Chairman of CARICOM Reparations Commission addresses British House of Commons

Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, in a presentation to the British House of Commons on 16 July 2014, expressed the view that the reparations process will bring honour and dignity to the people of the Caribbean as well as the people of Great Britain and Europe. He also predicted that “this 21st Century will be the century of global reparatory justice.”

The Chairman of the Commission outlined the injustices of slavery and the genocide that occurred as a result of European expansion and stated that the government of Great Britain and other European governments that benefitted from slavery and colonialism “have a case to answer to in respect of reparatory justice.” Sir Hilary asked the government to respond with humility and openness when they receive a request for dialogue on the issue of reparations from Caribbean Governments. He further urged the Parliament to take decisive action to correct “the terrible wrongs of the past.”

In discussing the legacy of slavery and colonial rule, Sir Hilary said the CARICOM governments “these past 50 years have been cleaning up the mess left behind by Britain’s colonial legacy”.  He said Britain and its Parliament, could not morally and legally turn their back upon this past and walk away from the mess they have left behind. “This Parliament has to return to the scene of its crimes, and participate as a legitimate parliament, as a legal parliament, in the healing and rehabilitation of the Caribbean” Sir Hillary said.

“May the values and the spirit of development cooperation and mutual respect guide us all,” he concluded, to a standing ovation from the Parliament.

The issue of Reparations has been high on the agenda for the CARICOM Heads of Government. During a press conference following their Inter-sessional meeting in March this year, then Chairman, Hon. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, announced that that the Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme (CRJP) was accepted by the CARICOM Heads of government as a basis for discussions on reparations. The CRJP is part of a strategic and operational plan prepared by the Regional Reparations Commission consisting of ten points that need to be addressed.

At the recently concluded Thirty-Fifth Conference of Heads of Government, held  in Antigua and Barbuda 1-4 July 2014, the CARICOM Heads agreed to dispatch a Draft Notice of Complaint under cover of a letter from the Chair of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee (PMSC) on Reparations, the Rt. Hon. Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados, to the relevant European Governments, with a request that a Conference be held on the issue. 

The full text of Professor Sir Hilary Beckles’ address to the House of Commons, Parliament of Great Britain, can be read at the link below.