Georgetown, Guyana – (May 20, 2016) President David Granger, this evening, voiced his support for Guyana and CARICOM Reparations Committees’ calls for reparations from Europe for the trans-Atlantic African slave trade, explaining that a holistic plan is needed so the Caribbean’s children “would have a better deal than we ourselves have had”.
The President was at the time speaking at the CARICOM International Youth Reparations Relay and Rally, which was held at Parade Ground under the theme ‘Fanning the flames of Reparations’. He noted that the enslavement of captive Africans “was the largest forced transportation of human beings from one part of the globe to another in the world’s history and, certainly, it is one of the greatest unnatural disasters of all time”. It was a crime against humanity for which there has been neither punishment nor justice, he said.
“There was a crime. There has been no justice. The enslavement of Africans, the decimation of the indigenous population and the oppression of indentured immigrants all constituted crimes and, therefore, a call for ‘reparative justice’,” he reiterated.
The President explained that ‘reparative justice’ concerns the legal obligations of States.
“It is not something notional, it is an obligation… States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them… Reparations publicly affirm that victims are rights-holders entitled to redress. The descendants of the colonised peoples of the Caribbean, therefore, are correct in their call for ‘reparative justice’. The victims of these crimes against humanity have been deprived of an apology. They have been deprived of ‘reparative justice’ for the abominable crimes that resulted in the loss of millions of lives, the expropriation of the wealth and the legacy of underdevelopment, which affects us all in the Caribbean and Guyana,” the Head of State said.
Guyana has not been exempt from these injustices. Guyana was a victim of almost 350 years of European colonisation.
“Guyana’s experiences mirrored, more or less, the experiences of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states. The exploitation of the people’s labour, the expropriation of wealth, the enrichment of metropolitan centres and the distortions of colonial rule have heightened calls throughout the Caribbean for ‘reparative justice’. The people of the Caribbean look to their leaders to bring about redress for the crimes inflicted on their ancestors and the damage done to their societies,” President Granger said.
In 2014, the Caribbean Community adopted a Draft Regional Strategic and Operational Plan for a Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme.
The Draft Plan, known as the Action Plan, was prepared by the Regional Reparations Committee, which comprises the chairpersons of the national reparations committees, and had demanded a full formal apology from the governments of European states; a plan for the development of indigenous communities; a plan for the establishment of cultural institutions; a plan for arresting the health pandemic in the Caribbean caused by chronic diseases; a plan for the eradication of illiteracy; a technology transfer plan to narrow the technological gap between Europe and the Caribbean; a resettlement and reintegration programme for those wishing to return to their homelands; the development of an African knowledge programme to bridge the cultural and social alienation that was created when Africans were forcibly removed from their homeland; a programme of psychological rehabilitation to heal and repair the psychological trauma of slavery; and a debt cancellation plan to overcome poverty and institutional weaknesses.
“The Caribbean is not begging for hand-outs or aid. The Caribbean is not soliciting sympathy. The Caribbean is not seeking favours. The Caribbean is demanding ‘reparative justice’ for the greatest crime against humanity in the history of the world – the trans-Atlantic trade in captive Africans. The Caribbean’s case for ‘reparative justice’ is righteous. The struggle for ‘reparative justice’ will be long but every just cause is worth fighting for,” President Granger said to loud applause.
Crime against humanity
The President said that the case for ‘reparative justice’ can be established in respect to three principal claims: first, that the acts of enslavement and genocide, clearly, are crimes against humanity; they require an acknowledgment of wrongdoing and recompense through reparations; that Europe’s enrichment through the expropriation and transfer of the wealth of the Caribbean was an unjust enrichment; the Caribbean should enjoy reparations for the exploitation and deprivations inflicted; and that enslavement and genocide have bequeathed a legacy of underdevelopment, which can only be overturned through corrective justice.
“The Caribbean today is fragmented. Its economic structures still bear the stamp of the ‘plantation economy’ with a high concentration on primary production for export to western markets, including Europe,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Penda Guyan, an executive of the Committee, said that the Reparations rally comes at a time when Guyana is reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future and in the process, seeking social cohesion, national unity and economic inclusion.
Sir Hilary Beckles, who is the Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Committee, in a letter, which was read by Mr. Jonathan Adams, said that the fight for reparations goes hand in hand with the fight for independence of any state. He noted that the fight for reparations by CARICOM and Guyana could not come at a more opportune time as the country is mere days away from observing its Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary.
“Our ancestors are calling for us to make this struggle for reparatory justice. When we demand reparations now, we are discharging our moral responsibility to demand restitution and recompense for the unspeakable injustices inflicted on our ancestors by the brutal and inhuman system of chattel slavery,” he said in his message.
The Relay, which has been completed in Pomeroon-Supenaam (Region Two), Mahaica-Berbice (Region Five) and East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) is expected to continue during the month of May and will target all of the regions across the country.
Chairperson of the Guyana Reparations Committee, Dr. Eric Phillips said that reparations is the process of repairing the consequences of crimes committed, and the attempt to reasonably remove debilitating effects of such crimes upon victims and their descendants. International law provides that the economic and social system referred to as chattel slavery – the legal denial of persons’ rights to human identity and the control over their bodies – was and is a crime against humanity subject to reparatory justice.
CARICOM has written to the European countries asking for reparations.