Bert Wilkinson (Caribbean Life News and New York Amsterdam News) reports that recent research shows that Switzerland was involved in the transatlantic slave trade and profited from the system “by being a leading supplier of major business services that had enabled the trade to thrive and prosper.”
A recent video conference meeting involving representatives from 12 of the 15 national reparations commissions heard stunning evidence from a Swiss researcher who has in recent years been reviewing Switzerland’s role in the trade that brought hundreds of Africans to the Caribbean and the Americans in general to work on agricultural plantations without a cent in payment.
Dr. Hans Hassler argued that the region needs to know that while the northern European nation had actually not possessed any colonies in this part of the world, it nevertheless profited from the slave trade by being a leading supplier of major business services that had enabled the trade to thrive and prosper. Services included the production and sale of marine instruments, which helped with navigation of ships belonging to nations including Britain, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Denmark. For this it should be held accountable today, he argued.
Worse yet, the research has unearthed clear evidence that that nation was a supplier of mercenary soldiers with the most glaring deployment of about 8,000 soldiers in 1772-1779 to fight, kill and severely torture both plantation and runaway slaves in the Americas. Battles up to 1779 killed hundreds of tribal Aluka resistance fighters.
Until recently, the Swiss were not publicly known for any major role in the slave. All that is through the window now. Dr. Hilary Beckles, the head of the umbrella Caribbean Reparations Commission (CRC) and principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI) was in Guyana for talks this week with the local national chapter and to participate in a lecture session on reparations and where the region is as it tries to get the attention of former slave trading nations.
“Dr. Hassler gave a very, very detailed presentation to us. We will approach them discreetly and see if we can start a conversation that would lead to a solution, find some kind of compromise. He thinks this is the way to go,” said Eric Phillips, the head of the Guyana reparations chapter and a leading light in the regional fight.
Demand notices from governments for payments and for a summit meeting with European leaders have long been sent to various capitals over a year now. Some countries have responded favorably, meaning they are willing to sit down and others have refused outright, while some are yet to respond. [. . .]