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OUR CARIBBEAN: Deafening silence on Cameron’s slavery stand

Rickey Singh, [email protected]

OUR CARIBBEAN: Deafening silence on Cameron’s slavery stand

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FOR A British Prime Minister well recognized at home and abroad for his political skills and expertise in parliamentary governance, Mr David Cameron has betrayed quite a surprising attitude – one bordering on contempt – with his dismissive response to the creative initiative by our Caribbean Community governments to seek reparation for slavery from Britain.

During that historic joint session of Jamaica’s parliament last month he said: “Slavery was and is abhorrent in all its forms. It has no place whatsoever in any civilised society and Britain is proud to have led the way in its abolition . . . I acknowledge these wounds run very deep indeed, but I do hope that as friends who have gone through much together since those dark times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future . . . . ”

And, with that concept of “friendship”, he was ready to announce a new British development aid package for Jamaica and other CARICOM states.

Surprise, surprise: Cameron failed to even acknowledge the existence of an official mechanism – the CARICOM Reparations Commission – by which our region’s governments and institutions hope to secure financial support from Britain for its own involvement in the criminality of slavery that helped to spread and sustain Britain’s wealth and happiness.

Of Beckles and Patterson

Cameron’s public relations handlers could hardly claim ignorance of the very informed and eloquent public appeal earlier made by Sir Hilary Beckles as chairman of CARICOM’s Reparation Commission.

In his “open letter’, published in leading regional newspapers, including the Daily Nation, Beckles had made an eloquent informative case for Britain’s partnership with the Caribbean on reparations for slavery.

And Mr Patterson, the former three-term Prime Minister of Jamaica, intervened. And he did so in quite a combative mood to firmly denounce the gross injustices, the dehumanising enslavement of the many thousands of Africans who perished in the Caribbean while Britain grew wealthy and powerful.

In sharp contrast to a still prevailing deafening silence among CARICOM Heads of Government on Prime Minister Cameron’s chosen double-speak on the “painful legacy” of slavery, Patterson was quite pointed in his public intervention: “Are we not worthy of an apology, or less deserving?

And he reasoned that Prime Minister Cameron’s refusal to offer an apology for Britain’s historical involvement in slavery was “not acceptable . . . ”

What remains a sad, disturbing reality, up to the time of writing, is that for all their own enlightened efforts to spawn the CARICOM Reparations Commission no Head of Government has yet come forward with any public response to Mr Cameron’s refusal to at least offer an apology for Britain’s long involvement in the notorious, criminal slave trade in the Caribbean.

Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.