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CARICOM Reparations Commission identifies six key areas

Minister of Culture Youth and Sport, Jamaica Hon. Lisa Hanna presents a branded polo shirt produced by the Jamaica National Commission on Reparation to Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission Professor Hilary Beckles. Sharing the moment is member of the CARICOM Reparations Commission Professor Verene Shepherd. The occasion was a courtesy call on the Minster by representatives from the CARICOM Reparations Commission and Leigh Day Law Firm. The shirt carries the message:

Public Health was one of the key issues identified by the CARICOM Reparations Commission to receive reparatory diplomacy and action, the Caricom Headquarters said in a statement on Tuesday.

This disclosure was made by Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, at a press conference on Tuesday following a meeting of the representatives from the Commission with law firm Leigh Day on Monday at the UWI Mona.  

According to Professor Beckles “the African descended population in the Caribbean today has the highest incidence in the world of chronic diseases such as hypertension and type two diabetes.” He said it was the direct result of their nutritional exposure, endemic inhumane physical and emotional brutalization and other aspects of the stress experience of slavery and post slavery apartheid.  

Education was the second of the six issues identified. The Commission Chairman stated that at the end of the colonial period the British left the African descended population in a state of general illiteracy. He noted that this illiteracy continued to plague Caribbean societies and accounted for significant parts of their development challenges.

Speaking to cultural institutions, Professor Beckles said there was no development of institutions such as museums and research centers to prepare Caribbean citizens for an understanding of their history.  

He also spoke of cultural deprivation as another issue that needed to be addressed and outlined that the primary cultural effect of slavery was to break and eradicate African commitment to their culture.

He stated further that African culture was criminalized and pointed to how Caribbean people were affected by cultural deprivation.  He said this included low ethnic self-esteem; the devaluation of black identity; broken structures and diminished family values; delegitimisation of African derived religious and cultural practices, and disconnection from ancestral roots and culture.

Psychological trauma was another area identified by the Commission that needed to be addressed. According to Professor Beckles during the time of slavery, Africans were classified in law as non-human, chattel, property and real estate.  He said they were denied recognition as members of the human family by laws and practices derived from the parliaments and policies of Europe. This history, he said, has inflicted massive psychological damage upon African descendants and is evident daily in social life.

The sixth issue which the Commission said needed to be remedied was that of scientific and technological backwardness.  It was highlighted that for 400 years the policy of Britain and Europe had been that the Caribbean should not participate in any manufacturing or industrial process, and should be confined to the production of raw materials.

This policy, according to Professor Beckles “has rendered the Caribbean a technologically and scientifically ill-equipped civilization for which it continues to experience debilitating backwardness in a science and technology globalized world.” Additionally he said that the subjection of the Caribbean to this state has denied Caribbean youth membership and access to an enhancing science and technology culture that has become the world youth patrimony.

It was also explained by the Commission Chairman that the argument that CARICOM should request reparatory dialogue with beneficiary slave-owning European states with a view to formulating a new development agenda for the Caribbean was reaffirmed.

The next meeting of the full commission will be in January 2014 and it is anticipated that its first interim report will be ready for submission to the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in February 2014.