MONTGEGO BAY, Jamaica, July 24, 2021 - Despite the Outgoing British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad’s contention that Britain is not actively contemplating making reparation payments to Jamaica, the country is going right ahead with its £10-billion pounds claim against the English colonizer for reparation in relation to centuries of slavery and humiliation.
The United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner Asif Ahmad told The Gleaner’s Edmond Campbell in an interview, “It is simply not happening, and I don’t think you will find any gesture from the UK government that comes anywhere close to what this campaign is seeking.”
Campbell quoted Ahmad as cautioning that the approach being taken by those agitating for reparation would not prosper.
“I just think that this is an issue where there are certain political activists who want this to happen. Some people have made it their lifelong ambition, and I respect that,” Ahmad said.Outlining why the current approach to reparatory justice would not work, Ahmad questioned: “When it comes to this sort of direct request for reparation, government-to-government, the reason why it will not prosper is firstly, who do we pay it to?”
He said that people who were harmed directly were no longer here, citing the UK government’s model of compensation to living victims of the Windrush Generation and their children, which spans a period of less than 80 years.
Reparation lobbyist Dr. Verene Shepherd was quick to point out however, that this was not the position taken by the International Court of Justice which has indicated that descendants of Slaves could be legally compensated.
Member of Parliament Mike Henry has submitted a motion in parliament demanding the UK pays back US$10 billion in compensation, his estimate of how much enslavers received in compensation after Britain abolished slavery, freeing an estimated 800,000 enslaved Black people in 1834..
‘I have fought against this all my life, chattel slavery which has dehumanised human life, Mike Henry said.
He is being supported by Jamaica’s minister of sports, youth and culture Olivia Grange, who noted that with approval from Jamaica’s National Council on Reparations, the petition will be filed pending advice from the attorney general and other legal teams.
If given the green-light, it will be submitted to the Queen — who remains the head of state in Jamaica, she said.
Laying out the island’s demands, culture minister Olivia Grange said: “reparatory justice in all forms” to “repair the damages that our ancestors experienced.”
“Our African ancestors were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labour to the benefit of the British Empire,” Grange said.
When in 1834 the British Parliament freed Slaves in Jamaica they were forced into a transitional system called Apprenticeship, which lasted until 1838 when all Slaves were freed.
Following emancipation, the British government decided to compensate West Indian planters for losing their Slaves, and allocated £20 million for that purpose. Amazingly, that compensation was not completely paid off until six years ago in 2015.
Henry charged that paying off the owners and making no compensation to slaves who had been dehumanised was unfair. He argued that the slaves were abused by estate owners and that the amount demanded was justifiable.
Enslaved people transported to the Caribbean were forced to work in dire conditions on sugar and crop plantations, where deadly diseases were rife. As many as 20 million African men, women and children were enslaved during this period, according to estimates.
Many plantation owners resided in England, with established slave-based industries across the Caribbean, funnelling wealth to the British Empire.
There is a growing acknowledgement in Britain of the role slavery played in building Britain’s wealth. They include insurance market Lloyd’s of Londonand the University of Glasgow among others.