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Reparations not going to be an easy struggle – Jomo Thomas

Reparations not going to be an easy struggle – Jomo Thomas

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The first regional reparations conference began Sunday at the Victoria Park, and already, the message is that the struggle for reparations is not going to be an easy one.{{more}}

Jomo Thomas, chairman of the local reparations committee made the point as delegates from across the region gathered here for the three-day conference.

“The struggle for reparations is not going to be an easy struggle,” Thomas said.

He said that the region had leaped forward in the reparations process with staging of the conference.

“This movement for reparation took a big jump when the CARICOM Heads of Government in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad unanimously adopted the position that all of CARICOM would move forward in the fight to secure reparations from the former colonial powers,” he explained.

According to Thomas, the strategy going forward is to seek reparations from the British, Dutch and the French. He said that eventually, as the movement gained momentum, there would be a much larger fight to include some of the other colonial powers.

As he addressed the Opening Ceremony of the conference, Thomas said it was important that the people of the region, essentially African people, and as an indigenous people, that they understand the injustice and travesty of the crimes committed by the colonial powers.

The reparations committee chairman described what took place as the African holocaust, adding that reparations is a universal concept.

“The persons who committed what some refer to as the African holocaust must be brought to pay,” Thomas said.

But while the conference is the first of its kind, the issue of reparations is not new.

Barbadian Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Stephen Lashley, in his address at the Opening Ceremony, said that the movement has been around for at least 35 years.

“We owe the NGO’s and civil society, in particular the Rastafarian community of the Caribbean, for keeping the subject alive as they sought to build dialogue over the years,” he said.

Lashley, who was speaking on behalf of the chair of the CARICOM ministerial committee on reparations, Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart, explained that slavery and the atrocities that took place should have always been considered a crime against humanity.

“Indeed, these strengthen the case for establishing a global reparations agenda and promoted the need for meaningful dialogue about repairing the damage done from slavery and colonization within the context of international law.

“But there is resistance to these calls,” Lashley said.

He explained that Britain, which was the largest beneficiary of African chattel slavery, was still opposed to the idea of reparations, saying that no court was competent to handle such claims and that slavery was far too removed in the past, and that it was impossible to establish defendants in the 21st century.

But this argument was flawed, Lashley reasoned, since the reparations movement has pointed out on numerous occasions that international institutions are innovative enough to establish a competent tribunal to handle the claims, he said.

Sunday’s Opening Ceremony was also addressed by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves and featured speaker Professor Verene Shepherd, chair of Jamaica’s national reparations committee.

Entertainment was provided by the Heartbeat Drummers, former calypso monarch Glenroy “Sulle” Caesar, who performed his iconic calypso “Reparations” and Anthony Theobalds who rendered two poems. But by far, the most anticipated act of the evening came from Bunny Wailer and his band. Wailer performed several of reggae classics of his own and others from The Wailers, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley.

The three-day conference is expected to end with a closed session today at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown. (DD) (see more photos at: https://www.facebook.com/Searchlight1)

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