Now is the time to move “from apology to action”

The CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) convened a virtual media engagement earlier this month, to update regional and international media on recent developments in the CARICOM region’s push for reparatory justice for the historical crimes of native genocide and African enslavement in the Caribbean region.

Image of Sir Hilary Beckles
Sir Hilary Beckles

Led by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor, The University of the West Indies (The UWI) who serves as Chairman, CARICOM Reparations Commission and moderated by and Professor Verene Shepherd, Director, Centre for Reparation Research at The UWI, the event also featured the Honourable Mia Amor Mottley QC, MP, Prime Minister, Barbados and the Honourable Olivia Grange CD, MP, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Jamaica.

This media engagement was held in the wake of recent public statements of “apology” and “regret” by some European states and a number of British commercial enterprises for their role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and in the 200-plus years’ practice of chattel slavery.

“While we reject so-called ‘statements of regret’ as inappropriate and insulting, we accept official ‘statements of apology’ as calls to dialogue in respect of reparatory action. The distinction is known by all, within the context of reparations, and so, once again, we call on the former slave-holding, colonizing states of Europe to work with us to address the urgent need for repairing the lasting damages of slavery on our societies. Europe owes our people a debt and now is the time for that debt to be paid,” said Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.

Over the past several weeks, the world has witnessed massive protests against systemic racism and racial violence which began with the Black Lives Matter Movement in the USA and has spread to dozens of countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Symbols and monuments of white supremacists have been torn down in several European capitals and protestors have demanded restitution for the crimes of slavery and the ongoing racial oppression of non-white minorities in European countries.

Since 2013, the CARICOM Reparations Commission has been actively pursuing reparations for Native Genocide and African Enslavement, from the former colonizing nations of Europe, namely the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Caribbean Community maintains that there is an unpaid and outstanding debt for over 200 years of free labour, that fuelled two industrial revolutions and a quantum leap in development in Europe, while simultaneously under-developing the nations of the Caribbean and relegating the majority of its Indigenous people and those of African descent to persistent, intergenerational poverty.

CARICOM is again issuing a strong call to Europe to acknowledge its sordid past, to engage with governments in the region and to implement appropriate forms of redress.

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