Forget the “lost cause” of reparation and focus on the future, advised political scientist Peter Wickham who described the ongoing calls for reparations as “complicated and very, very delicate.”
On a recent trip to Jamaica British Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out paying reparations for his country’s role in the historic slave trade. He told the Jamaica parliament that while “these wounds run very deep” it was time to “move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future”.
It’s a position Wickham told Barbados TODAY he fully supports.
“Cameron has perhaps used language that is too harsh but [it] is something that I personally support. The general sense of what he is trying to communicate is that this is a battle that we are not going to win,” Wickham explained.
However, former parliamentarian Hamilton Lashley is adamant that the British Prime Minister’s call for the region to move on “is an insult to the intelligence of all right thinking, free thinking Caribbean people”.
While in Kingston for his one day trip Cameron announced £25m in British aid for a new Jamaica prison to house criminals sent home from the UK, as well as a £300m development package for the Caribbean.
“They [Jamaica] might need the prison but to me that was a total insult because clearly when asked about reparations he says its something in the past, he wants to gloss over the issue of the greatest act of genocide committed on planted earth [and] he wants us to forget that? He wants us to forget that his country was the main instigators, culprits and murderers of our forefathers here in the Caribbean, he wants us to forget.” a perturbed Lashley told Barbados TODAY.
Wickham made it clear that while Lashley might have strong reasons for pressing the reparations case, he would not expend levels of energy on it.
“It would be great if we have reparations but we also have to ask ourselves what was Lomé V to lV? Is that not reparations? It is an argument that will continue and continue but I really do feel that between the end of colonialism and now, and certainly between the end of slavery through colonialism, the Caribbean have in a sense received direct assistance in so many different ways that may not have been classified as reparations but in the final analysis it might have been,” Wickham said.
The Lomé Convention signed in Togo in 1975 is a trade and aid agreement between the European Economic Community (EEC) and 71 African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries. It places among other things great emphasis on the promotion of human rights; democracy and good governance; strengthening of the position of women; the protection of the environment; decentralized cooperation; diversification of ACP economies; the promotion of the private sector; and increasing regional cooperation.
Lashley has demanded that the UK Prime Minister apologizes and said the Caribbean would not let up.
“Cameron has to apologize to every single black Caribbean person even in the Diaspora . . . to say that we should move on, how can we move on from the death from the atrocities that was committed particularly by Britain against Caribbean people? And then for him to offer Jamaica a prison is a serious thing. It shows what little respect he has for us as Caribbean people.”
It’s a position Wickham said would not lead us “anywhere anytime soon”.
“I do feel that we need to start focusing on how do we develop our economies, that we have been in control now for 50 years. How do we develop these economies in a way that will allow us to move forward? If we take a battle against the APD [Air Passenger Duty] I think that is a battle worth fighting; I think that if we take battles against other types off impositions, that’s a battle worth fighting. But the idea of suggesting that we need to go back 300 years and get reparations is not something that’s going to happen.”
Wickham is also of the view that the CARICOM reparations committee headed
by Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Sir Hilary Beckles to represent the region on the matter was also a
“The CARICOM Reparations Committee has a job to do and I presume that they would do it but I certainly hope that they are not going to expend tremendous resources behind it . . . I think we need to focus on our future development trajectory over the next fifty years and not back 300,” Wickham stated
Meanwhile, British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Victoria Dean has said it was wrong to tie the promised aid to reparations.
In an interview on local radio this morning Dean said the two had nothing to do with each other. And she denied Cameron had made the offer to keep the region quiet on the issue of reparations.
“[What] I would say in response to anybody who would say it’s an attempt to make people be quiet about reparations is that it hasn’t worked. If that were our aim its quite a tall one. Having our Prime Minister come out here has if anything raised the debate. And although I think it’s a very important debate, my Prime Minister has been clear that the aid packages are not about reparations. He has also been clear that he does not believe reparations are the answer what he does believe is a modern looking forward partnership,” Dean stressed.