P J Patterson and the reparation journey

P J Patterson and the reparation journey

By Audley Rodriques

Monday, May 18, 2020

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In a piece published by the Jamaica Observer on Sunday, May 10, 2020, entitled 'P J Patterson focuses on scoring own goal...instead of the real goal', Mike Henry asserted, inter alia, that Patterson, as prime minister of Jamaica for 14 years, was never at the forefront of the drive to foster the process of reparation for the descendants of enslaved Africans. Claiming, and rightly so, that he himself had been at the front and centre of the reparation mission, Henry wrote that he could not recall anywhere along the way that Patterson was “a useful partner or even a fervent supporter” on the very long journey for reparation. He went on to say that, from his memory, Patterson, who “benefited immensely from the black power syndrome...never pitched for reparative justice for the Jamaican and wider Caribbean people”.

Maybe it is indeed a problem of memory and nothing more, because my recollection is a little different.

On a visit to Nigeria in 1992, the same year he became prime minister, Patterson discussed the issue of reparation with President Ibrahim Babangida and offered his support for a process that was in its infancy. He also held discussions on the issue of reparation with Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, who subsequently became chairman of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) established by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1993 to pursue reparation.

Dudley Thompson, Jamaica's high commissioner to Nigeria and a close confidant of Patterson, was, with the prime minister's expressed blessing, appointed rapporteur for the EPG. Chief Abiola, in his capacity as chairman of the EPG, was invited to Jamaica in 1993 when the prime minister again pledged his support for reparation. The EPG secretariat operated out of the premises of the Jamaican High Commission in Lagos, and High Commissioner Thompson was one of the principal organisers of the first pan-African Conference on Reparations held in Abuja, Nigeria, in April 1993, which adopted the Abuja Declaration on Reparations for African Enslavement, Colonisation, and Neo-Colonisation.

The claims for reparation made in the Durban Declaration adopted at the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 — in the drafting of which Jamaica played a lead role — had the unqualified support of Patterson.

So, I would say that, not only did Patterson make a significant contribution on the matter of reparation during his time as prime minister, he was present front and centre along what is still an unfinished journey.

Like Henry, he has not just now joined it. Their roles and styles may have had to be different.

Audley Rodriques is an ambassador (emeritus). He has served in postings of behalf of Jamaica in South Africa, Kuwait and Venezuela. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or roddo1958@hotmail.com.


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