Columns

No, no, Mr Bailey!

Mike Henry

Monday, February 25, 2013    

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Who is this special advisor from Britain, Shaun Bailey, and what is his real purpose here in Jamaica?

Those of us who are of the pre-independence era, and who have emerged through the delivery of our country from colonialism to independence, must ask the above question with sadness.

Indeed, some of our dead National Heroes (Sam Sharpe, George William Gordon, Marcus Garvey and Nanny) must be turning in their graves at the recent utterances attributed to the visiting special advisor, that we must hold on to The Queen and be prepared to accept that the British people will not approve payment for reparations.

Also, he advised that we must expect no withdrawal of the Air Passenger Duty (APD).

That our media and Government can allow this to go unanswered and to be placed in a proper perspective through a clear statement and terse advice to Mr Bailey, hurts me to the core of my being.

That a government and people who, at the highest level, are debating and discussing withdrawal from the Privy Council in order to establish their own Court of Justice, changing the Oath of Allegiance in Parliament and are awaiting a report on reparations, should allow all this to go without a corrective statement, is a sad day in the history of our country.

Let me put Mr Bailey straight, specifically on a couple of points! My call for payment to Jamaica by Britain, for the exploitation of the slaves by the British people, is related to the payment by the British Government of 1834, which, by an Act of the British Parliament, abolished slavery.

As part of that Act, the British Government kept the lands of Jamaica and placed them in the hands of the slave owners and, by the said Act, compensated the Caribbean slave owners by the payment of £20 million for their loss of labour. It is my contention that the same amount must be paid at today's value to the Government of Jamaica as reparation for one of the greatest sins in respect of man's inhumanity to man.

This decision, Mr Bailey, will not be made by the British people, but by the International Court of Justice. Your country has already admitted culpability by payment to slave owners, and I believe you tried to escape any other charges by offering an apology.

So the decision is not with you and your voters, but in the hands of our Parliament, and subsequently the International Court of Justice.

As for the APD, by the Jamaican people continuing to allow the United Kingdom and Heathrow Airport to be a main part of the hub to our world, we deserve your point of view or advice, which I presume, by the way, is all about economics.

For my part, I pray that the present Jamaican Government will draw on the Open Skies approach I took as a Cabinet minister, and create a new and additional hub to the Caribbean via our motherland, Africa. That would reduce travel time from the east and the south from days to hours, and open up Jamaica and the Caribbean to the largest numbers of persons in the world.

That, Mr Bailey, is advice worthy of being proudly embraced by Jamaica, in stark contrast to the pompous serving of sheer disrespect which you recently dished out to Jamaica and Jamaicans.

And so, Mr Bailey, my advice to you is that the best advice you could give PM Cameron is that some Jamaicans stand resolute on these issues, and that it may be in the best interest of Great Britain to seek to settle the issues by negotiation rather than leaving it to the International Court of Justice because, with other cases pending, the awards could be greater.

Indeed, Germany is still paying for the Holocaust; and Africa is yet to deal with Britain on the decimation and dissemination of its population and the centuries-long retardation of its economic growth.

Mike Henry (CD) is member of parliament for Clarendon Central and a former minister of transport and works.

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