One small act for reparation contributes to a giant leap for mankind — Part II

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One small act for reparation contributes to a giant leap for mankind — Part II

Frank
Phipps

Thursday, June 25, 2020

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In Part I of this reparation conversation, publsihed on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, we discussed three submissions — identifying the offence for which reparation is due, identifying the offenders from whom reparation is demanded, and identifying the victims of the offence who demand reparation. We continue with the fourth submission:

Rededication to human rights

Those of us who were living before Independence can recall the exclusion of blacks from public and private opportunities for self-development under British rule in Jamaica. Today it is painful to hear the sound of silence from those who escaped the colour bar. This submission is based on the short history of Jamaica as a country occupied by foreigners after the indigenous people had been totally decimated — a country largely populated by people from Africa.

This was a country always in turmoil with the struggle by the people from Africa against colonial rule by the white people from Europe. Many died in the reprisal that followed. The struggle for human rights was no less intense than what the world sees today — protests were met by flogging, imprisonment, murder, and execution; churches were burnt as an example to those supporting the struggle. This fight produced heroes and hundreds more who sacrificed with their lives against enslavement with the abuses of human rights who we cannot turn our backs on today.

As argued earlier, the history of Jamaica runs from 1655 to the present, with a written constitution for the fundamental rights and freedoms for all, but with limited or no access for equal rights and justice for the people from Africa whose humanity had been shattered. We still see them bearing placards in public demonstrations crying out for justice.

In the continuum of government from chattel slavery the system did not allow for the workers on the plantations to share in the profits from what was produced by their labour. At Independence no effort was made to adapt the system to deal with justice delayed for the majority of Jamaicans. Independence was for freedom from colonial rule, with the otherwise status quo preserved to be in conformity with what was accepted and that all had grown accustomed to, which was for the plantation owners to keep their wealth while the former slaves get nothing — only contrived obedience enforced by the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

In 2007 Professor Barry Chevannes reminded us of the unfulfilled promise of 1962. This presents a challenge for today's generation of Jamaicans: How to get justice for their ancestors to share in the wealth they had helped to create during British rule and to correct the imbalance in wealth and opportunity that resulted from racism and discrimination embedded at slavery. This is a call for reparations.

While Jamaica remains bound in an allegiance to Her Majesty by the constitution Her Majesty granted for Independence, Jamaicans are entitled to Her Majesty's protection — allegiance carries protection in the same way that protection draws allegiance as Lord “haw-haw” found out in the celebrated case of Joyce and the DPP. Her Majesty's Government and Her Majesty's subjects all owe allegiance to Her Majesty; their homage and loyalty carry accountability to Her Majesty for their conduct in Jamaica, where justice is administered in Her Majesty's name.

Her Majesty is the pinnacle of justice for both the offenders and the victims in this crime against humanity — a position that allows for the people of Jamaica to complain to Her Majesty about the enslavement of people under British rule in Jamaica. The pinnacle of justice is a position of conscience for Her Majesty to look to a future without racism and racial discrimination for the people of Jamaica, and for the enjoyment of a better way of life with their shattered humanity repaired.

Some may baulk or pull back from the position of Her Majesty as the medium for redress for independent Jamaica, so let it be until an alternative for reparation is found to fulfil the mandate from Parliament.

This submission recommends that the National Council on Reparation should embolden the Government of Jamaica to use the provision of law in the Judicial Committee Act of 1833 for correcting the centuries of injustice suffered by the people from Africa. By this procedure a claim should be pursued to Her Majesty, the head of State for Jamaica, for an order directed to Her Majesty's Government and the individuals and institutions named to apologise to Jamaica for the enslavement of people, and also for restorative justice whereby the offender, the victim, and the community affected by slavery (Jamaica) together find a way that satisfies all demands.

The order from this procedure will include the question of repatriation, debt forgiveness, water harvesting, alternative energy sourcing, all from a quantified share in the wealth our forefathers worked to create, and provisions to restore the mental and psychological health succeeding generations of Jamaicans lost from the enslavement of their ancestors and, most importantly, the reconstructing of the society for the provision of equal opportunities for all to ensure the disqualification of black people can never happen again as Israel provided.

This petition commemorates the commitment and the courage of our forefathers for equal rights and justice for all, inspiring us from the grave to complete the struggle between planter and slave for human rights.

Frank Phipps, QC, is a member of the National Council for Reparation. The views expressed here are his own and not representative of the council's. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or frank.phipps@yahoo.com.


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