14 Caribbean nations are jointly issuing a historic demand for reparations from the governments of Britain, France, and the Netherlands for the legacies of slavery and native genocide that continue to devastate the people of the region.
“We know that our constant search and struggle for development resources is linked directly to the historical inability of our nations to accumulate wealth from the efforts of our peoples during slavery and colonialism," declared Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, earlier this month.
"These nations that have been the major producers of wealth for the European slave-owning economies during the enslavement and colonial periods entered Independence with dependency straddling their economic, cultural, social and even political lives," he said.
The regional Caribbean organization Caricom will bring these demands to the courts with the same British human rights firm that recently won redress for hundreds of Kenyans tortured at the hands of the British government during the Mau Mau anti-colonial uprisings of the 1950s and 60s.
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After a unanimous vote at an early July Caricom summit in Trinidad, Caribbean nations will form a regional reparations commission, overseen by heads of state across the Caribbean, according to a group statement. Many Caribbean nations already have reparations commissions, but those that don't will form them, in addition to the regional body.
David Fitton—British high commissioner to Jamaica—was quick to reject the demand, declaring Wednesday, "We don't think the issue of reparations is the right way to address these issues."
Yet British government already paid reparations to British planters in the Caribbean upon slave 'emancipation' in 1834.
"Our ancestors got nothing," Verene Shepherd, chairwoman of the national reparations commission in Jamaica, told the Guardian. "They got their freedom and they were told 'Go develop yourselves'."