BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – THIRTEEN Caribbean nations are currently in St. Kitts to participate in a two-day UNESCO Sub-Regional Conference aimed at discussing reparations in the region.
The Conference, which opened yesterday (Jul. 7) at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, is titled ‘Beyond Reparations: Strengthening the Slave Route Project in the Caribbean Region’,
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and Caribbean historian Sir Hillary Beckles stated that for 300 years the movement of African people to provide cheap labour...brought them into the stream of world affairs.
"Wherever there was mass production, wherever there was production that required disposable cheap labour, free labour Africans were mobilised to provide that labour for the World."
He indicated that when the British Parliament met to discuss this crime against humanity in 2007 and 2008 on the bicentennial of the abolition of their slave trade, they determined that they could not proceed with reparation justice to Africans because "the crime was a global crime too large to repair".
"Other crimes against humanity they say you can comprehend their enormity. In the case of Europe and the Holocaust against the Jewish community, you can wrap your mind around the crime.
"They are now saying in the case of the crime against African people, the enormity of it defies quantitative measurement, the enormity of it defies human suffering and the measurement of the pain and impossibility to measure to torture on a scale, that this crime cannot be effectively comprehended in such a way that to be a subject of discussion by any court in a tribunal, to that effect therefore it is best to close it off and move on."
The head of the Caribbean Reparations Committee also said that descendants of these crimes are to be found in every part of the world and described it as the world's first global commercial enterprise.
"Those who have benefitted from these crimes are also the descendants of these crimes and the beneficiaries of these crimes are to be found everywhere. All of us who are descendants are faced to confront this, and as we confront it we realise that many of us are the victims of its propaganda."
Beckles then indicated what it would take for the region to receive reparation.
"Reparatory justice is never ever paid to weak disorganised powerless people. It is never offered to fragmented head in the sand denying people. It is never paid to people who inflict upon themselves amnesia. It is never paid to people who do not see strength in their history and who are ashamed of their history. It is never paid to those who see themselves as victims to the history as opposed to survivors of a history.
"We are all victims of the propaganda because we believe that reparatory justice should not and cannot take place, and the reason it has not taken place as yet is because we believe it cannot take place. All of in the black world have believed for 100 years, with a few exceptions, that it will not happen could not happen and should not happen."
He also pointed out that supporting reparation is often an unpopular decision.
"Most people in the world shy away from this movement. Most black people in the black world shy away from this movement because this is not a movement that is laden with respectability. The few of us who are here, we are not a part of this respectability."
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister with responsible for UNESCO Affairs, the Hon. Shawn Richards hailed the National UNESCO Committee for organising the conference.
He stated that everybody’s existence at the conference could be credited to their ancestors’ will to overcome the horrors of slavery.
"With this conference, we pay homage to the spread and resilience of our enslaved ancestors, who by surviving the smouldering embers of hope burning so that another generation might yet for the scorn of their time."
The conference concludes today and will see discussions from experts from across the Caribbean.