Those Who Have Wronged Our Ancestors Must Pay – Grange

Photo: Donald De La Haye Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, during her address at the public forum on ‘Back Pay Dispute: Reparation and the outstanding labour struggle with Britain and Spain’, which was held at the University of the West Indies, Mona, on Tuesday (February 27).

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to pursue reparations for the injustices of slavery.
  • Minister Grange was addressing a public forum titled ‘Back Pay Dispute: Reparation and the outstanding labour struggle with Britain and Spain’, held at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Regional Headquarters on Tuesday (February 27),
  • “A sum of £20 million was determined as an appropriate amount to cover the expected loss of that labour force. Of course, we must bear in mind as we negotiate back pay, that the amount of money was calculated on an economic basis alone, and did not include the social, cultural and psychological damages to the persona of each worker and, subsequently, their children and grandchildren from the inhumane treatment,” Minister Grange said.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, has reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to pursue reparations for the injustices of slavery.

Ms. Grange said “it is only fair for those who have wronged our ancestors, to pay the debt they owe to the present generation”.

“Back pay is based on the very important reality of something owed – a debt to be paid; as such, it is not charity. It is not the grandchildren of the former enslaved begging for development support from the former enslavers, rather, it is an honest and relevant position entwined in international law by which those enslaved or oppressed in the past or their grandchildren and who were not suitably or sufficiently remunerated for their past activities, may legally and rightfully claim in the present back pay,” she noted further.

Minister Grange was addressing a public forum titled ‘Back Pay Dispute: Reparation and the outstanding labour struggle with Britain and Spain’, held at the University of the West Indies’ Mona Regional Headquarters on Tuesday (February 27),

Countering arguments that calculating reparation funds is not possible, Minister Grange noted that such calculation was done in 1833 when, as part of the computation of reparation for the planters, the then owners of the labour force deemed them as property.

“A sum of £20 million was determined as an appropriate amount to cover the expected loss of that labour force. Of course, we must bear in mind as we negotiate back pay, that the amount of money was calculated on an economic basis alone, and did not include the social, cultural and psychological damages to the persona of each worker and, subsequently, their children and grandchildren from the inhumane treatment,” Minister Grange said.

She said that many of the modern-day challenges faced by countries in the region stem from the past where the ancestors were enslaved and is the primary reason Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals whose ancestors served as slaves should be paid with reparation funds.

“The real and consequential impact on our national economy and society today must be included in the causal relationships that have formed as part of our calculation of the back pay owed to us.

These should include a growing national debt; the unequal partnerships, which order and determine the constructs of world trade and which, very often, are all stacked up against us,” she pointed out.

“The reality of the persistent and even chronic poverty in our society, the social and cultural scars, bare their mark on the psyche of the country,” Minister Grange said. “Social stigmatization”, the minister noted, manifests itself in “(skin) bleaching, violence and crime and other forms of unhealthy social behaviours”.

Co-Chair, National Council on Reparation, Professor Verene Shepherd, in her presentation, agreed that calculation of back pay is possible.

She informed that United Kingdom professor Robert Beckford had developed a calculation for back pay, which takes into account financial compensation for loss of labour, pain and suffering and “what would be the interest on top of that”.

Prof. Shepherd said she believes the back pay can be used for the development of Jamaica’s infrastructure, as slaves were used to build the infrastructure of those with power in the past.

The public forum was hosted by The National Council on Reparation (NCR) and the Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, UWI, Mona.

In October 2017, a Centre for Reparation Research was launched on the Mona campus. The facility is geared towards supporting the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) reparatory justice movement, building awareness and conducting research that will advance the claim to Europeans for reparation for native genocide, African enslavement, deceptive indenture, colonialism and its legacies.

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