The quest for reparations from Europe is too important to allow it to be dragged into “the quagmire of village politics”.
And, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves further says that some isolation may be needed on this particular subject.
Gonsalves made the point during the open forum of Professor Sir Hilary Beckles’ lecture on reparations last week in Kingstown.
“… I think a very compelling case was made this evening by my friend Hilary on the question of reparations. And I think if this kind of presentation is repeated all throughout the Caribbean and through the highways and byways there’d be very little scope and room for those who have some reservations,” Gonsalves said.
“I believe that what we have to do in going forward is that we must try our best in these small countries to forget the small island or village politics and address this huge issue of transcendental importance.
“Let us understand this: the struggle for reparations is not going to be easy. We are already seeing that,” Gonsalves said, adding that European countries such as Britain and France who are “interested in not accommodating reparations … are going to use every single conceivable weapon of divide and rule.
“And I want to say this, they would use some who appear to have a progressive mask but who use that very mask to see if they can divide people on this very important issue. I think that we must bear that in mind because that has been the history of struggles of this kind.”
He noted that the local reparations committee has drafted a tentative programme for the regional reparations conference Sept. 15 to 17.
Gonsalves said he hopes the conference can include persons from the diaspora and also non-CARICOM nations such as the Dominican Republic and Cuba.”
He further restated that the way forward will both legal and political and diplomatic.
“This means that at the conference, they have to assemble teams of persons to do serious work,” Gonsalves said.
He added that he is hoping during his chairmanship of CARICOM, from Jan.1 to June 30, 2014 to formally engage the British, French, and Dutch governments on the issue of reparations.
“Important work is there to be done and I am appealing to everyone, with the point that I started with: let us see if we can submerge our village politics, our small island politics for this matter of extraordinary, historic significance. And anyone who seeks to drag everything into the quagmire of village politics, we ought to isolate them on this subject,” Gonsalves said.
CARICOM leaders at their summit in Trinidad and Tobago in July agreed to the formation of the Commission that will be chaired by Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and include St Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
Gonsalves had proposed the formation of the commission.
The regional countries have also engaged the services of a prominent British human rights law firm to assist in the matter.