The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines says history will show why his country is pushing for reparations for native genocide and African slavery. He says many of the descendants of the exiled Kalingo and Garifuna peoples of St. Vincent and the Grenadines — who can be found in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras — view the island as their spiritual home.
He says genocide and enslavement have caused a legacy of underdevelopment in the Caribbean and that reparations are a must.
“Underdevelopment in respect to education, health, housing, living standards, infrastructure, the question of psychological damage, the breakup of family life — the social and economic and governance consequences have been horrendous,” he said. “The European nations have to work with us and that’s what we’re demanding, that they repair the legacy of underdevelopment.”
Gonsalves says his country’s indigenous people were particularly hard hit by genocide and slavery.
“In the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in 1773, when the British assumed sovereignty of our country, there were 9,000 indigenous persons. The Kalinagos, the so-called ‘yellow Caribs’ and the Garifuna, the so-called ‘black Caribs.’ The British fought them for their lands and over a period of 30-odd years, decimated the population to less than 50 percent. of the original number,” he said.
He said this is not a demand for money to be parcelled out individually by European governments to present day descendants of native peoples or African slaves. He says it is a question of repairing the damage caused by genocide and slavery.
The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has established the CARICOM Reparations Commission to explore the issue. It is led by Barbadian academic and historian Sir Hilary Beckles.
CARICOM has not confirmed how much money it is seeking in reparations, but historians say Britain paid out 20 million pounds sterling, when it abolished slavery in 1834, the equivalent of 200 billion pounds sterling (US$285 billion) today.
CARICOM’s Reparations Commission has hammered out a 10-point plan on reparatory justice. Items on that plan include a demand for a full, formal apology, reparations, an Indigenous Peoples Development Plan, a cultural institution and psychological rehabilitation.