Cabinet Approves Establishment of Commission on Reparations


Cabinet has approved the establishment of a National Commission on Reparations, to consider and make recommendations on proposals seeking compensation from countries formerly engaged in the slave trade for the descendants of slaves.
The approval is consequent on a submission made to Cabinet by Minister of Information, Culture, Youth, and Sports, Olivia Grange, seeking to have the Commission established, as well as to have its terms of reference accepted.
Speaking at Wednesday’s (Jan. 21) post-Cabinet media briefing at Jamaica House, Ms. Grange told journalists that the terms of reference for the Commission, to be chaired by Professor Barry Chevannes of the University of the West Indies’ Centre for Public Safety, were broad.
These include: receiving submissions, hearing testimonies, evaluating research and studies, engaging relevant interests groups and legal and academic experts in dialogue, and undertaking public consultations as is necessary, with the aim of these guiding a national approach to reparations.
In addition, the Commission will be charged with the task of making recommendations on the diplomatic initiatives, security considerations, and education and public information required; forms such reparations should take; and provide a report of its deliberations and recommendations to the Information Minister, within 18 months of its initial meeting.
Ms. Grange advised that a list of nominees was presented, from which Professor Chevannes and two other members were confirmed. The other two confirmations are Consultant in the Ministry of Education, Robert Miller, who was nominated by portfolio Minister, Andrew Holness; and Tanya Batson-Savage, who will be in charge of the Reparations Commission Secretariat, which will be based at the Education Ministry.
She informed that letters of acceptance are being awaited from some of the remaining nominees, pointing that Prime Minister, Bruce Golding is also expected to make a nomination.
According to Ms. Grange, the Commission’s establishment arose out a resolution moved in Parliament in 2007 by Transport and Works Minister, Michael Henry, then a member of the Opposition. This resolution, she explained, was debated, following which a Parliamentary Select Committee was established to consider the issues arising, and make the appropriate recommendations. She pointed out, however, that the committee ceased to exist after Parliament was prorogued later that year.
“This Government decided that we would consider establishing a national commission on reparation similar to the Ganja Commission that was established some years ago. So this submission that was made to Cabinet, relating to 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 the Diaspora. This is highlighted to clearly delineate the work of the Commission and the Jamaican Government’s power to demand compensation,” the Minister stated.
In 2001, consequent on the declaration of slavery as a crime against humanity by the World Conference on Racism and Racial Discrimination, reparation was recommended in South Africa as an appropriate form of redress for the atrocities of apartheid.
Discussions on the matter locally were invigorated during the 2007 bi-centennial celebrations of the abolition of the slave trade.

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