The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]

I don’t think that I have seen a comprehensive challenge to the 10-point reparations plan that our Caribbean governments are using as the blue print to press Europe for reparations. However, I think this plan can (and will) be successfully challenged.

To start, we want Europe to apologise.  The Europeans can successfully refuse this demand on several good grounds. First, both the supposed perpetrators and the supposed victims are long dead.  Second, those alive in Europe didn’t commit the “crime”.  Third, and this is the most powerful reason, slavery was both morally and legally acceptable at the time — both to the Europeans and the Africans. Far from apologising, I think the Europeans should be proud of their great imperial past.

We also want repatriation. This most impractical aspect of this plan is quite laughable.  What guarantees do we have that those in Africa will be glad to see us returning? If those thought that life was hard in the West, they should wait until they reach Africa!  Also, it is interesting to note that many of those calling for this pipe dream actually have the means to go back, but refuse to do so.

We also want an “Indigenous People’s Development Programme”.  As the 10-point plan itself says, the scholarship programme that the University offers to members of the indigenous community is woefully inadequate. This is an admission that our own governments care very little about these peoples. The Europeans have been doing much more. For example, directly, they funded the upgrade of the water supply system in Dominica’s indigenous Carib territory.  Indirectly, they have pumped tens of millions of Euros into Dominica — for both the native and non-native populations.

We also want “Cultural Institutions”.  The first point I would like to make is that if we cannot come up with the intellectual means to create our own cultural institutions, then no amount of reparations can help us.  However, the Europeans have been helping us in this regard.  The Institute of Jamaica was started in 1879 by the then British governor.  That organisation is mainly responsible for the preservation of Jamaica’s culture.  It has oversight responsibility for the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica, the National Gallery and other cultural organizations.  What more do we want from the Europeans?

Then the European must help us solve our “public health crisis”.  Again, this can be successfully challenged from many angles.  Among others, first, no one 200 years ago would have been able to foresee the effect of the slave diet today, if there is any.  Second, we today still continue to feed ourselves with this “poison” diet.  Third, the evidence for this claim is very unsound.  Fourth, our “modern” diet of fast food has done much to contribute to the health problems we have today and fifth, this fast food diet would have done much to “dilute” the link to two hundred years ago.

As for our illiteracy problem, the advances that we have had since independence have been due in large part to the assistance given to us by Europe.  The ministry of education itself was created during British rule, in 1953.  The University of the West Indies was started by the British in 1948 as a college of the University of London and given to us as a gift.  Many of Jamaica’s popular schools were built during British rule.  It may be true that at the time of independence we had a high illiteracy rate, however, it is through the same education system that the British bequeathed to us that we have been able to reduce this problem.

We also want an “African Knowledge Programme”.  We want the Europeans to help us Africans in the West to know our history in Africa.  In fact, it is largely because of the Europeans why we know what we do about Africa’s past.  Napoleon’s discovery of the famous Rosetta stone and its translation in Europe enabled us to better understand the greatness of ancient Egypt.  Many European universities and other organizations have done much to open up Africa’s hidden past.  Of course, I wouldn’t want to discount what African universities are doing.  But to claim that Europe isn’t helping us to know our past is very disingenuous.  Also, with modern means of communication, we don’t need to be physically present in Africa to know its history.

This “Psychological Rehabilitation” demand is a strange one.  I have a feeling that the “reparatory justice approach to truth and educational exposure” that is being demanded may cause more harm than good, especially if the truth about our own involvement in the export of slaves and the millions that died in Africa at our own hands are told to us.

I am still not sure how much more technology transfers we can get.  From modern communication systems, to the Internet, to modern transportation systems and the like, all of these have been transferred to us.  Technology transfers also involve know-how, though education.  As mentioned before, we have the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology, both started by the British.  If we can’t us institutions like those to create a culture of science and technology, after over half a century of independence, then I can’t see how the Europeans will be able to do it for us.

Finally, we want debt cancellation.  For some strange reason, our high debts are high because we were slaves!  Why should the Europeans reward us after we voluntarily entered into these loan agreements with these creditors and then refuse to be prudent with these loans?  However, we have received some debt write-offs.  Guyana received some from Bulgaria in 2012.  Haiti got some from the Paris Club in 2009.  Jamaica has received four billion dollars worth of debt forgiveness from Britain between 1997 and 2004.  It is utter nonsense if we think that all of our debts will be forgotten!

When one looks at this 10-point plan, the only impression that anybody can get of us is that we are a people determined to get more hand-outs.  This 10-point plan is not an accomplishment — it’s an embarrassment.  We need to ditch it and grow up.

Michael A. Dingwall

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

12 replies on “10-point reparations plan seriously flawed”

  1. C. ben-David says:

    You make many excellent points, some of which overlap those made by ex-Marxist, policy analyst, and scholar, David Horowitz (see http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=24317), several years ago in relation to reparations to slaves in the United States.

    This dog won’t hunt for many reasons, including the fundamental foolishness of the demands. I even doubt that the International Court of Justice will take up the case. At very least they will send it back to the European nations involved, arguing that the litigants are trying to leap-frog the judicial process. It will then languish in Great Britain, France, Holland, and Spain for years costing the litigants’ countries millions in the process. At the end of the day, they will lose in every one of these European countries after which they will proceed to the ICJ where they will again be rebuffed on good legal grounds, likely without even a formal hearing.

    To your arguments, I add only one other at this time (and have made others on this site in the past) which is partly alluded to in what you have written: If the large annual grants, subsidies, monies lost because of trade preferences, etc. that the various Caribbean countries received between 1838 and the present are subtracted from the amounts claimed by them, they would end owing the Europeans billions of dollars.

    This is partly because unlike India which enriched Great Britain well past independence in 1947, several Caribbean colonies were a drain on the motherland even before the end of slavery and nearly all were net recipients of various forms of aid by the end of the 19th century. This is why Britain was so happy to get rid of them and we had none of the mass violence and conflict that characterized colonies like India.

    To this day, SVG still receives tens of millions in aid in the form of debt relief, grants, university scholarships, remittances, etc., from both Great Britain and the European Union.

    Talk about being greedy and ungrateful.

  2. I haven’t read the 10 point plan, so I can’t comment on it. However I have some disagreements with certain statements in this document. Here is one: Far from apologising, I think the Europeans should be proud of their great imperial past. Is the writer saying that Europeans should be proud of the treatment handed out to our fore-fathers? I wonder if the writer realizes that many Europeans haven’t changed and still harbour those feelings toward black people.
    I wonder if the writer knows that many billion dollar companies today were started during the slave trade. The descendants of those slave traders are still reaping the rewards from the back of the slaves they brought from Africa. This is the part of our historical past that should be brought to light, to show why we are still owed some of the profits from these billion dollar companies.
    The only problem I see is where to invest our share and who will administer those funds. I don’t trust politicians, lawyers and preachers because they are no friends of the poor. That’s why I don’t want them hanging around, because before you know it, all the funds will disappear. It looks like another 10 points plan is needed to show how and where those funds should be invested.
    Ironically, I was thinking about the reparation issue while walking a few nights back. It appears to me that we need to examine how people with lands are presently being treated in SVG. Many slaves left lands for their descendants and today the government allows squatters to move on the lands, occupy these lands, and then steal the lands from those descendants after a few years.
    Here we are regurgitating an issue that is over 500 years old, but fail to address an injustice that’s presently plaguing the SVG society. The government and lawyers are the biggest crooks dealing with this issue. They take advantage of families in the Diaspora, by making laws to give ownership to squatters. Meanwhile no one can occupy government lands and get away with it. Then people in the Diaspora pay lawyers to address their claim, which takes more than 5 years with no result. So they hire other lawyers and they do the same thing.
    So don’t talk about reparation until you address the terrible, ridiculous and dishonest treatment of the descendants of the same slaves you are now seeking reparation for.

  3. Miscall Dingbat, with friends like Anatoldya and you, we are certainly in good hands don’t you think? Don’t forget to close the door when you leave; Moron!

    1. Caribbean Man says:

      @ PKnight. Your comment is highly distasteful and portrays you in a very poor light. Mr. Dingwall raised a number of points in relation to reparation which you are free to disagree with and rebuff using this forum, but rather than dealing with the substantive issues he has raised you chose to attack the messenger describing him as moron. Just to let you know that not everyone (including myself) who reads IWNSVG are Vincentian nationals who are politically aligned to the NDP or ULP and who see everything through political lenses. Remember that this is the world wide web; not the SVG web. It’s a shame and disappointment that you can’t seem to engage in meaningful debate on regional and current affairs without being petty and puerile. Do the honourable thing and come with something better than that, you owe it to yourself and the readers of this website.

  4. Peter Binose says:

    PKnight, you really are the best weapon that the NDP have against the ULP.

    Everytime you come forward with your silly crap you show what idiots the ULP, its rulers and supporters really are.

    To pay you to make such silly comments about something so brilliantly composed and truthfull, really shows what a spineless bunch of twerps both you and they are.

    You are the mother of all morons.

  5. Caribbean Man says:

    It’s disappointing that an article that discusses a current regional issue such as reparation has elicited partisan cussing, rather than a discussion / critique of the substantive issues which the writer raised. Resorting to derogatory name calling instead of constructive analysis undermines meaningful public debate on topical issues. Furthermore, NOT everyone who reads or comment on the articles on this website are Vincentian nationals who are politically aligned as see everything through a ULP or NDP lens, even when the article under consideration is not a local issue, as is the case with this article. This is the world wide web; not SVG web so persons need to be careful not to assume that everyone on this website have a political axe to grind.

    Hopefully we can have some interesting thoughts shared on the above article and less cussing. I for one find the above article very insightful. CARICOM needs to make a stronger moral claim for reparation, and how we have gone about governing ourselves since independence have served to weaken our claim rather than strengthen it. As it now stands, we appear more as if we are begging and blaming Europe as opposed to having a solid case. In other words, even if we had first world status, we should still be able to make just as strong a claim for reparation as can possibly be. Simply put reparation must be fundamentally tied to unchanging moral principles and not so much our current socio-economic condition.

  6. Caribbean Man says:

    It’s disappointing that an article that discusses a current regional issue such as reparation has elicited partisan cussing, rather than a discussion / critique of the substantive issues which the writer raised. Resorting to derogatory name calling instead of constructive analysis undermines meaningful public debate on topical issues. Furthermore, NOT everyone who reads or comment on the articles on this website are Vincentian nationals who are politically aligned as see everything through a NDPor ULP lens, even when the article under consideration is not a local issue, as is the case with this article. This is the world wide web; not SVG web so persons need to be careful not to assume that everyone on this website have a political axe to grind. Hopefully we can have some interesting thoughts shared on the above article and less cussing.

    I for one find the above article very insightful. CARICOM needs to make a stronger moral claim for reparation, and how we have gone about governing ourselves since independence have served to weaken our claim rather than strengthen it. As it now stands, we appear more as if we are begging and blaming Europe as opposed to having a solid case. In other words, even if we had first world status, we should still be able to make just as strong a claim for reparation as can possibly be. Simply put reparation must be fundamentally tied to unchanging moral principles and not so much our current socio-economic condition.

  7. I am quite sure the NDP could use a better weapon than you, now that they came face to face with their demise… It was your entire fault Binose, all your fault… back to the drawing board!
    More so Peter Binose, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit, if you turned out to be Michael Dingwall, not one bit. I would have expected to hear from Dingbat, but alas, Peter shows up, as always; shall I borrow for a few seconds your favorite words… ‘It’s so funny as I was reading this piece I decided after a few paragraphs that it was written by “Peter Binose”, then by the time I got to the end I was fully aware that I was a (sic) 100% correct’. Lol!
    I am amazed at your abject sense of honor and duty to all these losers (the NDP crazies) and your doggedly insistence to retard, to spoil, and to deem worthless everything progressive emanating from the ULP, involving the ULP, and benefitting the ULP and the people of SVG…
    Please exit, and don’t forget to shut the door behind you.

  8. @ Caribbean Man! Do not dictate to me, ever. Do not tell me how I should, and should not comment. I am that I am! Leave that up to Mr. Chance to post or not to post. Get your own… or just ignore my comment, and carry on with your business (you do have some business to attend to don’t you?).
    Your kind I’m very familiar with…and I do tolerate, even with good works…so don’t try that, ever!
    You stated that my comment is ‘highly distasteful and portrays you (me) in a very poor light”… to who, you? But you fail to state what you perceive to be “highly distasteful”…I guess you know me based on your assumptions…wrong again. “Who the cap fit, let them wear it”…your guidance is just not appreciated here…No thanks; Bunch ‘ah idiots, forever trying to sway the ignorant (uninformed) folks, with flowery word and political nonsense.
    Your Tom foolery and disguise cannot sway me, and as consequence, you and I will never ever agree on anything; “philosophical speaking”, you and all your accomplices lack sincerity. You too can close the door behind you when you exit… Moron!

    1. Caribbean Man says:

      @PKnight. Your deliberate distortion of the writer’s name and use of the term moron to describe both him and later myself without showing what in the article led you that conclusion is what I find to be highly distasteful. Even if you disagree, there is still no need to resort to that kind of name calling, plain and simple. Now, would you care to share your position on reparation and where you think the writer’s argument is faulty and show where I am using “Tom foolery and disguise” and ‘lack sincerity” as you asserted.

      I am not against reparation in priniciple, but I’m not convinced that CARICOM is making the strongest possible case for reparation. I believe that slavery was crime against humanity, which creates the moral and fundamental basis for reparation.

      I’d would like to inject a few points for consideration with regards to reparation. Both Europeans and Africans were involved in the slave trade, the Africans being the suppliers and the European the buyers. Why then are we only seeking reparation from the Europeans? Isn’t both the sellers and the buyers guilty of this crime against humanity. The fact that Europe benefited enormously from the slave trade, while Africa suffered in the long run does not negate the role that Africa played in enabling the trade. Are we being morally objective in our quest for reparation OR is it because Europe is much more financially better off today than Africa, why we are only demanding reparation from Europe?

      I’m fully aware that the rise of Capitalism and the industrial revolution in Western Europe and the USA was fuelled by the gains made from slavery as proven by the scholarship of the late Eric Williams, among others. However, the economic benefits that Europe derived from slavery is not the fundamental basis for reparation, but the fact that the slave trade itself and plantation slavery as was practiced in the New World constituted a crime against humanity. We have to be careful not to conflate an economic argument with a moral argument. It’s not that the economic argument is invalid, but the different economic outcome of slavery for the European buyers and the African sellers should not not be the primary reason for why Europe is guitly for its role in slavery. In other words, even if the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution in Europe was not built on the back of slavery and Europe was dirt poor and pauperised, Europe would be no less culpable today for its role in slavery.

      The economic argument that I believe holds the key for CARICOM is the fact that the slave owners were compensated by England for the lost of their ‘property’ when slavery ended. There are fairly reliable estimates as to number of slaves that existed in the the different territories at the time of emancipation. The amount of money that the planters received for each slave can be adjusted for inflation to determine what a possible figure for reparation could be. The fact that we have received large sums of financial aid from Europe should not be regarded as compensation for slavery, as those monies were not expressly given by Europe as a direct acknowledgement of its role in slavery with the specific intent of compensating the offspring of the victims of slavery for the spin-off effects that they may be suffering

      Furthermore, although some of our own political leaders are guilty of exploiting us, that still does not abdicate Europe from its moral responsibility to redress the issue of slavery. To use this argument against reparation is tantamount to saying that if a child is being abused by his / her parents at home, the parents have no justification to seek redress if some one out on the street abuses the child.

      While it can be argued that slavery has contributed to some of our present economic and social conditions, it’s fatal to fall into the mind set that we have to get reparation from Europe in order to ‘catch up’ in the development race. In other words, we must not appear as mendicants and beggars who want reparation because we are poor countries, but CARICOM should present a clear moral basis for reparation that would be equally valid even if CARICOM was rich and not is need of external financial assistance.

  9. C. ben-David says:

    You make many excellent points, some of which overlap those made by ex-Marxist, policy analyst, and scholar, David Horowitz (seehttp://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=24317), several years ago in relation to reparations to slaves in the United States.

    This dog won’t hunt for many reasons, including the fundamental foolishness of the demands. I even doubt that the International Court of Justice will take up the case. At very least they will send it back to the European nations involved, arguing that the litigants are trying to leap-frog the judicial process. It will then languish in Great Britain, France, Holland, and Spain for years costing the litigants’ countries millions in the process. At the end of the day, they will lose in every one of these European countries after which they will proceed to the ICJ where they will again be rebuffed on good legal grounds, likely without even a formal hearing.

    To your arguments, I add only one other at this time (and have made others on this site in the past) which is partly alluded to in what you have written: If the large annual grants, subsidies, monies lost because of trade preferences, etc. that the various Caribbean countries received between 1838 and the present are subtracted from the amounts claimed by them, they would end owing the Europeans billions of dollars.

    This is partly because unlike India which enriched Great Britain well past independence in 1947, several Caribbean colonies were a drain on the motherland even before the end of slavery and nearly all were net recipients of various forms of aid by the end of the 19th century. This is why Britain was so happy to get rid of them and we had none of the mass violence and conflict that characterized colonies like India.

    To this day, SVG still receives tens of millions in aid in the form of debt relief, grants, university scholarships, remittances, etc., from both Great Britain and the European Union.

    Talk about being greedy and ungrateful!

  10. Caribbean Man says:

    @ PKnight. Your deliberate distortion of the writer’s name and use of the term moron to describe both him and later myself without showing what in the article led you that conclusion is what I find to be highly distasteful. Even if you disagree, there is still no need to resort to that kind of name calling, plain and simple. Now, would you care to share your position on reparation and where you think the writer’s argument is faulty and show where I am using “Tom foolery and disguise” and ‘lack sincerity” as you asserted.
    I am not against reparation in principle, but I’m not convinced that CARICOM is making the strongest possible case for reparation. I believe that slavery was crime against humanity, which creates the moral and fundamental basis for reparation.
    I’d would like to inject a few points for consideration with regards to reparation. Both Europeans and Africans were involved in the slave trade, the Africans being the suppliers and the European the buyers. Why then are we only seeking reparation from the Europeans? Isn’t both the sellers and the buyers guilty of this crime against humanity. The fact that Europe benefited enormously from the slave trade, while Africa suffered in the long run does not negate the role that Africa played in enabling the trade. Are we being morally objective in our quest for reparation OR is it because Europe is much more financially better off today than Africa, why we are only demanding reparation from Europe?
    I’m fully aware that the rise of Capitalism and the industrial revolution in Western Europe and the USA was fuelled by the gains made from slavery as proven by the scholarship of the late Eric Williams, among others. However, the economic benefits that Europe derived from slavery is not the fundamental basis for reparation, but the fact that the slave trade itself and plantation slavery as was practiced in the New World constituted a crime against humanity. We have to be careful not to conflate an economic argument with a moral argument. It’s not that the economic argument is invalid, but the different economic outcome of slavery for the European buyers and the African sellers should not not be the primary reason for why Europe is guilty for its role in slavery. In other words, even if the rise of capitalism and the industrial revolution in Europe was not built on the back of slavery and Europe was dirt poor and pauperised, Europe would be no less culpable today for its role in slavery.
    The economic argument that I believe holds the key for CARICOM is the fact that the slave owners were compensated by England for the lost of their ‘property’ when slavery ended. There are fairly reliable estimates as to number of slaves that existed in the the different territories at the time of emancipation. The amount of money that the planters received for each slave can be adjusted for inflation to determine what a possible figure for reparation could be. The fact that we have received large sums of financial aid from Europe should not be regarded as compensation for slavery, as those monies were not expressly given by Europe as a direct acknowledgement of its role in slavery with the specific intent of compensating the offspring of the victims of slavery for the spin-off effects that they may be suffering
    Furthermore, although some of our own political leaders are guilty of exploiting us, that still does not abdicate Europe from its moral responsibility to redress the issue of slavery. To use this argument against reparation is tantamount to saying that if a child is being abused by his / her parents at home, the parents have no justification to seek redress if someone out on the street abuses the child.

    While it can be argued that slavery has contributed to some of our present economic and social conditions, it’s fatal to fall into the mindset that we have to get reparation from Europe in order to ‘catch up’ in the development race. In other words, we must not appear as mendicants and beggars who want reparation because we are poor countries, but CARICOM should present a clear moral basis for reparation that would be equally valid even if CARICOM was rich and not in need of external financial assistance.

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