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Saturday, March 16, 2013


KINGSTOWN, St Vincent, Friday March 15, 2013 – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is calling on Caribbean countries to establish a regional reparations committee, pledging to spend the rest of his life seeking compensation from the British for land, genocide against the Garifuna, and slavery.

Prime Minister Gonsalves said Cabinet will soon name its reparations committee

“But we want to see not only a reparations committee for St. Vincent but we want to see a Caribbean wide reparations committee involving other Caribbean countries. Jamaica has one, Antigua has one, Barbados has recently set up one,” Gonsalves said as the island observed National Heroes Day on Thursday.

Gonsalves, who turns 67 in August, noted that the average lifespan of a Vincentian male is 74 years.

“I have seven more years, to talk like this, with the help of Almighty God, and to demand a proper historical recompense for genocide, for the land, and for African slavery and for us to reclaim our history,” he said at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony in honour of National Hero Joseph Chatoyer.

Gonsalves reaffirmed the position of his government as stated at the United Nations and other fora that it is making a case and a claim for reparation from the British.

“I want to say that the quantification of what we are owed as reparations that quantification has to be complete with the appropriate technical work.”

He noted that in the 18th Century the British took 90,000 acres of land from the Garifuna, the original inhabitants of St. Vincent.

“Imagine the price of 90,000 acres of land (today). Even if you valued it then for 100 pounds an acre, you are talking about EC$500 million (One EC Dollar = US$0.37 cents) for the land, [at] the least. And then, what value you are going to put on people’s lives? That’s a number we will have to talk about,” he said.

He noted that at Emancipation the British gave slave owners in the British Caribbean 20 million pounds One British Pound =US$1.38 cents).

Prime Minister Gonsalves said a recent study by a British scholar concluded that 20 million pounds then is about 16.58 billion pounds now.

“Just forgetting for a moment the institution of slavery itself, that’s what they paid the owners of the slaves. If you take half of that representing for the Caribbean, you are talking about 8.25 billion pounds for the English speaking Caribbean,” Gonsalves said, adding that the figure is about EC$40 billion.

“Great homes in England -- lord this and lord that -- were financed by the compensation money for the slaves. So when I talk like this you, you have some people saying Ralph (is)] against the British.

“I have nothing against the British. I have nothing but admiration for the British and their achievement but there are some things for which we must take account.”

He said that some people argue that the British gives aid to St. Vincent.

“Well, I rather they give me that (reparation) than give me some aid.  I rather we settle that. This is a matter which can’t be settled in law court. But this is a matter where, politically, we have to raise our voices,” Gonsalves said.

He said he expects “those who have suffered from French and Spanish colonialism to make those same claims against the relevant or appropriate European powers”.

Last month, Principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles, called on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to begin efforts aimed at seeking some form of reparation from Western countries for slavery.

Speaking at the first of a series of lectures to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the 1763 Berbice Slave Revolt, Sir Hilary said an ongoing discussion was needed to address the issue and called for an “informed and sensible conversation” on what has been described as the, “Worst Crime against humanity”.

Sir Hilary said out that reparation is not about people getting handouts, but about repairing historical damage and how to find a way forward.

He said that while all races experienced some form of slavery, African slavery was unique in its scope and brutality. Comparative studies note that it was the only system of slavery in which people were viewed legally as property and seen as non- humans. (CMC)


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