BACKPAY LETTER TO EUROPE

A formal letter of complaint Caribbean trade group governments plan to send to European nations demanding reparations payments for the Trans Atlantic slave trade is ready for signing by leaders and is to be dispatched in the coming weeks.

The regional reparations committee said this week that the letter of complaint which has been worked on by the group for most of the past two years will demand that nations such as Britain, France, The Netherlands and Spain among others “agree to meet Caribbean leaders at a development conference” no later than November to discuss the effects of the slave trade and how the region will be compensated.

Officials say that Caribbean leaders who met at their annual summit in Barbados earlier this month were bogged down by the simmering border row between Guyana and Venezuela and the current moves by the Dominican Republic to expel its own citizens who have the blood of Black Haitians in their veins from the country despite the fact that they were born there. This is in keeping with a 2013 constitutional court ruling.

The other journalistically sexy issue that was not extensively discussed as expected had to do with the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use in small amounts and how the region should deal with the booming medical marijuana sector. The final communiqué confirmed such.

As an alternative, the reparations committee now says that the letter will be circulated individually to heads of states and governments for signing before being dispatched to Europe for perusal.

It is expected to stir bitter debate and even bad blood between Europe and the Caribbean as there is a strong lobby against payments of any kind.

Many in Europe argue that the hundreds of millions in European development aid, those offered as grants in particular, are a form of reparations for the horrors of the slave trade.

The regional body counters by contending that the ordinary man on any Caribbean street should benefit from reparations as the European were audacious enough to compensate slave owners after abolition while never offering a cent to those they brutalize on sugar and other plantations. The time for that is now they say.

Leigh Day, the British law firm retained by governments to advocate the case had prepared the draft complaint letter but this has been updated by the regional committee and will be used as the document that is headed to Europe the body said. The firm has already made the UK pay for atrocities committed against a tribe in Kenya.

The committee has already been afforded the opportunity of presenting a part of its case to the British parliament in the past year through its head, Sir Hilary Beckles who was recently installed as the vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies. The presentation to both houses of the British parliament was well received and widely reported but it remains unclear whether the European leaders will bow to demands to meet in the Fall.

Initial research shows that about 10 million Africans perished on the route to the region and countless others died as a result of the sheer brutality of the trade.

Beckles has already reported that research has shown that the prevalence of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes in the Caribbean can be traced back straight to slave plantations because of poor diet, stress and other factors. For this Europe must pay.

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