Home Letters Amerindians, Indians, others entitled to reparations
Descendants of slaves are seeking reparations (compensation) for the inhumane treatment meted out to their ancestors. Indians, Amerindians, Chinese and Portuguese also suffered inhumane conditions under indentured labour; their descendants are also entitled to reparations.
As the world celebrates Emancipation Day on August 1, attention should also be focused on how to observe liberation from indenture and obtain compensation, especially with this year being the 100th anniversary since the abolition of that inhumane system of labour.
It is indisputable that slavery and indentureship were among the most heinous and inhumane crimes committed on people in the New World in the name of colonialism and capitalism. The indignity the slaves and indentured suffered during the periods of slavery and indentureship is amply documented. African nationalists have justifiably led the battle for reparation for descendants of Blacks for African enslavement. And these nationalists have been given recognition and support by Caricom governments. Caricom established (in 2013) a reparation commission to pursue compensation to be doled out to descendants of the victims of slavery. For fairness, Caricom should do same for the victims of indenture.
It would have been ideal for descendants of slaves to join with descendants of indentured servants and descendants of native genocide to pursue reparative justice from Europeans. But African nationalists and Caricom governments want to pursue their own struggle for compensation for Blacks in the Caribbean, to the exclusion of other groups. This leaves the victims of indentureship and native genocide to seek their own compensation, separately as distinct groups, or in unison. It is important to make people understand that indentureship was a form of slavery, and that it was wrong. Reparation is to make some meaningful compensation to assist those affected by the system of indentureship – especially those living in abject poverty and illiteracy since colonial days, etc.
The precedence of granting compensation for victims of various crimes has been widely established. People or businesses were paid for broken contracts and injustice since the 1800s. The US set aside funds for the native Indians. France demanded reparations from Haiti for (Haiti) breaking away. Europe demanded and received reparations from Germany. Britain doled out funds to businesses for freeing the slaves in 1834. America paid the Japanese for putting the Japanese in a camp. The plantation owners received compensation for ending slavery and indentureship; the victims did not receive compensation for broken contracts. And there was no compensation for crimes related to indentureship, breaking of contracts, cheating of indentured servants, etc. Today, 100 years later, many of the descendants of indentured servants live in institutional poverty; they suffer from high unemployment, lack of skills, etc. Specific unjustified harms against them have been identified.
The wrongs the ancestors of present day descendants of indentured servants suffered were/are largely the cause of their current condition. These wrongs must be corrected, and this can be done through a reparation programme, to help facilitate the development of the various groups that need to uplift themselves.
And the European powers can afford to set up this small fund. The economies and wealth of the major European countries were built on the backs of the indentured labourers after the collapse of the sugar estates following the abolition of slavery in 1838. It was the Indian indentured servants who rebuilt the economies of the major European powers post slavery. Sugar and other agro products linked to the indentured servants became the dominant commodities during that period. The Indians and others were enslaved and robbed of their labour; the productivity of their labour was used to enrich Europe and the colonies themselves, as well as their companies that pursued wealth in the colonies.
Funds can be used for training in various skills that can help with economic, social and political upliftment of the descendants of these countless victims of indentureship and native genocide. Funds can be used for developing institutions to advance education to eradicate illiteracy as well as to promote better health care. Youths can receive STEM and agricultural training for agro-industries. Scholarships can be offered to youngsters to acquire skills in the European countries.
It is indisputable that reparations are due the descendants of indentured servants and native genocide, to help these depressed communities to transform their lives and improve their standard of living.