Almost ten years ago, the Caricom Reparations Commission (CRC) composed 10 demands against the former European colonial nations for reparations on their crimes against humanity (CAH) in the forms of genocide, slavery, slave trading, and racial apartheid.
Two years later, the Guyana branch of the Reparations Commission hosted a “rally and relay” at the Parade Ground, where a “Reparations Baton” emanating from Barbados was passed over to them on its way to the other Caribbean territories.
Guyanese should be aware of the specific demands Caricom made on Britain and other European ex-colonial states. They were adumbrated by the CRC in a document from which the following was extracted. Couched within the Caricom Reparations Justice Programme [CRJP], the demands are for the Region’s indigenous peoples and the descendants of “African slavery”.
The 10-point plan begins with a call for an apology: “The healing process for victims and the descendants of the enslaved and enslavers requires as a precondition the offer of a sincere formal apology by the Governments of Europe.” Because “over 10 million Africans were stolen from their homes and forcefully transported to the Caribbean as the enslaved chattel and property of Europeans”, the second demand declares, “The descendants …have a legal right to return to their homeland.”
Third is a specific development programme “for indigenous peoples to rectify the historical injustices of “genocide and land appropriation (which) went hand in hand”. The Caricom paper noted that “survivors remain traumatised, landless, and are the most marginalised social group within the Region”.
The fourth demand is for the Caribbean to be given analogous “community institutions such as museums and research centres (which) prepare (European) citizens for an understanding of these CAH. These facilities serve to reinforce within the consciousness of their citizens an understanding of their role in history as rulers and change agents.”
Fifth is for Europe to address the consequences of the abysmal living conditions during slavery, leading to “the highest incidence in the world of chronic diseases in the forms of hypertension and type two diabetes. Arresting this pandemic requires the injection of science, technology, and capital beyond the capacity of the Region.”
Sixth is a demand for the eradication of illiteracy by Europeans. “At the end of the European colonial period in most parts of the Caribbean, the British in particular left the black and indigenous communities in a general state of illiteracy. Widespread illiteracy has subverted the development efforts of these nation states, and represents a drag upon social and economic advancement.”
Seventh is a demand for an “African Knowledge Programme”. “The forced separation of Africans from their homeland has resulted in cultural and social alienation from identity and existential belonging. Denied the right in law to life, and divorced by space from the source of historic self, Africans have craved the right to return and knowledge of the route to roots.”
Eighth is a call for the “Psychological Rehabilitation” of Peoples of African Origin. “For over 400 years, Africans and their descendants were classified in law as non-human, chattel, property, and real estate. They were denied recognition as members of the human family by laws derived from the parliaments and palaces of Europe. This history has inflicted massive psychological trauma upon African descendant populations.”
The ninth demand is one for the “transfer of technology”, because of its policy of “underdevelopment” as adumbrated by Walter Rodney. “The effectiveness of this policy meant that the Caribbean entered its nation building phase as a technologically and scientifically ill-equipped backward space within the postmodern world economy.”
Lastly was a call for debt relief by the old imperial powers, since “Caribbean Governments that emerged from slavery and colonialism… inherited the massive crisis of community poverty and institutional unpreparedness for development. This process has resulted in states accumulating unsustainable levels of public debt that now constitute their fiscal entrapment.”