Entertaining the Call for Reparation

Administrator on November 18, 2014, 2:24 am 1604 3
Entertaining the Call for Reparation

Jamaica has in recent times shown an increased interest in seeking reparation for the harm done during the transatlantic slave trade. Caricom recently signed on to a 10-point strategy for negotiations with Europe to seek reparations from those nations that have profited immensely from slavery. Among the elements of this plan are the pursuit of a formal apology from these European nations, as well as debt forgiveness, increased development aid for education, public health and culture, as well as financial damages that are to be specified. The reparation being sought is in acknowledgement of the continued psychological trauma caused by the experience of plantation slavery.

The strong advocacy for reparation is being made against the background that after emancipation and the abolition of slavery nations that were owners of slaves were compensated for the loss of their property - the slaves. Those that were enslaved received nothing. Reparation in the form of debt forgiveness appears to be an attractive option given the size of Jamaica's debt burden which has passed the two trillion dollar mark. Debt forgiveness is also regarded as a vital development strategy that will facilitate a sustainable economy.

Of course reparation is not an attractive proposition for the former slave owning nations. The reparation cost to compensate former colonies is immense. A calculation of liability puts the figure that Britain owed to its former colonies is £7.5 trillion, of which Jamaica consisted of almost 31 percent of the cost of slavery. Consider also that there are other countries besides Britain which have been involved in the sugar production and from which reparation would be expected. Countries also targeted by Caricom include France, Portugal, Spain, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark which benefited from the slave trade between the 16th on to the 19th centuries.

The pursuit of reparation is expected to be won by diplomatic means as Caricom anticipates fruitful negotiations based on good faith. Litigation is however another strategy that could be considered should negotiations fail. But should we hold our breath? Britain has signaled on more than one occasions that countries seeking reparation for what occurred more than 400 years ago should just forget it and move on. Clearly to accept culpability in any way and agree to any compensation package could place Britain, and other European nations open to a flood of claims for the historical injustices of slavery and exploitation as well as other human rights abuses. The costs would be huge.

While advocates for reparation appear to be lone voices in the wilderness, cynical observers have argued the futility of hoping on the good will of former slave owning nations to compensate countries for their suffering. Yet Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean that experienced plantation slavery continue to suffer the after effects of this historical abuse. Under development, negative self image and other psychological effects continue to plague countries that have gone through the trauma of slavery. Justice therefore demands that this wrong should be made right, and reparation is one way that this can be facilitated.


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