BAHAMIANS could help determine the “current impact” of slavery on the nation as part of the effort to get slavery reparations from European countries.
That’s the proposal from the British lawyers who are advising CARICOM, the Caribbean Community organisation, which is suing Britain, France and the Netherlands for what could be millions of dollars in reparations for slavery.
CARICOM says it hopes to reach a settlement with the European countries and will only take legal action if talks collapse.
It set up a reparations commission to work out who should be paid and how much, led by Barbados historian Sir Hilary Beckles.
Martyn Day, the British lawyer who is advising CARICOM, told The Tribune: “Our proposal is that we work with a group of academics under Professor Beckles and people from each country to determine the current impact of slavery on each nation. We are awaiting the CARICOM response to that proposal.
“These are still early days and we are working out a protocol with the CARICOM group.”
Leigh Day, the UK-based firm set up by Mr Day 26 years ago, represented 5,250 Mau Mau in the claims against the British Government regarding the torture they suffered at the hands of the British colonial regime in the 1950s in Kenya. They negotiated a total deal of around £20 million ($32 million) for them.
Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, contacted the firm this spring to ask if they could assist in bringing a claim against the British and other governments in relation to slavery.
Mr Day said the request was “much in the light of the Mau Mau settlement.”
He said: “We advised PM Gonsalves as to the best legal route to take with the claims and then in July I made a presentation to the CARICOM leaders meeting in Trinidad of the legal route. This was a part of the resolution put forward by PM Gonsalves. The resolution was unanimously carried.
“Then last month I made a presentation to the meeting of the National Reparations Steering Committees re the legal case when it met in St Vincent.”
Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell told The Tribune last week that although no representative from this country was present when the decision was taken, the Bahamas was still bound by that decision. He said: “We haven’t defined a position taken at the last CARICOM meeting. We weren’t represented there. However, whatever was the decision that came out of the last meeting, that would represent our position.”
Mr Day said: “The first step will be to put letters together on behalf of each nation in CARICOM setting out to the British/French/Dutch governments the case. That is all about the issue of the impact of slavery on each nation today. It is too early to state quite what the figure being claimed will be.
“The claim will be on behalf of governments who would look to use any sums obtained for the benefit of their peoples. I can well imagine that if the claims are successful and a deal is agreed with the western governments that they would look to ensure the money paid out was used on the projects discussed.”