Parliament late Monday night approved of a motion on reparation, but opposition lawmakers abstained from the vote.
The private members motion, titled “State of Reparations Effort in St Vincent Grenadines” was tabled by government senator, Jomo Thomas, who is also chair of the National Reparations Committee.
During the two days of debate, among other things, opposition lawmakers argued for the removal of a paragraph that says that the motion puts “on record its high regard and commendation” to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves “for his commitment to, and determination, in initiating the reparations conversation at the highest level of regional governmental authority and for pushing forward the fight against European conquest, genocide, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery, colonialism and for reparations”.
But Thomas said he had “absolutely no desire” to remove the paragraph.
I think it is proper, I think it is right to put it there,” he said ahead of the vote.
He, however, added another paragraph, putting on record the Parliament’s “high regard and commendation to the Rastafarian community in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other progressive persons who have fought long and hard to keep the issue of reparation alive and to educate the Vincentian public on this issue”.
With the passage of the motion, the House of Assembly endorsed the decision of CARICOM governments to pursue actively a claim for appropriate reparations from the European nations, including Britain, France and Holland on behalf of the people of the individual nation-states of the Caribbean Community for native genocide and enslavement of their ancestors.
It also endorsed the lodging of the reparations claim within the framework of the Ten Point Reparation Agenda adopted by CARICOM at its inter-cessionary Heads of State and Government Conference, in March 2014, in SVG.
In presenting the motion on Friday, Thomas, a lawyer who worked on a major reparation case in the United States in 2002, said the struggle for reparations can be found all across the world.
He noted that reparations was given to Japanese American citizen interned during and immediately after World War II, indigenous peoples of Canada and New Zealand, and to the Jews after the World War II.
“I wanted to give that backdrop so that people would understand that when we debate this resolution that the issue for reparations, which is has been raised in St. Vincent and certainly has been raised in the Caribbean, is not coming out of the blue,” Thomas said
“When you read through the resolution, Mr. Speaker, it is clear that there was a thriving civilisation in these countries. Thousands upon thousands of people living peaceful and dignified lives, putting their lives together, building their societies, and this civilisation in St. Vincent and across the region was rudely interrupted by European intervention and European intrusion.”
He cited Dr. Walter Rodney’s seminal work, “How Europe Undeveloped Africa”, saying that the removal of millions of persons from the continent contributed to its underdevelopment.
“A similar case can be made because hundred of thousand of people across the Americas, including here in St. Vincent and the Caribbean were captured, were killed, were murdered, some were enslaved, they were banished. So the history shows that the European intervention amounted to a disruption and a destruction of the lives of our indigenous people, and that needs to be put firmly on the table as we talk about reparations,” Thomas said.
“We have to think about where we would have been had we not had the kinds of incursions from the British colonial authorities. We have to think what kind of culture our people would developed had that not been interrupted.”
He said that reparationists have concluded that “the biggest effort that we can make for reparations is for us to reclaim our minds.
“… Because, a lot of time, in the reparations argument, in the reparations discussions in the Caribbean and the rest of the non-White world, Mr. Speaker, is that our views, our ideas, our system of thought is clogged with Eurocentric concepts and understandings of the world. And it is not surprising that that is the case,” Thomas said, adding that after Independence, neo-colonialism took root among some segment of the region.