There may well be numerous valid reasons for seeking reparation from our former slave masters. I, however, wish to point out that before Christopher Columbus and the other delegations arrived in the island, in my estimation, the only residents were the Arawaks, Tainos, Caribs and to a lesser extent, the Maroons. The pain and suffering that these people endured is, quite frankly, unimaginable, and the descendants of these individuals would, in my view, be eligible to receive compensation on behalf of their forefathers.
Herein lies one of the concerns with reparation: the identification of the persons who are eligible to make a claim and receive compensation. It is my opinion that the correct claimants are the descendants of the Arawaks, Tainos, Caribs, and Maroons. Who, therefore, are the descendants of the Arawaks, Tainos, Caribs and Maroons? I believe it is all Jamaicans, whether residing in the island or in the diaspora.
Accordingly, if the Jamaican Government is to make a claim for reparation it must not be forgotten that they act as our agents and, if successful, any compensation received ought to be for the people and not the government. It bears repeating that the correct claimants in this suit are non-resident and resident Jamaicans and not the state or the government of Jamaica.
A fund/account should, therefore, be set up at a financial institution in the name of the people of Jamaica, and every person who can show Jamaican lineage should share equally in the funds. There may well be enumerating, logistics and cut-off issues to overcome in disbursing the funds, but a solution can be reached if proper thought is put to the matter.
What has, however, been suggested in the media and in other forums is the idea of the government of Jamaica receiving the compensation and utilising the funds for purposes such as paying down the debt or fixing roads or building hospitals. This idea, while noble, if implemented, would demonstrate a clearly misguided view of the agency role that the government plays. Persons may argue that such actions may benefit most Jamaican residents; however, the fact is that slavery did not create the debt, poorly maintained road networks or poor health institutions. These ills were all caused by inefficient governance from 1962.
Please, don't get me wrong, if any Jamaican citizen wants to donate their share of the compensation to the Government, they should have that right and opportunity to do so, but for the rest of the citizens, the earned right to do what they want with their share ought not to be taken away, notwithstanding any selfish or wasteful actions that may arise.
I do hope that, since MP Mike Henry has tabled a private member's motion in Parliament, when the debate finally begins, the issue of the disbursement of the compensation to citizen should also be placed on the table.