By Benjamin Flowers
The Government of Belize is not aggressively pursuing the issue of reparations for slavery from European nations, says Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Wilfred Elrington.
Elrington said that because of issues currently occupying the governments resources such as economic development and national security, reparations is not on the government’s list of priorities.
“Much needs to be done in terms of budgetary allocation and selecting a new person to spearhead the reparations committee, and the government has not done any of that,” Elrington said.
He added that Belize missing the June 30th deadline to have its reparations committee established is not likely to cause the country much harm because there is not a full consensus among many other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations on the issue.
He also said that it would be difficult to get consensus from Belize’s population because the country has not made slavery and its abolition a topic of much discussion over the years, so not many people understand the importance of reparations.
CARICOM member states decided in December 2013 that they would, as a group, seek reparations from former slave owner nations such as Britain, Holland and France.
The argument is that slavery and its legacy has retarded the development of the entire region, and the region should therefore be compensated.
The minister had appointed a person to chair Belize’s National Reparations Committee, Ambassador Adalbert Tucker; however, he passed away in late 2013.
Belize’s National Institute of Culture and History, acknowledged that Belize has not adequately presented the effects of slavery to the public, but that Belizeans should be paying attention and be prepared to discuss reparations.
Nigel Encalada, director of the Institute for Social and Cultural Research, said that Belizeans would not gain an appreciation for the discussion on reparations without understanding that slavery was a very real part of the nation’s development.
He added that when government finalizes its reparations committee, the ISCR will work with the relevant stake holders to produce and distribute information for the public education campaign.