KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, April 16, IWN – Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves should focus on improving the Vincentian economy and creating jobs rather than reparations from Britain.
Speaking on his weekly radio programme on Monday, Eustace noted that some workers at the Irrigation Authority had complained about not being paid since October, even as Minister of Agriculture, Saboto Caesar, said EC$100,000 had been approved for the Authority.
“Just think about not getting your salary for six months and going to work,” Eustace said, adding that some staff at Winfarm were also yet to be paid.
“There are a lot of things going on here, … where people are not able to earn a living, even when they are employed — or supposed to be employed.
“That is the state of this nation. So, don’t tell me about no reparations for slavery and so on. Nothing (is) wrong with talking about that, but that is not a priority for us now,” Eustace said.
“The priority is to lift our economy and put people back to work,” he further stated.
Last month, Gonsalves called for the formation of a Caribbean-wide group to seek reparations from Britain, which colonised the English-speaking Caribbean.
He said a local committee will be named to seek reparation for slavery, for lands “stolen”, genocide and forced deportation of the Garifuna — the original inhabitants of this country, and the enslavement of Africans here.
Eustace said that he understands the reparations issue.
“And, theoretically, I have no problem with that. But, … being practical now, … the priority is looking after people now.”
He said reparations “may be years or even generations down the road.
“… we talk about repartition for lands stolen and so on. I understand all of that; I don’t have [any] problem with the principles surrounding that. But whether you’re going to get anything anywhere in the near future, in the medium term and in the long term, is another issue.
“And therefore, you want to divert people’s attention to that? Prime Minister, deal with the people who are suffering now. And that’s your government’s job.
“Don’t tell me anything about reparations, because that ain’t coming now to give people any money,” Eustace said.
He said he does not want people to say he is opposed to reparations.
“I am not opposed to it. I don’t believe practically anything is going to happen for that, for a long time. And, therefore, I am not giving that any priority.”
Last week, in a four-page spread in a local newspaper, Gonsalves said the case for reparations from the British for lands “stolen”, for genocide and forced deportation of the Garifuna people, and for enslavement of African in St. Vincent and the Grenadines “is answerably strong”.
But Eustace said those pages should have been used to deal with “the problems the people face on the ground.
“All that is talk. No money is coming from that now to help anything in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. You can talk about it, yes. You have good arguments but where the money coming from? Who bringing it, and when? We don’t know.
“I think that is a red herring to try to draw people’s attention away from the dire problems we face today here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That is how I see that,” Eustace said.
“Don’t expect me to come up with any supporting statement of reparations,” Eustace said.
“That is down the road. Let us lift our people up. Let us lift our economy up, then we can talk about that.”