The recently concluded 34th CARICOM Heads of Government will go down on history as one of the most significant convocations ever staged in the Caribbean!
Led by the ever indefatigable Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, our CARICOM Heads of Government made history when they unanimously decided to endorse the campaign that has been launched on behalf of the people of African and the African Diaspora for the payment of compensation for the damage inflicted on the African continent and on the sons and daughters of Africa in the Diaspora, as a result of the centuries long crime of European orchestrated slavery, slave trade and associated acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
And our Prime Ministers endorsed this sacred campaign for reparations in the most emphatic manner possible by deciding to establish a CARICOM Reparations Commission, and by mandating each CARICOM member states to establish a national Reparations Commission or committee.
In addition, our Prime Ministers have requested the University of the West Indies to establish a Reparations Research Unit to assist and guide the work of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, and have resolved to put together a legal team to launch an international case for reparations.
News of these historic developments must be music to the ears of the many veterans of the reparations movement. What a magnificient vindication of decades of struggle and agitation in the margins of “official society”. And of course these developments constitute vindication not only for the veterans who are currently on the battlefield today, but even more poignantly, for those that have joined the ranks of the ancestors – Martin Cadogan, Leroy Harewood, Ricky Parris, Ikael Tafari, Rosie Douglas, Tim Hector, Kwame Ture, Kes Zacharis, Dudley Thompson, Bernie Grant, Moshood Abiola, and so many others.
Immediately prior to this historic CARICOM Heads of Government meeting, I, in my capacity as Chairman of the 17 nation-wide Caribbean Pan African Network (CPAN), wrote to all of the Prime Ministers and informed them as follows:
“The officers and members of CPAN totally and unreservedly support this (OECS) initiative to establish a CARICOM Reparations Commission and would like to respectfully urge that you embrace, accept, and actualise this historic proposal.
“Indeed, we consider this proposal to be the organic and logical culmination of a series of outstanding and historic developments that the political leadership of CARICOM can justifiably take pride in, inclusive of the progressive role that our CARICOM states played at the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism; the historic CARICOM sponsored resolution on Reparations that was voted upon and accepted by the United Nations in 2007; the joint CARICOM/AU Conference on Reparations that was held in Barbados in 2007; and the establishment of national committees or task forces on Reparations by the governments of Jamaica, Antigua and Barbados. Truly reparations is an issue who time has come”.
A tremendous amount of the credit for this historic achievement must also go to our very own Sir Hilary Beckles. It was he, after all, who the CARICOM Secretariat called upon to address the heads of government on the issue of reparations immediately prior to the making of the decision to establish the regional Commission.
Sir Hilary has also given much impetus to the international Reparations Movement with the recent publication of his masterful book in reparations entitled Britain’s Black Debt.
Many nations and peoples have received reparations for crimes committed against them – the Jews, South Koreans, Japanese-Americans, the indigenous people of Alaska and the Maoris of New Zealand among others. But when we examine this historical record it becomes clear that there is one monumental historical wrong that has not yet been addressed, and that is crying out for justice and reparations – the 400 year long syndrome of mass kidnapping, enslavement and racist oppression of the people of Africa and their “New World” progeny.
Surely, with this new development we are now well on our way to correcting this monumental deficiency!