Guyana receives Reparations Baton, torch

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– massive May month activities planned

In keeping with the Caribbean Reparation Commission’s (CRC) International Reparations Relay (IRR), the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday received the Reparation’s Baton from its Barbadian counterpart.

Professor Pedro Welch, Chairman of the Barbados Reparations Task Force, with the Reparations Relay Baton before it was handed over to Guyana
Professor Pedro Welch, Chairman of the Barbados Reparations Task Force, with the Reparations Relay Baton before it was handed over to Guyana

The baton and torch will be presented to the national reparations commissions across the region at youth rallies organised under the banner ‘Roots, Rock, Reggae, Reparations’ which will celebrate the principles and programmes of the Caribbean and global reparatory justice movements.
From Guyana, the baton will be taken to other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries during the course of the year.

Magnificently carved from fine Barbados mahogany wood, the baton is a symbol of justice, that has engraved on it, a map of Africa, the words “Reparations Now,” representing the 15 CARICOM countries.  The relay will culminate in Jamaica later this year where the Emancipation Rebellion, led by Sam Sharpe, will be remembered and celebrated.
According to a report in the Guyana Times, Chairman of the Guyana Reparation Commission, Dr Eric Phillips said there are about a dozen different activities planned for May that will be centred around the torch. He spoke of a massive youth rally, which will see the baton being taken to several villages throughout Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo.
“We are now looking at a three-week programme beginning around May 13 and ending around the 28, mainly weekend driven. The programme is contextualised in the International Decade of People of African Descent in recognition of justice and development and we are looking to have global interest during the Guyana’s programme”. He said further details on the plans by the Reparation Commission here, which is also working in concert with the Caribbean Reparation Commission, will be made available as the time draws closer.
Guyana, like the other Caribbean countries, remains steadfast in its calls for Britain to make its due payment to the descendants of those who suffered in the massive slave trade which spread between the 16th and 19th centuries.
Earlier this month, the Caribbean Diaspora was called upon to support CARICOM’s calls for the UK to pay reparations as compensation for its involvement in slavery and the slave trade.
So far, there has been no definitive outcome of the reparation issue to date, as regional leaders are still awaiting answers from Britain authorities concerning reparation for slavery. The Region recently pushed their campaign further, when, on behalf of the 15-member countries of CARICOM, Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who is also the Chairman of CARICOM Reparation Commission formed in 2013, wrote and sent a formal letter of complaint to the British Foreign Office seeking reparation. Stuart called on London to formally acknowledge the Region’s demands for payment for the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The CARICOM Reparations Commission, which was launched in July 2013, had set a number of demands to the former European slave trading nations.
These include that those countries providing diplomatic help to persuade countries such as Ghana and Ethiopia, to offer citizenship to the children of people from the Caribbean who “return” to Africa; devising a developmental strategy to help improve the lives of poor communities in the Caribbean still devastated by the after-effects of slavery; supporting cultural exchanges between the Caribbean and West Africa to help Caribbean people of African descent rebuild their sense of history and identity; supporting literacy drives designed to improve educational levels that are still dire in many Caribbean communities; and providing medical assistance to the Region, which is struggling with high levels of chronic diseases such as hypertension and Type Two Diabetes that the CARICOM Reparations Commission links to the fallout from slavery.
CARICOM Reparations Committee Chairman, Sir Hilary Beckles had said that the plan was also to set out areas of dialogue with former slave-trading nations including the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
The claims are being channelled through the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and processed with the help of the London law firm Leigh Day.
The economies of CARICOM Member States reportedly total close to US$78 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which would place the Region at 65th in the world if it were a single country.
Reports are that the Region cannot claim much in the way of the economic blow. However, after having suffered over 400 years of slavery and colonialism at the hands of European powers, its demands for reparations possess enormous moral authority.
The Transatlantic Slave Trade brought over 10 million captured Africans to work as chattel slaves in sugar and cotton plantations throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. It was the largest forced migration in human history.
Today, CARICOM nations have a population of 16 million, and the Diaspora in the United States, Canada and Europe totals about five million people.

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