A report from The Philadelphia Tribune.
Caribbean governments have not given up in their unrelenting efforts to pressure Europe into paying reparations for the brutal trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Back in 2017, CARICOM sent demand-payment letters to France, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, and recently added Norway and Sweden to the list. All of these countries colonized Caribbean islands by enslaving people of color. The CARICOM reparations committee, which was set up by Caribbean nations to push for compensation, also wants an apology from leaders of these countries, but Britain seems to be the most responsive.
So far the British government has responded by increasing investments in the region but not directly addressing reparations. The British government has poured a whopping 300 million pounds (about $387 million) into the United Kingdom-Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership.
The areas being targeted include building new roads, bridges and ports with hopes of stimulating trade. About $60 million would go to making hospitals and other health facilities more resistant to hurricanes and tropical storms, and another $60 million to new programs to boost economic growth.
Furthermore, the British government is increasing funding to support the fight against serious crime in Jamaica. There might be some ulterior motives in earmarking funds for this area since Britain reportedly has 600 or more Jamaican nationals in jail and would love to deport them back to their own country.
Directing some of the funds to building a new jail to house up to 1,500 prisoners on the island would ease the tension in ongoing discussions of transferring the prisoners back by 2020. It has been reported that this would save British taxpayers over $10 million pounds per year.
We spoke to a cousin who lives in Kingston and she said many people in her area were upset that the funding is targeted to bringing criminals back into the country instead of creating more jobs.
“You know, I never understood why these larger countries want to send these criminals back to their home country, after all they committed the crime there so the people that the crime was committed against will have the satisfaction of seeing them pay for that crime,” she said. “Doesn’t it make more sense that a country like the U.K. that is economically and financially equipped to house these people would just keep them there? Our government could use the money to benefit the poor people that are suffering right here.”
The British government says it wants to help the Caribbean on the path of development by lifting people out of poverty and creating new opportunities for them. The British say the country has taken this relationship for granted for far too long and they want to put that right.
“Our relationship should be based on the countries we are today and the opportunities we can generate together, rather than over-relying on the historical ties of the past,” one parliamentarian told reporters. “Britain wants to be your partner for the future, your partner of choice.”
The Trinidadian government says that “sounds” good but they still need to address the issue at hand. “We in Trinidad and Tobago must view the call for reparations in the context of the duty we owe to our forefathers who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose contributions to our present well-being must be recognized in a world which now accepts that compensation and reparation are prerequisites in the interest of justice,” President Anthony Carmona said in a brief address during a press conference. “As such, the case for reparations is not too late, but it is timely.”
Just like the African-American plight in trying to obtain reparations from the United States has gone unanswered for many years, more than likely so will the call from the Caribbean governments to the European nations.
Caribbean governments might as well take what they can get, while they can get it and just let bygones be bygones.