Great Britain to be truly worthy of the title ‘Great’. I urge you to do the right thing, in the right way. There is no other right time, other than right now, in our time. There is so much to gain from your leadership. The Caribbean is counting on you.
“The injustice and the cruelty of that Emancipation Act, remain today like a fish bone stuck in our throats,” he said.
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