C'bean countries not looking for hand outs — Beckles

C'bean countries not looking for hand outs — Beckles

Friday, January 29, 2016

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OXFORD, (CMC) – The chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles, says Caribbean countries are not looking for “hand outs” as a result of its call for reparation for the slave trade.

Professor Beckles, speaking at a public lecture on Reparation organised by Oxford University, said a suggestion by European countries that ‘they have no moved on…sorry it is a closed chapter there is nothing to discuss” does not negate the call for compensation.
“What reparatory justice says these are the children who are now disposed, disenfranchised. We are the children. We have now said , ‘Hold on dad, hold on a second, you gave our mother a raw deal, you gave us a raw deal, we want to talk about our education, our health, we want you to come back and participate in our upbringing,” Sir Hilary said, as he juxtaposed the salve trade to an abusive marriage.

“That’s what we are asking you to do. We are not asking you for hand outs. We are asking for a moral conversational, a legal conversation about justice,” he said.

The Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) said that reparatory justice is about “dealing with these issues”.

Professor Beckles said that the Caribbean is faced with a “chronic disease explosion where 60 per cent of all the Black people in the region over the age of 60 have type 2 diabetes, hypertension.

He said while “slavery is over … we are now in the jet stream of it.

“Imagine as you put, like in the case of Barbados…you import 600,000 people, you put them on an island for 200 years, you give them salt fish, salt pork every day, you brutalise them 24 hours a day, you sell their children, you rape their wives and you carry out this horrendous experiment of how to make money out of human degradation …at the end of that what do you expect.

‘The people are stressed out they cannot metabolise sugar and salt because that’s what they had,” he said, recalling that children of the working class used to go into the kitchen and pick up a handful of sugar and eat it.

“So now we have a serious problem because the philosophy was eat what you grow. We grew sugar and we consumed it, now we have a diabetes explosion on the island. Barbados is now known for two things, beautiful tourism product, the amputation capital of the world.

“Every day in Barbados someone loses a limb…because of the rampant explosion of diabetes. So we have the illiteracy, we have diabetes, we have no institutions, there are no museums, lovely museums on slavery in the Caribbean”.

Sir Hillary said it would be difficult to say to a Caribbean government, struggling with debt and other problems to take five million pounds (One British Pound =US$1.42 cents) to build a museum to slavery when there are other pressing issues.

“We know from the work we have done on hypertension that the hypertension drugs don’t work as well on West Indians as they do on the British. We have done comparative studies in Britain, West Africa and the Caribbean (and) it is fascinating to know that if you are English and you took a hypertension drug your body has a 95 per cent response…

“If you are black from the Caribbean you have a 70 per cent response. So most Black folks in the Caribbean are in and out of different drugs because one it does not work, they get immune..(but) the  most remarkable thing is that the West African has the same response as the English,” he said noting that the Caribbean is involved in a “highly expensive” research programme to try and reverse the situation.

He said the pharmaceutical companies were not showing interest in the research because of the small size of the Caribbean.

“So slavery is over and a new kind of slavery is taking place,” said Sir Hilary during his near two hour presentation.

The visit to Britain comes as CARICOM is expected to send a letter to British Prime Minister  David Cameron formally requesting a meeting this year on the start of discussions on reparatory justice within the context of Caribbean development.

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