Sir Hilary: Dismiss propaganda about slave trade

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Sir Hilary: Dismiss propaganda about slave trade

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporters
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

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VICE chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI) Sir Hilary Beckles says those who have been disenfranchised by slavery and its legacies should dismiss the long-standing Western propaganda that African countries were complicit in the slave trade which saw Britain extracting wealth from the region for more than 300 years.

“Do not fall into the trap of the Western propaganda about your participation; you're victims of that history and cruel victims of that history, and you must stand your ground and say this is what the history shows. Most of us were victimised, our countries were ravaged... our civilization was damaged considerably and we need to participate in reparations from those who entered our shores and started this process,” Sir Hilary stated as he spoke on the topic 'Reparatory justice long overdue: Legacy to nationhood' at a virtual Rotary Club of St Andrew meeting yesterday.

He said the Caribbean Community (Caricom) is now waiting for the African Union to join Caribbean countries in the push for reparations from their former colonisers. “I believe that that will be the turning point,” he stated.

The distinguished academic said Caricom still awaits the support of West African countries to move to demand reparations from Britain. He noted that civil society movements in these countries, which were forced to collaborate with the instigators of slavery, have already expressed their full support, but that it is time for governments to step up.

Sir Hilary, a known global activist for social justice, argued that slavery was a crime that bears some comparisons to the international narcotics trade that could not have been carried out without cooperation from the very people who were being victimised.

But he said there are understandable reasons for this collaboration as the collective backs of these countries were against the wall in the face of colonisers who could crush their nations and economies if they did not comply.

He said, too, that the slave trade was a process of terrorism. “It is impossible to commit an international crime without a local collaborator, and yes, when the Europeans arrived with their large corporations and their huge armies and their incredible capacities, they used some African states to help them and deals were made such as, 'You cannot take my people, but I will allow you passage through my country with those you have captured, to the coast.' A deal would be, that 'I would help you to recruit some local people in a country next door on the condition that you don't take my own people'. So all kinds of deals were being made, because those African governments were in a very difficult situation, they could not win. Any African country that confronted the slave traders the corporation would destroy and remove them,” he explained.

“The important thing now is for the governments to come on-board. We are convinced that when West African governments, one by one, establish a framework to demand reparations in support of Caricom, that it will change the paradigm completely,” he stated.

“We must discuss this issue: How much faster we would move into the future if Britain was to honour its debt? Reparations is about honouring a debt, reparations is not about handouts on a street corner,” he said, pointing to the 10-point reparations plan which calls for a number of development strategies. He said it is now time for Jamaica and other Caribbean countries to move to this second phase of independence by negotiating reparations in a sit-down with the former colonisers.

Sir Hilary also re-emphasised that Britain needs to clean up the mess it left behind, which has seen its former colonies mired in persistent poverty. He pointed to repeated and insulting rejection from Britain post-colonialism, when asked to make reparations to Jamaica and the region.

The Rotary Club of St Andrew presented The UWI vice chancellor with the Paul Harris Fellow Award at yesterday's meeting, for substantial contribution to humanitarian and educational programmes.


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