Caribbean’s Hilary Beckles To Europe: ‘Clean Up Colonial Mess’

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A report from TeleSur.

Sir Hilary Beckles, the vice-chancellor of the UWI and chairman of the Reparations Committee, argued that the visages of slavery are still current and active.

Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Reparations Commission has urged European governments and their institutions to come back to the region to help participate in cleaning up their “colonial mess” and legacy of slavery.

“As we confront the future, let us be guided by Sir Arthur Lewis who stated in 1939 that the 200 years of unpaid labor extracted by the British from the enslaved people of the Caribbean is a debt that must be repaid to their descendants. “This is important,” he asserted, “if we are to have a fair shot at sustainable development. Pushing ahead with a self-emancipatory agenda is critical, but we must do so fully conscious of this broader context of our development efforts.”

Beckles argued that the visages of slavery are still current and active, pointing out that last year, evidence of hostility against the Caribbean community by the British was revealed when data unearthed by historians showed that the finance bond, by which the British Government raised £20 million in 1834 to pay reparations to slave owners, remained active until 2015.

“This fact powerfully shows that, for the British State, the slavery world persisted well into the 21st century, putting to rest its argument that ‘slavery was a long time ago.’ These contemporary examples show how the effects of historic crimes still surround our societies. ‘Emancipation’ for us remains a work in progress and in no way can be considered a distant event that is settled and closed,” Beckles insisted.

His statement came on the eve of Emancipation Day, which takes place across the English-speaking Caribbean, and parts of Canada, the United States and Britain on Aug 1. The holiday was established, officially, when the British empire declared that it would no longer pursue its policy of enslaving and transporting Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean islands.

However, the public holiday was by no means gifted by the British Empire or even white abolitionists. It was the result, according to Ajamu Nangwaya, of “accumulate covert and overt acts of resistance by enslaved Africans. It also did not take into account the growing number of revolts and establishment of free territories of Black people throughout the Caribbean and mainland Americas, the most successful of which was the Haitian Revolution, resulting in the first Black Republic in the Americas on Jan. 1, 1804.

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