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Government is weighing up slavery reparations bid

BY AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Staff Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

THE government has formed a focus group to guide deliberations over whether or not to pursue reparations from slavery as part of a Caribbean contingent.

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday defended CARICOM’s decision to establish a Reparations Commission, however, he maintained that no decision has been made to participate in a legal suit against Britain, Holland and France for slavery compensation payments.

Mr Mitchell confirmed that the informal body will provide ideas and consultations until a formal position is presented to Cabinet.

Former attorney general Alfred Sears, and former MP Philip Smith will sit on the ad hoc committee, with foreign service officer Charmaine Williams.

Mr Mitchell said: “The facts will show that the economies of the old world were built on the backs of African slavery. Contrary to the view being put by the local critics, Africans were not responsible for slavery. The fact is that while there is individual responsibility for what happens today, it is clear that there are some ill effects from this issue on all our societies which need to be studied and on which we need to be advised.”

“Hard cases make good law,” said Mr Mitchell. “The matter if it arises as litigation will be before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. If such cases were successful and The Bahamas failed to be at the table would we not have been badly advised not to be at the table?”

The government agreed to establish a National Reparations Committee, with the head of the committee to sit on CARICOM’s Reparations Commission, at the 34th Heads of Government meeting in July. 

During a CARICOM (Caribbean Community) conference on “Regional Reparations” in St Vincent and the Grenadines in September, a decision was made to pursue legal action against the former colonial powers.

CARICOM has hired the British law firm Leigh Day, which recently won compensation for hundreds of Kenyans tortured by the British colonial government during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s.

“The case.” said Mr Mitchell, “is based in the articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the Bahamas supports. 

“State parties I am advised are able to take action pursuant to the terms of the convention where states are not adhering to its provisions.”

While he admitted that the government joined the CARICOM consensus that pinpointed the need to explore the issue, Mr Mitchell said the decision rested with Cabinet and the Bahamian people.

Lashing out at criticisms levelled on the issue, Mr Mitchell noted that there was a fundamental disrespect of people of African descent, adding that incipient racism and self-hatred was also perpetuated by some people of African descent.

“Notwithstanding, for example,” he said, “the fact of recompense made to Jewish people because of the injury done to them in the millions during the Second World War.

“The record will show that tens of millions of Africans were brought to this hemisphere against their will, half of them as many as ten million some say, died in the middle passage.”

Mr Mitchell added: “This becomes a teachable moment for the public.”

Speakers at the conference in St Vincent and the Grenadines emphasised that genocide, slavery and colonialism had negatively impacted the Caribbean’s path of development.

A communiqué released at the end of the conference said the goal of CARICOM’s Reparations Commission was to “establish the moral, ethical and legal case for the payment of reparations by the governments of all former colonial powers and the relevant institutions in those countries, to the nations and people of the Caribbean community for the crimes against humanity and native genocide, the Transatlantic slave trade and a racialised system of chattel slavery.”

Comments

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

I totally agree with the comments in this article, made by the Honorable Fred Mitchell. Actually, his comments corroborate my own comments made in a previous article on the same issue. It's good to know that my government is taking an informed approach on their position, and using the people's thoughts on the issue as a guide. That speaks to a real democratic desire by this government to involve the people in every decision. As a Bahamian, I am proud of the way this government is going about this. Further, as a Bahamian, even if my government decides to go against my thoughts on this matter, I would never be so stupid as to label them "dumb black racists."

Properly defined, a "racist" is someone who believes that one race is superior to another. Consequently, it is beyond me that anyone can label Mr. Mitchell, or anyone else that is pro-reparation, a "dumb black racist," without providing evidence that the accused person is in fact "racist." Even so, if Mr. Mitchell were in fact a racist, what would his color have to do with it? A racist is a racist no matter what color he/she may be. Therefore, it seems highly likely to me, that anyone who feels it necessary to highlight a person's color prior to accusing them of being racist, is themself an utterly ignorant racist.

Now further on reparations, it is clear that reparations are good for all Bahamians, no matter what color or ethnic background you come from. At the end of the day, there is a good lesson to be learned by everyone standing to be affected by this potential legal settlement. The way I see it, this issue is not about the money, and it's not about a refusal to let go of the past. Rather, this issue is about the "principle" of a matter that can be "proven" in Court and it represents an attempt by would-be plaintiffs, and also would-be defendants, to further acknowledge and further settle an injustice beyond a mere verbal, "we're sorry." I reiterate, reparations are good for ALL Bahamians, even those of Chinese decent. It's good for us all!

Colebrooke 10 years, 8 months ago

Well if you look at things in the right perspective, we as Bahamains can travel to Britain without visa and we can live and school there and we are respected. Why break the boundries that Sir Lynden PIndling has made it able for us to travel through Europe without visa not much Bahamains really know these things. Yes our Ancestors were slaves and were persecuted but in the end of it all we have grown to be a powerful and intelligent Nation. Educate our Bahamains to take advantage of the opportunity they have to live abroad and expand there brains to new horizons the world is ours to live and be at peace.

Right242 10 years, 8 months ago

The British built the foundation in The Bahamas. The country was given to the African descendents 40 years ago. What have they done with it? Nothing. You're welcome for being given a beautiful land. Now, ungrateful and wanting another hand out. Where would you be if you were still in Africa??? How does someone as inept as Mitchell get in power???

HarryBlack 10 years, 7 months ago

If we were still in Africa, Africa would be the most powerful place on Earth. Africa has more oil, gold, diamonds and other resources than you can imagine. I suspect we would have capitalized on those resources, and made Africa a force to be reckoned with.

And BTW, Mr. Mitchell was elected freely and fairly, that's how he got in power.

Tarzan 10 years, 8 months ago

Let's see. We will tax the descendants of slaves who live in Great Britain, France and the Netherlands in order to pay restitution to the descendants of slave owners living in the Caribbean Region. Oh, wait a minute, that seems inappropriate.

We will do extensive genealogical research on every resident of the three miscreant nations to identify 1. all descendants of those who profited from slavery; and, 2. the residents of the Caribbean nations who descended from slave owners, and only they will pay taxes, and all current residents of those nations who were descended from slaves will receive a share of the proceeds. Oh, wait a minute that would be scientifically impossible and undoubtedly many of the people tested would be descended from both slaves and slave owners. Oh my!

We will identify all species who were left off the Ark when Noah tried to save the earth during the forty days and forty nights of rain, using modern cloning techniques.

Now that is a good idea!

John 10 years, 7 months ago

Typical white thinking, try to find a way to make someone else pay for his actions or mistakes..forget cloning, just print some money and pay the reparations bill.

One way to go about it: the darker you are the more reparation money you get! At least them set who done bleach will learn a lesson! And those who say they want their chir'ren to be light skin and have curly hair (like Gilligan) Someone come help Shine carry all he suitcases full a money! Reparation money heavy.

John 10 years, 7 months ago

Sounds good, Rory, now tell us black folk what mistakes did we make to become slaves?

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

Here is the Oxford definition of a "racist"

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/defin…

I don't mean to expose you, but maybe you should look in the mirror for "stupid"

HarryBlack 10 years, 7 months ago

Your link provides the same definition as the Oxford dictionary for the word "racist." The link you provided is for the word "racism". Even so, your definition, and I quote; "someone who is prejudiced against people of other races," does not make sense, as a person can also be prejudiced against themselves, thus "racist" against themselves.

You continue to expose your complete ignorance.

John 10 years, 7 months ago

Rory is not racist..he's just a coward with a computer...In order to be a racist you have to put your feelings of hate towards someone because of color into action. Dare him to walk into any bar in New Providence and holla out the "N " word..O no, not the "N" word, O yes, the 'N" word, That is how far we have reached in 2013..any more questions? Actually Bahamians may feel sorry for him, and buy him a Kalik or Sands beer

John 10 years, 7 months ago

Glad you think that way...when you offend someone, verbally or physically there are consequences and one does not have to be a thug to stand his ground.

John 10 years, 7 months ago

Why do some people get so offensive about this matter..Like the reparation money we are going to get is coming out of their own pockets..jed

HarryBlack 10 years, 7 months ago

They bug.... And perhaps they are afraid that we will create businesses which would compete with theirs, consequently jeopardizing their measly livelihood.

I further suspect that their opposition to reparations is rooted in the same ideologies which cause some people to think of Jesus as a white man with blonde hair and blue eyes... Unfortunately for many, "if it ain't white, it can't be right," is a mission statement and they simply can't get that out of their sorry minds. #cowardswithracistmentality

ThisIsOurs 10 years, 7 months ago

Dream on guys. Anyone remember Steve Mckinney's pronouncement regarding the trailer load of trucks coming down the road loaden down with 20 million dollars and all you had to do was stand on the side of the road to get your share? Remember that? The unreliable garbage trucks are more reliable. Get up, go to work, work hard, get a pay cheque, live within your means.

Everybody does not win. Many lose everyday.

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