Reparation report puts chattel slavery debt at US$108 trillion

A report on reparation for transatlantic chattel slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean has suggested a US$108-trillion debt owed by the perpetrators.

According to the report, launched at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, on Thursday, Britain alone owes the descendants of the enslaved in 31 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and North America US$24 trillion, of which US$9.5 trillion is said to be owed to Jamaica.

The report, titled 'Reparations for Transatlantic Chattel Slavery in the Americas', was produced by a team led by International Court judge, Jamaican Patrick Robinson.

It states that Spain has a debt of US$17 trillion, of which Jamaica is entitled to about $1 trillion; France owes US$9 trillion; Portugal, US$20 trillion, including US$4 trillion to Brazil; and The Netherlands owes about US$5 trillion to its regional colonies, including Suriname.

"I strongly believe that reparation should not be in the form of monies handed over to individuals. Not a cent should go into the hands of any individual. Rather, the sums should be used for developmental purposes to provide the services in education, in health, housing, technology and other areas," Robinson said.

However, one respondent reminded the team that there could be a roadblock facing them, as British legislation related to the such developments would not allow for the funds to be paid to the Government after Jamaica becomes a republic.

But, Laleta Davis Mattis, who currently chairs the National Council on Reparation (NCR), pointed out that funds offered to the governments in the region are usually based on support for social institutions, with conditions which are not appealing to the beneficiaries.

"They talk about how they are helping with this and that, but that is less than taking responsibility. So a second round with more information and more countries [should help], and that second round is [currently] being pursued," she told the audience.

The NCR said that Jamaica would be due at least £2.3 trillion from any slavery reparation paid by Britain to the region. This money would be able to pay off Jamaica's national debt of US$2 trillion, and set the nation on a new economic path. The figure was based on the NCR's calculation of Jamaica's 30.64 per cent of the £7.5 trillion for the Caribbean calculated by British academic theologian, Dr Robert Beckford, one of 10 contributors to the report, as being owed by Britain to its former colonies.

The report was introduced by Judge Robinson, a former honorary president of the American Society of International Law and a current member of the International Court of Justice. It was sponsored by the American Society of International Law, in collaboration with The UWI, through the Centre for Reparation Research and the PJ Patterson Institute for Africa-Caribbean Public Advocacy.

BY BALFORD HENRY Observer senior writer

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