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Another view on reparation

BEA DOTTIN, beadottin@nationnews.com

Added 12 August 2013

Sir Hilary Beckles and others have presented compelling moral and legal arguments for reparations from Britain for Caribbean slavery. Recent reparation payments to other victim groups suggest that the payment of Caribbean reparation claims is achievable. We currently have national and regional task forces pursuing reparations, and our Minister of Culture has recently declared that we should continue to pursue them. Britain appears not to want to discuss the issue of reparations. What the various reparations groups want as a first step is an honest discussion which requires the presentation of diverse arguments, with the hope of converging to a common view. Engaging in discussion among those with similar views is not a discussion, but an agreement. To aid the discussion, allow me to present a view for consideration. I agree with Sir Hilary on the damage that was done, who was ultimately responsible, and who should pay. To my mind, the moral and legal arguments in favour of reparations are sufficiently compelling to be indisputable. The view that must be honestly addressed is whether being granted Independence was sufficient compensation. With Independence, we gained ownership of the island’s crown holdings including lands, infrastructure and institutions. We were prepared to manage this island with a well-educated and trained civil service. After Independence, our Government took possession of many church schools, the planters’ plantations, the private sector’s public transportation system etc. As descendents of slaves, we have elected leaders who have provided all citizens with taxpayer-funded education, health and welfare services, and regulated opportunities to purchase and sell goods and services. To further this discussion, perhaps we can quantify the value of what we have received, in order to determine whether it is more or less than what we are claiming. What we have received is this wonderful country, its institutions and infrastructure, and the legacy of a well-educated professional class out of which emerged many of our public officers and politicians. Barbados appears to have been the most prepared to succeed as a nation.


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