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Engagement not Protest – the approach on Reparations, says PM Stuart

Engagement not Protest – the approach on Reparations, says PM Stuart

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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will not “pursue the issue of reparations on the basis of a diplomacy of protest” but “on the basis of a diplomacy of engagement,” assures Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.

Prime Minister Stuart, who Chairs the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee (PMSC) on Reparations,{{more}} addressed the issue at the closing press conference for the just-ended 26th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) held in The Bahamas.

“So far as the issue of reparations is concerned, we discussed (it) at length. It is an issue to which the entire region is irrevocably committed and there is going to be no retreat on the issue of reparations” the Prime Minister said.

“But the point has to be made that we do not pursue the issue of reparations on the basis of a diplomacy of protest. We are pursuing the issue of reparations on the basis of a diplomacy of engagement. And that is very important because all of us have today civilized diplomatic relations with former slave trading nations and we’re not about to undermine, depreciate or destroy those relations. At the same time we cannot turn our backs on our history and the legacy which has been bequeathed to us as a result of slavery and native genocide,” he added.

“We contemplate therefore as a first measure, having a discussion with designated countries – former slave trading countries to see what areas of agreement exist and whether there can be an amicable and civilized resolution to our differences,” Prime Minister Stuart said.

The issue of Reparations has been high on the agenda for the CARICOM Heads of Government. Last year the Heads accepted the Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme (CRJP)  as a basis for discussions on reparations. The CRJP is part of a strategic and operational plan prepared by the Regional Reparations Commission consisting of ten points that need to be addressed. 

Responding to a media request for an update, Prime minister Stuart said:

“I do not want the regional media to walk away with the impression that this is the kind of situation where we are pursuing a case for monetary compensation which is easily quantifiable and which would satisfy the requirements of a modern municipal court of law.

“There is a legacy with which we are dealing, and what we are trying to sensitise former slave trading nations to, is the existence of that legacy and the connection between that legacy and their actions in the 17th and 18th and part of the 19th century as well.

“Having done that we look at our areas of continuing deficit – social deficit, economic deficit and sometimes political deficit … and try to see what developmental initiatives we can initiate as a result of our discussions to redress some of these hideous imbalances.

“So that is the course we are intending to pursue,” Prime Minister Stuart said.

He said the Regional effort will be linked to related international developments.

“Fortuitously, the United Nations has just designated the current decade as the International Decade for People of African Descent, and the victims of slavery and native genocide have been predominantly people of African descent. Therefore we have to take full advantage of this decade to ensure that the agenda of the decade reflects some of our more fundamental concerns.

“So we have to take the long view on this issue, recognize that the legacy we are fighting did not take shape overnight and therefore it is not going to be dismantled overnight but we have to start somewhere and we are starting with the pursuit of reparatory justice,” Prime Minister Stuart said.

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