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Caribbean academic presents compelling case why Britain should pay reparations. Do you agree with him?

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Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro Vice  Chancellor and Principal

of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West  Indies (UWI).

Kenton Chance

A leading  Caribbean intellectual has presented a compelling argument of why Britain should  pay to former colonies in the region reparations for slavery and native  genocide.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders at their summit in Trinidad and Tobago  in July agreed to the formation of the Commission that will be chaired by  Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and include St Vincent and the  Grenadines, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

The regional countries have also engaged the services of a prominent British  human rights law firm to assist in the matter.

“We are focusing on Britain because Britain was the largest owners of slaves  at Emancipation in the 1830s. The British made the most money out of slavery and  the slave trade -- they got the lion share. And, importantly, they knew how to  convert slave profits into industrial profits,” said Professor Sir Hilary  Beckles, Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the  University of the West Indies (UWI).

Speaking at a lecture Tuesday night on the title of his latest book,  “Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide”,  the academic detailed how the British government and British citizens used  slavery to enrich themselves.

He further noted that while at Emancipation, reparations were paid to former  slave owners, the slaves got nothing.

Professor Beckles argued that the reparation monies stimulated the British  economy for half a century after Emancipation, but “here in the Caribbean, the  islands were descended into poverty after Emancipation.

“And in Britain, 50 years of growth because the compensation money was  reinvested in the British economy and stimulated the economic development of the  company,” he said, adding “the British government built this system (slavery),  they created fiscal policies to manage it, they created financial systems, they  legislated slavery, they administrated slavery, the government owned the slaves,  and, importantly, the British government is the custodian of the wealth of the  nation.

“We believe that we now have to repair the damage and this is the final  point. This is why now repartitions is important,” Professor Beckles said,  noting that Caribbean governments were now spending up to 80 per cent of their  expenditure on education and health.

“After 300 hundred years of taking their labour, exploiting their labour and  enriching themselves to build themselves into the most powerful nation on earth,  they have left Caribbean peoples illiterate and unhealthy, which means that the  governments today have to clean up illiteracy and clean up the ill-health do not  have the resources to do it.”

Professor Beckles said that the British were good at keeping records and  hence the wealth derived from slavery is traceable. He rebutted some of the  arguments likely to be advanced by Britain as it resists paying reparations to  the region.

He said that the British have launched a campaign to discredit the  reparations movement, but stated that British citizens are increasingly seeing  the need for -- and are calling on their government to make -- amends.

Professor Beckles spoke of a case in which a slave trader, faced with  decreasing ration aboard a slave ship and no tail winds, decided to throw his  slave “cargo” overboard and return to Britain to claim insurance.

The British judiciary ruled that it was a simple case of property insurance  rather than murder --since slaves were not considered human beings.

“Therein lies the British court … the judiciary of great Britain, ruling in  its own legal structure that black people are not human beings.

“Therein lies the charge of reparations, because to deny a people their human  identity is a crime against humanity and that is the case that the British  judiciary, on behalf of the British state, established the principle that once  and for all, that African peoples are not human.”

Professor Beckles spoke of how the exploitation of the region under slavery  resulted in the underdevelopment of the region’s human resource, infrastructure,  and economy.

He noted that after 300 years of colonisation, when in 1962 the British left  Jamaica at Independence, 80 per cent of the Caribbean nation’s people were  functionally illiterate

Professor Beckles also spoke of the impact on the family, and mentioned the  high rates of diabetes and hypertension in the region and the ways in which  black people in the Caribbean and Africa respond to medicine for these  conditions.

“These are the kinds of things we speak about when we speak about  reparations,” Professor Beckles said in reference to the vestiges of slavery and  colonisation.

“The British government has to come to the Caribbean and sit with us and help  us deal with all of these. We have a legal and moral right,” Professor Beckles  said, lauding the efforts of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who has  convinced his CARICOM colleagues to support the reparations movement.

“We need to take them forward. All of us need to take them forward,”  Professor Beckles said of the issues relating to reparations.

“And if we do not, this region is going to regress and regress very rapidly.  And it is not about confrontation, it is not about conflict, it is about a 21st  century state of sophisticated diplomacy. 21st century diplomacy is required, a  21st century international relations is required. The time has come now in this  second phase of nation building for us to go forward. I feel this is where we  are at,” he said.

He noted, however, that reparation is not about handing over money to either  individuals or governments.

“Under international law, reparations are paid into a fund, which is  administered under international law. … In every society, a reparations  committee is established, a fund is established, and under law, those funds are  placed under trustees and trustees are held responsible for the use of those  funds for community development,” Professor Beckles said

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Comment by djmagic on August 22, 2013 at 10:12pm

i'm not mad at them at all. it would be nice if the us got off it's butt and did the same a thing. it's just to political in the us.

Comment by harolda on August 22, 2013 at 2:08pm
Reparation should be paid to us for working and building nation all over the world without recognition or gratitude.
Comment by BianchiD on August 22, 2013 at 12:58pm

@Lionsworth Sankarshing... you seem to have some education under your belt, but you certainly have some more learning to do. The fact of the matter is, that YOU are now eslaved by a European/Western system that was funded heavily by the Atlantic Slave Trade. This is not History, the is Present Fact. All of these powerful nations that run the world, have derived their financial gains off of past atrocities. Globalization is based off of this system. This is blood money, and the money class now rules! Reparations simply cannot fix the situation, because the system is already built to profit the power structure. The river is already flowing in that direction, but get this..people aren't simply born with power, power is STOLEN. We were all made equal! And this is not freedom. Watch documentaries, read books, and OPEN YOUR EYES. In fact, you all want revolution? Then the system must simply be destroyed so we can all start from scratch - a.k.a. - divine intervention. That is the bottom line...So don't you think for a second that this "capitalist" system, gives a damn about you...unless of course, you've already bought into it. It seems like you already have.. Keep climbing for your financial success there buddy, let's see if your soul is still intact "when you make it." 

Comment by loinsworth sankarsingh on August 22, 2013 at 12:26pm
i'm not doing this again, after this. the world continues to turn. mighty civilizations rise and fall. entire races of all colors were conquered and enslaved by cultures that were militarily stronger. THAT IS THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. white people were enslaved by other white people, the ascendant worshippers of allah. genghis khan, attila the hun, alexander the great, the roman imperialistic "civilization" who used men and woman as toys, for their entertainment and others too numerous to mention.
u don't seem to have a problem with any of yr ancestors being forced to fight lions. u don't seem to have a problem with the muslims in africa and the middle east, who were the ones who captured and enslaved the aficans who were sold to the white man who needed cheap labour and decided to get a piece of the action indulged in by the noble , black. african kings and princes.
that's why i call the estimable professor an idiot. he must be planning to run for public office if he isn't the jackass he sounds like.
India has one of the strongest economies in the world today, thanks to capitalism. u know? the financial system where u r free to achieve and accomplish anything...if u r equipped to do so. so they have lots of haves and lots of have-nots with even greater hardship imposed on various segments of society by the caste system which is not something that was instituted by britain. that's indian culture and religious beliefs.
now, what did u lose by being brought to the west as slaves? nothing. u were never a slave.
yr ancestor who was, cd have remained in africa and been a slave of other black folks. or he might have been "fortunate" and left alone to be the "king" of the two-hut village where he and his wife lived with his son, daughter-in-law and their children fighting lions and snakes with spears, wearing a loincloth. so, yeah. join the line for yr mud hut, loincloth and spear. or exercise yr right as a free man, go back to africa and reclaim yr princely heritage. the west indians of indian origin cd follow suit and go back to india and reclaim their warrior class (Singh), high priest.class(maharaj, etc) and all the other castes to which they claimed to belong, when they signed on as indentured servants. put yr hands up if u really believe that people who have respect and money wd leave their homes and travel to a distant country into the type of servitude that amounted to virtual slavery.
i'm still waiting for white people to start asking for reparations for slavery from the lebanese traders and every civilization that marauded its way through the gory annals of history.
man, all hell is going to break loose. and maybe the idiot professor will finally cease to assail my ears with his myopic, biased and inconsistent viewpoint of history.
Comment by rebelflower on August 22, 2013 at 11:12am
@shaneecee lol well said yea under Elizabeth frock lmao but ur absolutely right
Comment by Shaneece on August 22, 2013 at 10:18am

J.P Morgan Chase needs to pay up.  All these banks benefited as well.  It was their starting capital.  But I'm a realist, and the realist in me is yawning at this article and at the possibility of reparations.

@KRISS UNIT:  you speak like the true ignorant black persons you claim you are ashamed of.  If you take a group of people, to an unknown place, far away from their homeland, enslave them, deny them basic human rights, teach them a religion that tells them to love their enslavers and not fight back, change their names, their language, sell their family members so that they will have no connection....how succesful will they be at running a country within 50 years when they were enslaved and ruled for over 400 years.  You can't reverse 400 years in 50 years.  have some damn faith and instead of talking negative, understand the root of the behaviour.  Since it was better when Britain ruled, go hide under Elizabeth frock tail and give her pleasure, and be her personal slave for the raminder of your life.  You speak like a true house n****.

Comment by rebelflower on August 22, 2013 at 9:31am
Lol@loinsworth if your a Singh than ur in the equation too.. How many yrs did Brits own India and left it in a mess where most are using the toilet in the streets.. Can u say Cast System or Willie Lynch..all the Crown Jewels where did the Brits get them from and now have put their stamp on and call it their own.. Yea loins Singh I'll give u a ££€€ lol
Comment by loinsworth sankarsingh on August 22, 2013 at 7:51am
@rebelflower. "We" shd go after the wealthy families? i'm starting to hope that somebody takes the overeducated fool seriously and pays this "reparation" to...somebody. when you collect i know u won't mind lending me a ten from all that money. i promise i'll pay u back. damn. ur going to be rich.
Comment by KRISS UNIT on August 22, 2013 at 7:50am

THE CARIBBEAN WAS MUCH BETTER WHEN BRITAIN WAS IN CHARGE. BLACK PEOPLE SHOULD NEVER BE IN CHARGE OF A COUNTRY, THEY F*** IT UP AND DO NOT ADVANCE. THEY GO INTO OFF JUST THINKING ABOUT THEIR POCKETS AND NOT THE INTEREST OF THE PEOPLE... AS I BLACK PERSON I AM ASHAMED AND DISGUSTED...

Comment by rebelflower on August 22, 2013 at 4:39am
If the Brit gov't doesn't pay up we should go after the wealthy families that were allotted the monies from slavery and who are still benefiting from it..

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