“At his favorite seaside resort of Weymouth, the story goes, King George III once encountered an absentee owner of a Jamaican plantation whose coach and liveried outriders were even more resplendent than his own. ‘Sugar, sugar, eh?’ the King exclaimed. ‘All that sugar!'”
I found this gem in a book by Adam Hochschild, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves. What King George should have said was, “Human trafficking, eh? All that human trafficking!” And it wasn’t only individual planters who were spectacularly enriched by the unpaid labour of enslaved Africans.
Historians and economists have amassed the evidence. Britain’s industrial revolution was fuelled by the blood money of plantation slavery in the Caribbean. Bristol, Liverpool and London all flourished on human trafficking. So there’s no need for any more talk about the right to reparations! It’s time for action. It’s time to launch a boycott against Britain until the right to reparations is acknowledged and a carefully managed process of restitution is begun.
A Caribbean boycott of Britain, initiated by Jamaica, may seem like idle talk. But, with Norman Manley’s leadership, Jamaica was the second country, after India, to boycott apartheid South Africa. At the time, we were still a colony of Britain. But that didn’t stop us. The South African government complained to Britain. And their response was that Jamaica’s regulation of trade was our own business.
BENEFITTING BRITISH BUSINESSES
Unlike the PNP of Norman Manley, the present Government doesn’t seem to have the guts to stand up for our rights. Why are we agreeing to take scraps from Britain’s table when we are entitled to so much more? Take, for instance, this promised piece of a prison. According to a press release issued last Wednesday by the Ministry of National Security, a “non-binding” memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Governments of Jamaica and the UK to “improve prison conditions in Jamaica”.
But that’s not all. The prison will also be used to get rid of Jamaicans convicted of crime in the UK! The proposed prisoner transfer, which has to be approved by the Jamaican Parliament, is designed to turn us into a penal colony. According to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, “This is in the interest of both of us and is a good example of how we can work together to benefit people here in Jamaica and in Britain, too”.
Cameron definitely tek wi fi eedyat! What is Jamaica actually going to get out of this ‘gift’? A whole heap of criminals in a megaprison. That’s what. And when our home-grown criminals buck up the deported yardies and they start plotting together is going to be hell and powderhouse!
On top of that, I suspect that Jamaica is not going to make much money out of the construction of that prison. I bet you anything British architects will be hired to design the complex. And the Brits will get all of the high-paying jobs. Local construction workers might get a break doing the heavy lifting But most of the promised millions will stay in the U.K. We will become a penal colony all for nothing.
It’s a well-known ‘development’ model. Foreign experts are usually the ones who benefit the most from overseas projects. Cameron himself admitted as much. Jamaica will have access to a new £300 million fund for improving infrastructure across the Caribbean. But guess who will get the contracts? The UK Prime Minister tells it like it is: “I believe that this will benefit British businesses that have the knowledge and expertise to deliver infrastructure improvement”.
Cameron also promised that US$9 billion would be spent in the region on climate change projects: “I am determined to ensure that some of that money will be spent right here . . . .” Cameron knows that it takes a lot of political clout to actually allow development money to flow into so-called developing countries. And “some” doesn’t sound like a high percentage.
Cameron probably thinks that these ‘monkey money’ projects will stop CARICOM from vigorously proceeding with a legal claim for reparations. Addressing the Jamaican Parliament, he brazened it out, “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”.
No prospect of deporting to the colonies the direct descendants of enslavers to serve their ancestors’ sentence for crimes against humanity committed here! We would need a rather big penitentiary that the British government would most certainly not be willing to build. Not in their best interests. And no repatriation of their ill-gotten gains! Like many a modern criminal, the known descendants of former enslavers are living high on the hog, luxuriating in the proceeds of their ancestors’ crimes.
The word ‘reparation’ comes from the same Latin root as ‘repair’ – reparare. Its fundamental meaning is ‘re’ (again) and ‘parare’ (make ready, prepare). Money can never repair the damage that was done to Africans, both on the continent and in the Diaspora, as a consequence of trans-Atlantic slavery. But we certainly can’t move on without it. Even if it means boycotting our ‘friends’.