A National Commission on Reparations for slavery has been launched (May 14) by Jamaica’s Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Olivia “Babsy” Grange.
Minister Grange announced that the job of the Commission will be to: receive submissions, hear testimonies, evaluate research and studies; engage in dialogue with relevant interest groups and legal academic experts; and undertake public consultations as necessary with the aim of guiding a national approach to reparations.
She said the Commission will recommend the diplomatic initiatives, security considerations, education and public information required.
“The Commission will also recommend the form or forms the reparations may take, bearing in mind, but not limited by, the recommendations of the United Nations 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (UNWCAR) and taking into account the social, moral, cultural, economic and international factors,” Miss Grange informed.
She gave the reminder that reparation had been the subject of discussions in Jamaica and the Caribbean over many years. “It has been a part of the post-slavery, post-colonial dialogue in response top the challenges faced by particular groups in the society – its greatest proponents being the Rastafarian community that has consistently promoted and brought the issue to the forefront of their arguments.
“Slavery was declared a crime against humanity by the UNWCAR and acts of reparations have been established as an appropriate form of redress in instances where such injustices have been inflicted.”
Minister Grange named the commissioners as Professor Barry Chevannes of the University of the West Indies ((chairman); Professor Rupert Lewis also of UWI; Mrs. Jeanette Grant-Woodham, educator and Senior Programme Officer, UWI; Miss Donna Parchment, attorney-at-law and dispute resolution specialist; Lord Anthony Gifford, attorney-at-law; Mr. Garth Whyte, historian and musicologist; Ras Junior Manning of the African Millennium Council; and Mr. Robert Miller, youth representative and consultant, Ministry of Education.
Miss Tanya Batson-Savage, Director of Cultural Policy and Monitoring at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, will be in charge of the Commission’s secretariat located at the Ministry.
Minister Grange said the Commission has been given 18 months to provide a report on its deliberations and recommendations to the Minister.
The Honourable Mike Henry, Minister of Transport and Works who joined Miss Grange at the launch function was lauded by her for being the main proponent in the discussions in Parliament on Reparations. “Minister Henry spear headed the discussions over a long period and it is most appropriate that he is here with us today for the launch of the Commission,” she said.
In his brief response, Minister Henry said that he was very happy to be around to see something for which he had been a long time advocate come to fruition.
Professor Chevannes praised the Government for its decision to pursue the issue of reparations, saying that “we must seek to remedy the ills of the past in order to secure the future.”
The chairman said that he was confident that Commission had the capacity to satisfy its mandate, being acutely aware that the world was watching to see the gains made by Jamaica in the quest for reparations.