British minister says Caribbean needs to forget about reparations

By Benjamin Flowers
Staff Reporter

While Belize is preparing to rejoin the fight for reparations for the legacy of slavery, the government of the United Kingdom is encouraging the entire Caribbean to abandon the reparations movement.

In his trip to Jamaica last week, UK Minister of State with responsibility for the Caribbean, Commonwealth and the United Nations, Tariq Ahmad said the UK and the Caribbean need to look at future endeavours and not dwell on events of the past.

He noted that the regional push for reparations is stifling present opportunities and cooperation between his country and the region.

“…I think it’s not important looking back in history. It’s about looking forward and that’s where my focus is on this visit,” Ahmad told the Jamaica Gleaner.

His sentiment mirrors the position of former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, who said before demitting office that the UK was not going to support any move to pay out reparations to countries affected by slavery and its legacy.

Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, told the United Nations in September that Belize is preparing to rejoin the movement, after being silent on the issue for many years.

Speaking at the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Elrington said: “Through the Caribbean Community, we are also leading the charge for reparation of the victims of slavery and their descendants.”

Elrington’s speech is the first official word of any reparations efforts coming out of Belize at the government level, since the death of the former reparations focal point, Ambassador Adalbert Tucker in 2014.

At the NGO level, the Belize Commission Initiative for Justice and Reparations (BCIJR) had been doing reparations advocacy in Belize, notably in 2015 when it started educating the public on the issue of reparative justice. However, the BCIJR has not held an activity or issued a release since then.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) decided in 2013 to actively seek reparations from the former slave-owning European nations. Under the movement, the Caribbean is advocating that the United Kingdom, among other nations, pay over $100 billion for exploiting the region, its resources and people for their own enrichment, while creating a cycle of mental and economic poverty that plagues their former colonies to this day.

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