The members of the Caribbean Pan-African Network (CPAN) –– a pan-Caribbean organization with chapters and members in some 17 Caribbean territories –– would like to inform Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron that we are not interested in his £300 million so-called aid package!
As far as we are aware, the Caribbean people have not asked Mr Cameron or his British government for aid or for any form of charity. Indeed, proud and right-thinking Caribbean people are not interested in receiving aid from the likes of Mr Cameron and his British government!
What we are interested in, and what we have asked for and demanded, are reparations!
All we want from Mr Cameron and his British government is what we are entitled to as a matter of international law and morality; and that is reparations –– in the form of capital payments and developmental projects –– to compensate for the tremendous damage inflicted on the sons and daughters of Africa (across multiple generations) as a result of the centuries-long crime of European-orchestrated slavery, slave trade and associated acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Our organization also wishes to inform Mr Cameron that he does not possess the “locus standi” nor the moral authority to tell us that we must “move on” from the deep wounds of slavery. Indeed, how does one “move on” from a deep wound that has not been repaired or healed?
Mr Cameron is the descendant of one who, in the early 19th century, participated in the enslavement and criminal exploitation of the black people of the Caribbean, and who, after appropriating the material benefits of the unpaid labour that he brutally squeezed out of our black ancestors, went on to pocket the present-day equivalent of £4.5 million in so-called compensation for the loss of what he considered to be his human property. How –– against the background of this history –– does Mr Cameron arrogate to himself the right to lecture us about how we must respond to or deal with our pain and injury?
Can it be that Prime Minister Cameron’s whole attitude towards us is one steeped in condescension and contempt?
Indeed, what else could it be than contempt when the governments and people of the Caribbean ask for the repair and healing of grievous wounds, and Mr Cameron responds by offering to build a prison in Jamaica to incarcerate black Jamaicans whom he no longer wishes to accommodate in Britain?
Someone –– some proud and clear-sighted citizen of the Caribbean –– needs to tell Mr Cameron where he can take
his prison and shove it!
We reiterate that the Caribbean people are not interested in either the physical prison which Mr Cameron is proposing to build in Jamaica, or in the other metaphorical and psychological prisons that he proposes to inflict on the dignity and spirit of our people with his rejection of reparations and his substitute so-called aid package.
You see, we –– the people of the Caribbean –– are gradually coming to an understanding that the first and most basic principle of the Reparations Movement is that the very demand for reparations constitutes –– in itself –– an indispensable validation by us of our own precious humanity!
We have come to perceive that if we fail to demand that the present-day representatives and beneficiaries of those persons, institutions and nations that committed the most horrible crimes imaginable against our ancestors be held accountable and made to pay restitution, we would be implicitly sending a message to ourselves and to the world at large that we do not consider our ancestors (or ourselves) to be sacred beings imbued with inalienable rights and deserving of respect and justice.
And so, the mere act of demanding reparations is important and is a critical component of the process we must engage in as individuals and as a collective, of repairing ourselves.
Mr Cameron and all those who think like him should therefore rest assured that our reparations demand will not go away. It will not go away –– it cannot go away –– because it is a demand founded in law and morality!
At the end of the day, it does not matter what Mr Cameron or any other prime minister of Britain thinks about Reparations. All that is important is that, as a matter of law and morality, reparations are due to the black or African-descended people and nations of the world and must ultimately be paid!
Mr Cameron’s British government has already embarrassed and humiliated itself on this issue of reparations. In the year 2001, the British government attended the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) and displayed their moral bankruptcy for the whole world to see, when they publicly declared that black or African people could not be entitled to reparations because back in the 19th and 18th centuries it was “legal” to kidnap, enslave and brutalize black or African people.
So, if Mr Cameron and other representatives of the British government wish to continue with this morally bankrupt charade of maintaining that 19th and 18th century black or African people were not really human beings, but were soulless chattels that could be lawfully kidnaped, raped, enslaved and worked to death, let them continue doing so. Indeed, let the foolish emperor continue displaying his nakedness!
We –– on the other hand –– must know what we need to do! By now it should have become clear to Sir Hilary Beckles, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and all the other political leaders of the Caribbean that –– contrary to their hitherto expressed expectations –– it may well turn out that the reparations issue will not be resolved in a non-confrontational, mutually respectful manner.
Our political leaders may well have to consider the very real possibility that people like David Cameron and the government that he represents may have to be confronted and publicly embarrassed.
What I do know for sure is that we in CPAN are already convinced that the Caribbean’s campaign for reparations will have to be designed –– on the one hand –– to bring on board with us all of our natural allies in Africa and the Diaspora, Latin America and Asia, and to enlist the tremendous weight of world public opinion on our side, and –– on the other hand –– isolate and publicly hold up to international embarrassment and ridicule all those who perversely and unreasonably seek to deny and resist the manifest justice and righteousness of our claim to reparations.
We therefore declare for all and sundry to hear: let the campaign now begin in earnest. As in the words of Barbados’ premier calypsonian Mighty Gabby, “rise up, you African children! Victory is certain! Victory is more than certain”!
(David Comissiong, attorney-at-law, is chairman of the Caribbean Pan-African Network.)