By Benjamin Flowers
United Kingdom Prime Minister, David Cameron, is asking the Caribbean to look past the call for Reparations for slavery and focus on future cooperations with his country.
However organizations within the region are not deviating from their stated goals.
Cameron, on a visit to the Caribbean last week, announced to the Jamaican Parliament that his country would quadruple regional financial aid, underscoring that the commitments for specified purposes will be in cash, giving governments the autonomy to decide their own projects.
He, however, did not agree to reparations and says that he hopes that this dark section of history can be forgotten.
“I acknowledge that these wounds run very deep indeed. But I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future”, Cameron said.
Cameron announced an aid package that will include £300 million (US $454.8 million) for a new UK-Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund to build new ports, roads and bridges to boost trade and growth; £30 million (US $45.4 million) to make health facilities more resistant to natural disaster; and £30 million (US$45.4 million) for new programes to support economic growth.
He said that the aid package would make the United Kingdom the largest donor country in the region and would solidify his commitment to the region.
He also announced that he would be committing some £25 million for a new prison facility in Jamaica.
The Caribbean Pan-African Network (CPAN), infuriated by Cameron’s disregard for the Reparations movement, responded this week with a release saying that the cry for reparations would not stop.
David Comissiong, CPAN chairman, pointed out in his comments that Cameron’s family, who owned slaves, was not only enriched by the slave trade, but was compensated millions for the eventual release of those slaves.
“Mr. Cameron is the descendant of a criminal who, in the early 19th century, participated in the enslavement and criminal exploitation of the black people of the Caribbean, and who…went on to pocket the present day equivalent of £4.5 million in so-called compensation for the loss of what he considered to be his human property”, Comissiong said.
Acclaimed actor, Danny Glover, weighed in on Cameron’s comments, harmonizing with CPAN’s outrage.
“To make such an outrageous statement is an insult . . . and it just shows his ignorance”, Glover told the Jamaica Gleaner.
The Belize Commission: Initiative for Justice and Reparations (BCIJR) also supported CPAN’s response, emphasizing that the Commission has itself been advocating similarly in-country.
Cesar Ross, vice chairman for the BCIJR, emphasized that Cameron’s comments showed a total disregard for the persons who have been economically and socially wounded due to the abhorrent practice, which brought wealth and privilege to his family.
“His comments about (reparations) not occurring offends the reparations movement that he would think that (slavery) is a way of the past”, Ross said. “There are people today that are still under the legacy of slavery.”
Ross also mentioned that the BCIRJR is holding their “Second Popular Convention” on October 10. The convention, to be held under the theme “Belizeans for Justice and Reparations” will be at the Belmopan Civic Center, with busses coming in from all districts for the event.