Jamaica’s Members of Parliament (MPs) are being urged by Mike Henry, MP for Central Clarendon, to turn their backs on British Prime Minister David Cameron unless the issue of reparation for slavery is placed on the agenda for his visit to the island next week. He noted that the Jamaican Parliament has approved a motion for the country to seek reparation from Great Britain and the issue cannot be ignored.
“If it is not on the agenda, I will not attend any functions involving the visiting prime minister, and I will cry shame on those who do, considering that there was not a dissenting voice in the debate in Parliament,” Henry told The Gleaner.
While there has been no official word about Cameron’s visit, government sources confirmed that the British prime minister, as well as Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, will make official visits to the island next week.
Cameron’s ancestors were among the wealthy families who received generous reparation payments that would be worth millions of pounds today. The British government paid out £20 million to compensate some 3,000 families who owned slaves for the loss of their property when slave-ownership was abolished in Britain’s colonies with the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. A total of £10 million went to slave-owning families in the Caribbean and Africa, while the other half went to absentee owners living in Britain. The compensation records show that General Sir James Duff, an army officer and MP for Banffshire in Scotland during the late 1700s, was Cameron’s cousin and he was the son of one of Cameron’s great-grand-uncles, the second Earl of Fife. He was awarded £4,101, equal to more than £3 million today, to compensate him for the 202 slaves he forfeited on the Grange Sugar Estate in Jamaica.
ISSUE SHOULD BE RAISED
Dr Jermaine McCalpin, associate director of the Centre for Caribbean Thought and lecturer of Transitional Justice in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, said he believes the issue of reparation should be raised with Cameron, but is not hopeful it will have any real results. “I think our parliamentarians and those who happen to have audience with the British prime minister, out of necessity, need to raise the issue,” McCalpin said. [. . .]