As the Caribbean faces greater economic hardship in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Mia Mottley believes now is ideal to put the issue of reparations from the transatlantic slave trade on the table.
Speaking on British commercial channel ITV’s breakfast show, Good Morning Britain, the Prime Minister denied the issue was merely about money, and explained an elaborate system by which Britain and other European colonisers should atone for the holocaust visited upon African peoples dating back to the 1500s. She also traced part of the legacy of slavery in “underdeveloped” black societies like Barbados’.
Mottley said: “This is not a simple discussion regarding money. We have been arguing this for over 20 years and the CARICOM Reparatory Commission has set out a ten-point plan of different things that need to be done, starting with an apology, psychological rehabilitation from the trauma, and remedying our public health crisis.
“Many don’t recognise that the diets of slaves were heavily salted and have led to inter-generational hypertension, diabetes and non-communicable diseases that we now see. In terms of debt, at independence, there was no development compact for going forward, so the countries tried to reverse the negative aspects of colonialism like education, health and housing on their own, which are all part of the Sustainable Development Goals the United Nations set up.”
In 2000, just prior to the United Nations World Conference on Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia, Germany announced that it would make reparations to the families affected by the Jewish holocaust in the Second World War, she noted.
Mottley said that given the awareness that has been raised about major global issues since the pandemic, now would be the best time to bring reparations to the table.
“There has to be a conversation, the English-speaking Caribbean is one of the most heavily indebted regions in the world, with debt to GDP ratios way above other countries,” said the Prime Minister, “and it has become more difficult for countries to raise money on their own because of the high debt they carry.”
In pointing out that former British prime minister Tony Blair apologised for Britain’s role in the slave trade in 2007, and other world leaders followed suit, Mottley told the programme: “The underdevelopment of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America is a child of the colonial experiment, where wealth was extracted but we have not been able to build a foundation to sustain our people.
“And while we have removed some of the legal barriers to slavery, there is still the problem of mental slavery, such as the negative connotations associated with ‘blacklisting’ and other issues these countries have faced.
“But now, we have people with a level of consciousness who are recognising that the climate crisis and the pandemic are (a) time for us to reset.”
As the breakfast show’s presenters commended Barbados for its management of the coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister replied: “We have been lucky in the Caribbean for the most part because we took action early and our populations have been supportive.
“I have not been following the situation in the UK closely, but this is one of the most challenging things any country has to manage, and naturally, the larger the country, the more difficult it would be.”
She was asked about the Barbados Welcome Stamp, the Government’s initiative to invited Britons and other foreign nationals to work in Barbados remotely for up to a year. The Prime Minister promised the Income Tax Act would be amended to change the terms of its treatment of people considered non-residents.
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