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Wanted: Another reparations committee


I have a strange feeling that the reparations consciousness that we are experiencing is going to get broader, rather than deeper in the coming months. More than that, a certain conviction wants to trouble my calm that another reparations committee will be formed not too long from now, and not from the top, down. You see, a concern stares me in the face as I look ahead; it is this: After we mobilise our worldwide popular support, and assemble the solid facts of our case, and deliver our legal argument persuasively and we win our claims for reparations, how are we to repair the damage of the 300 to 500 years of our physical, mental, materialist and spiritual regional and international catastrophe?{{more}} Does it not seem to you that we need a further reparations committee? The present committees and commission that “we” have set up, will take us to the goal of compensation for Europe’s atrocities and our catastrophe. Is that the end of reparations? Absolutely not. That is why, in addition to this consciousness raising and compensation committee and commission, we need a “diagnostic and reconstruction” committee and commission and institution. Caribbean reconstruction is no simple matter that we can leave for a political party to write up in an election manifesto. That would be a great betrayal of our ancestors – Taino, Arawak, Kalinago, Garifuna, African…Really, do you think they are siding up with either Dr Gonsalves, or Mr Eustace, to see that the justice, due to them, is delivered to their descendants, their homeland and their dreams? Yes, broad reparations consciousness must now go deeper, and confront us with our personal responsibility for the future reconstruction of our region and its relations with the world. Reconstruction is a long- term programme that we must design and implement over a period of a generation or more. We need a commission to help us with that now. After their devastation from their World War, Europe got an International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

We need more than a bank.


The Caribbean had no plantation economy in each country, and no peripheral economy in an unequal bond with Britain, or the USA in the centuries before Columbus came. It was Europe’s invasions, massacres and transatlantic slavery that shaped our present economy, society and mentality. To put it theologically, God did not make the region the way it is now, and God does not expect us to keep it so. With Reparations, we must Reshape and Repair and Reconstruct our Caribbean Region. Reshaping must give new impetus to agriculture; reshaping must bring innovation to our business sector; reshaping must decolonize and renew our religions and faith; reparations and reshaping must expand our creativity and bring harmony and respect into our relationships. Reshaping our Caribbean will show the world what Derek Walcott suggested: a creative site of civilisation renewed. Just as we have had Drs Beckles and Shepherd to ignite our imaginations and dispose us to assent to the reparations compensation cause. We equally need leaders, intellectuals from the universities and places of learning, as well as from the communities of working people, youth and women to refocus us on reshaping our history. We must identify the points in our economy and culture where reconstruction can take off and galvanise our people’s development and make them become sectors and sites of regional integration and development and growth.

In 1966 -1967, a neglected study of regional integration by UWI economists H. Brewster and C Y Thomas proposed that regional integration could bring about both economic change and social change. They wrote as follows: “This (regional) expansion of the productive base and the services which go with it…can create a new dimension in the quality of West Indian life. One painful inheritance of slavery is the claustrophobia of size and our response to it; size… in the sense of the degrees of psychological freedom…”

Our reconstruction away from native genocide and colonial slavery must include a regional integration programme. Instead of 15 Caricom units, can we have three, or four? What can be the factors that pull countries together in a feasible and sustainable way? As I have noted at least twice, reparations cannot leave us with the status quo that genocide, colonial slavery and colonised emancipation has put us in. We must out. We must repair our situation.

I do remember in that decade starting from the mid to late 1960’s, there was growth and development in many areas of civil life in our region. The Christian Church, mainly the earlier established missions, formed an ecumenical body which troubled the waters for a decade or more. It held an “Ecumenical Consultation on Development” in 1971, which was a consciousness raising and challenging event. I wonder if that ecumenical organisation can be resurrected and give some leadership towards finding its voice and moving us towards this other reparations committee. If not, we will find a way. We must.