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The National Commission on Reparations was established by the Government of Jamaica in 2009 to recommend the form or forms which reparations may take, and to receive testimony from the public and from experts, with the aim of guiding a national approach to reparations.
The Commission, which was initially launched under the leadership of the late Professor Barry Chavannes, has been mandated to advise the Government on the case for reparation and to examine some types of compensation for past injustices suffered by the descendants of slaves in Jamaica.
In 2012, Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna reconvened the National Commission on Reparations. The reconstituted Commission is chaired by Professor Verene Shepherd, Professor of Social History & University Director of the Institute for Gender & Development at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
Terms of Reference of the Commission (May 2009)
- To receive submissions, hear testimonies, evaluate research, and undertake public consultations, with the aim of guiding a national response to reparations;
- To recommend the diplomatic initiatives, security considerations, education and public information required;
- To recommend the form or forms that reparations may take, taking into account social, moral, cultural, economic and international factors;
- To provide a report of its deliberations and recommendations to the Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports within 18 months from the date of its first meeting.
Reparation has been the subject of discussion in Jamaica and the Caribbean over many years.
It has been a part of the post slavery, post colonial dialogue in response to the challenges faced by particular groups in the society (its greatest proponents being the Rastafarian community that has consistently promoted and brought the issue to the forefront of its arguments).
Slavery was declared a crime against humanity by the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in South Africa in 2001. Acts of reparations have been established as an appropriate form of redress in instances where such injustices have been inflicted.
The 2007 Bicentennial celebrations reinvigorated the discussion as the nation contemplated the effects of the slave trade and slavery. During that time, Parliament debated a resolution moved by Hon. Lester Mike Henry M.P, on the issue of reparation and established a select committee to consider the issues and make appropriate recommendations for action. However, when Parliament was prorogued, the committee ceased to exist. The recommendation now being made is to establish a National Commission on Reparations similar to the “Ganja” Commission.
The establishment of a Reparations Commission and the Terms of Reference by which it should operate covers Jamaican descendants of slaves, wherever they reside, whether in Jamaica or in the Diaspora in order to consider the interests of the large external Jamaican population. This is highlighted to clearly delineate the work of the Commission and the Jamaican Government’s power to demand compensation.
The issue of reparations requires the participation of all Jamaicans. You can participate by writing to the Commission with evidence, suggestions and ideas; inviting the Commission to address your school, church or organisation; and taking part in the Commission’s public meetings in your parish.
MEMBERS OF THE 2012-2015 COMMISSION
Prof. Verene Shepherd, Chairperson
Mr. Bert Samuels
Lord Anthony Gifford
Dr. Kadamawe Knife
Dr. Jahlani Niaah
Ms. Marisa Benain
Mr. Michael Holgate
Ms. Thelma JoHill
Mrs. Donna Parchment Brown
Mr. Robert Miller
Mr. Maurice McCurdy
Ms. Mitzie Williams
Ms. Donna McFarlane
HOW TO CONTACT THE COMMISSION:
Ms Marisa Benain
Ministry of Youth & Culture
4-6 Trafalgar Road, Kingston 5