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Sears: Much defensiveness in Bahamas over slavery damage

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Alfred Sears

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Staff Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

DEFENSIVE reactions against the concept of slavery compensation belies the psychological legacy of systemic oppression, said former education minister Alfred Sears.

The government’s informal focus group on reparations will hold its first meeting within the next month, according to Mr Sears, who sits on the body.

While he noted that the transatlantic slave trade indisputably fuelled the industrial development of Europe, he maintained that compensation for egregious wrongs did not have to be monetary. 

“In the Bahamas,” said Mr Sears, “it’s not fashionable and there is a lot of defensiveness in addressing the harm that was done psychologically as a result of these historical events. How to rehabilitate, how to make amends. 

“I take it’s an important question for us within the region as we seek to address the continuing legacies of slavery. I think all issues of social justice related to the systematic exploitation of any discrete group of persons, we ought not to ignore. 

“As we seek to build a culture of democracy and respect based on norms of contemporary international law,” said Mr Sears, “we have to look at issues of historical wrongs. That is not unique to the Caribbean, that is being done throughout the world.”

Mr Sears added that while stories of British abolitionists are easily recanted, stories of slaves or free Africans in the Caribbean are often unexplored.

Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell announced last week that the government had formed an informal ad hoc group to guide deliberations over whether or not to pursue reparations from slavery as part of a Caribbean contingent.

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

Appointed alongside Mr Sears, is former MP Philip Smith and foreign service officer Charmaine Williams.

“It could never be a waste of time if you’re trying to correct a historical wrong,” Mr Sears said. “That argument was used when the US and Australia had to deal with the issue of the indigenous people, when giving back land that historically belonged to the native American nations.

“You can say that it was hundreds of years ago, why do we have to deal with it today? It’s because part of our system of justice and our notion of fairness is restitution. If you’ve harmed someone you acknowledge it.”

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.

Mr Sears said: “We have to come to terms with our history, it’s our history. It’s not as if we’re trying to adopt someone else’s history, this is your own history. It is for us to see and understand, to say never again.”

He added: “I am in the process of literature review, the research, and understanding the historical, not only the legacy, but the issue of remoteness, issue of fairness, looking at the precedents throughout the world. How various courts have addressed this issue.”

Comments

John 10 years, 8 months ago

Reparations must go to individuals and not countries. Else some persons who benefited from slavery as slave traders and masters will benefit. And they have already recieved compensation when slavery was abolished. .

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

Not necessarily John. They could create a scholarship fund for Bahamians of African decent, or an fund for persons, again of African decent, who want to start a business. In other words, there are many ways to restrict the distribution of reparations to those who are qualified for it.

John 10 years, 8 months ago

why don't you go to hell and party with the devil?, he will love your company

John 10 years, 8 months ago

You sound like an imbecile. I live in the Bahamas. Ninetyfive percent of my life I come in contact only with persons of my own race. When I do come In contact with White people it is tourists in the downtown area or o functions like regattas and homecomings. It has always been a pleasant experience. I have never had a racial encounter with anyone in my entire life, except with you and he various names you post under. I have heard about how foreigners try to treat Bahamians in the work place or some who Bahamians who had some of the nastiest (personality wise) as neighbors, some were Greek and other parts of the world. In fact I come in contact with more Chinese on a regular basis than I do white folk. So to me this is Paradise. So now what were you saying about starting a new country? Other than the Bahamas, you must be mad!.

John 10 years, 8 months ago

ignorance is a bliss!..

John 10 years, 8 months ago

A scholarship or a piece a land for 10 million killed and 12 million enslaved? that's only a few thousand dollars.. what they did to my fore parents is worth millions to me. And since the payment is late you have to add up interest.

John 10 years, 8 months ago

The white man has been in control of the world since it began. So if there are little poor white kids, it is still the white mans fault. Maybe he was to full of self greed to take care of his own. Agreed there may be poor white people in the Bahamas, but no one in this country has to starve. And I doubt Social Services would laugh at or turn away anyone showing up there with a legitimate claim. There are agencies in this country that even ensure illegal immigrants are fed and taken care of while on these islands.

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

Reparations do not have to be financial at all, they could settle for other forms of compensation.

TalRussell 10 years, 8 months ago

Comrade lawyer Alfred should study case law because "NO court" has every ruled in favor for compensation on such a case, unless the law suit had been filed by a "living" person(s) who could be called to testify as to their "personal" enslavement. Not one favorable court ruling exists. The dead are not available to appear to give their testimony. Descendents of former slaves can sue anyone they desire, but they are not entitled to a judgment to their favor.

Case dismissed!

banker 10 years, 8 months ago

I concur. Someone will invoke Statute of Limitations.

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

Except there is no Statute of limitations for crimes like murder.

circa1838 10 years, 8 months ago

Comrade not so fast. Case is just that, a ruling by a high court that is not statute or one that was never handed down. This may be the first. So, not because there has never been any ruling in matters akin to this does mean it cannot happen; when it does it is case law.

TalRussell 10 years, 8 months ago

No case of the many filed have ever been treated with legal merit. Not one.

John 10 years, 8 months ago

that is so far from the truth...what about wrongful death lawsuits? car accidents, plane crashes, families of patients who were subscribed wrong or harmful medications.

John 10 years, 8 months ago

They are still searching out persons who served in Hitler's army AND PARTICIPATED IN HIS WAR CRIMES and jailing them...hold on let me see if this is listed under racism, or if there's any statute of limitations to bar this..maybe I have to look in the white pages..lmao

TalRussell 10 years, 8 months ago

Not one single judgment has been won against the German government. Former Nazi's have been placed on trial and convicted but not one has ever been conviction where there was not a "living" witness. Comrade Sears as a lawyer is aware that while you can sue anyone for anything it doesn't mean the courts will allow you to waste their time. This case has NO merit. It will be thrown out by the court.

Case dismissed!

John 10 years, 8 months ago

The history books are testament, and there are still documents such as slave rosters, trading information and even personal diaries of slave owners. You cannot dismiss that slavery existed, that millions were forced into it, that many were killed and that it the Trans Atlantic slavery was about white people enslaving Black people from the coasts of Africa, that Britain, France and Holland permitted it, that the USA and Canada participated, the Catholic church endorsed it and that most, if not all the Black population in the Caribbean, USA and Canada are direct descendants of slaves, what part of the facts are missing?

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

Why so quick to dismiss?

Among the precedents for financial reparations, West Germany and Israel signed a financial agreement in 1952, seven years on from Auschwitz. In June this year, after legal action by Leigh Day (the same law firm retained by Caricom), Britain conceded payments averaging £2,600 ($4,000) each for 5,228 now elderly Kenyans who were brutally mistreated during the suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. Britain’s courts will not now consider claims for atrocities occurring before 1954.

Further, when people admit to wrong doings, (and in this case several European leaders have apologized for slavery) 99% of the time Courts will encourage a settlement.

TalRussell 10 years, 8 months ago

If it ain't all about the coins then let ALL the lawyers sign waivers not to collect what some see has potentially millions to billions in lawyer fees? Of course slavery existed but until two weeks ago I never knew so many Bahamalander's had suddenly become obsessed with slavery. Where were our Bahamaland lawyers before who aligned themselves with Africa? More like them "Jolly old England" Bowler Hats might be more in their design? Finally, no more sweeping most we natives "lick-da-brush" under the carpet, cause we ALL is hoping to be compensated? For the sake of God please don't let we Bahamaland politicans touch we billions, cause it be the very last time we ever see a rent-cent of it in we pockets.

Amen!

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

No one works for free, not even lawyers. That would be slavery.
Perhaps they woke up and "smelled the coffee". Or perhaps it took a little convincing,
You know Peter Nygard had to bring Louis Farrakhan to the Bahamas to remind black Bahamians about their blackness/african heritage? It's a crying shame that so many of us hate ourselves, and white people are seeing that. We certianly need more awareness of our African roots in this country.

banker 10 years, 8 months ago

I had enough of Roots by watching it on ZNS every time the PLP threw an elections. If your face in the mirror every morning doesn't remind you of your African roots, then nothing will.

But culture is a different thing. There is very little African culture left in the Bahamas (Obeah and Asue come to mind), and quite frankly, as a person of African descent 250 years ago, I no longer identify with West African culture and customs, and have no wish to. I AM BAHAMIAN !!

John 10 years, 8 months ago

Define what is a Bahamian, personally I think he has become a revolving doorman, opening every door that he thinks knocks with opportunity. Unfortunately this is what our government installed (instilled or distilled depending on wat u thinkin or drinkin) in the masses, allowing all the world famous night clubs to close, pushing Bahamians off Bay Street, the beaches and Paradise Island, now Bimini. But hey Junkanoo is still there..is it true they moving it to the stadium? starting with junior junkanoo? hey that should be nice, a street festival in a stadium!

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

You would be surprised how much we have in common with west Africans. It really doesn't matter if you choose to identify with it or not, and it goes far beyond just looking in the mirror. Much of what we claim as "Bahamian culture" is actually of African origins, some of us just fail to realize, or accept that. Whether good or bad, there is something very important about knowing how our ancestors helped to influence who we are today.

I am also a proud Bahamian, but when i see festivities in Africa that resemble junkanoo, or hear Nigerians use words like "juk" and "yinna." I cant help but to be reminded of the fact that there is a historical/cultural connection there. Some people even attribute the way we treat each other to our African roots. We can not be hopeful about a bright future, it we choose to ignore our past. It simply should not be ignored.

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

Further, whenever a racist looks at a group of people he/she feels more superior than, there is no separation of nationalities. Black is black and that's it.

John 10 years, 8 months ago

yea we know u work for free..always working on people's nerves!!!

HarryBlack 10 years, 8 months ago

This claim for reparations is being made against certain governments. You should be mindful of the fact that governments never cease to exist.

TalRussell 10 years, 8 months ago

Good for Comrade HarryBlack for being obsessed with a Comrade Peter, who had to bring Louis Farrakhan to we peaceful Bahamaland? I'll reserve my public opinion of two individuals we Bahamaland seemed to have manged ourselves pretty darn well without their presence, long before them two sailed into we tiny Nassau Town. One only stayed for a short visit?

John 10 years, 8 months ago

Well even the prime minister has jumped on the Slave Boat: he plans to do some reenactment (show) of slavery at the resort that is expanding in San Salvador for their guest. I can understand a musical where Negro songs and dance are portrayed, or a guided teaching tour where artifacts from the slave era are on display and discussed, but re-enactments?, hell to the NO Let us re-enact in court to get some reparations, then we could hire someone to play the slave part.

John 10 years, 8 months ago

Why do so many envy Bahamians so? @ Rory: It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right.”

John 10 years, 8 months ago

spiritual warfare...are you going to be the one taken or the one left in the field?

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