Less than six weeks ago I published in this paper an article entitled “How Saint Lucia’s Rich Got so Rich!” The feature was inspired by research meticulously undertaken by the singular Pat Brown, an engineer and one-time regular political contributor to the STAR.
What Pat had done is laudable: he had tracked down the original owners of this island’s more notorious slave plantations (some 27 of them), whose richer than rich sons were, according to Pat, all surreptitious supporters of the United Workers Party and dedicated to fomenting dissention within the ranks of the Saint Lucia Labour Party.
By all the engineer-researcher and prolific columnist wrote, the UWP was secretly controlled by local bourgeoisies convinced they alone had the right to rule their former slaves.
Pat’s article entitled “The Perceived Right to Rule,” had first appeared in the STAR in 2003, with Kenny Anthony at the helm of the Saint Lucia Labour Party and fending off all challenges to his lofty position.
What a coincidence this week to learn via a press release from the Guyana-based Caribbean Community Secretariat that at their most recent gathering the Caricom HOGs had agreed on “follow-up action on the matter of reparations for native genocide and slavery.” Doubtless, music to the ears of persistent reparation freaks throughout the region.
Noted the communiqué: “The meeting agreed to the establishment of a National Reparations committee in each member state, with the chair of the committee sitting on a Caricom Reparations Commission. The Heads of Government of Barbados (chair), St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago will provide oversight.”
Additionally: “The decisions were taken followed by presentations of member states, led by St Vincent and the Grenadines and their unanimous support of the road map.”
I, for one, am unsure what the quoted paragraphs seek to convey. Caricom communiqués have nearly always been notoriously vague. Nevertheless, Kamla Persad-Bissessars, Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister, at an end-of-meeting at the Hilton, reportedly described “progress on the subject as a very positive outcome.”
Earlier, Baldwin Spencer had acknowledged having “conceptualized the call for reparations as an integral element of the Community’s development strategy.” Noting the legacy of slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean had severely impaired the region’s development,” the prime minister of Antigua said:
“We know that our constant search and struggle for development resources is linked directly to the historical inability of our nations to accumulate wealth from the efforts of our peoples during slavery and colonialism. These nations that have been the major producers of wealth for the European slave-owning economies during the enslavement and colonial periods entered independence with dependency straddling their economic, cultural, social and even political lives.”
He said reparations had to be directed toward repairing the damage inflicted by slavery and racism. “As political leaders,” he went on, “we must encourage our various reparation agencies to continue the education of our Caribbean people and our Diaspora and enhance their awareness of the reparations issue.”
Morever: “It is important that there is a solid people and multi-party support for our efforts and we must impress on our colleagues in both government and opposition that this is not an issue we should use as party-politics fodder. Our various reparation organizations must see the forging of bi-partisan political support and civil society consensus for reparations as one of their main objectives.”
Several questions remain unanswered, by the earlier cited press release, among them: where are the mentioned “reparation organizations” headquartered? Who pays for their operations? What is the annual cost? Have the Caricom HOGs checked for horned toads at the helms of their war canoes?
To read Pat Brown’s article, it would seem the reparation advocates would do well to direct their claims on the locally based sons and daughters of our former slave plantation operators. If they are especially meticulous, they might even discover one or two in their respective Houses! Charity, after all, supposedly begins at home!