Jamaica has revived UK slave trade reparations probe
Jamaica has revived a reparations commission to research slavery’s social and economic impact and examine whether the predominantly black Caribbean island should seek compensation or a formal apology from Britain to heal old wounds, officials said yesterday.
The government-formed commission has about two years to receive submissions, evaluate research and undertake public consultations in order to make recommendations for a possible reparations claim, said chairwoman Verene A. Shepherd, a historian who is director of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at Jamaica’s University of the West Indies.
The reconvened commission is made up of roughly a dozen academics, lawyers, Rastafarians and students. A previous panel formed in 2009 was disbanded a year later through financial constraints.
Slavery was abolished on August 1, 1834, in the former British colony.
Researchers say tens of millions of African men, women and children were enslaved and shipped to the Caribbean and Americas, with millions dying in holding camps in Africa or during the voyage.
Shepherd said coming up with a financial estimate for reparations is critical to coming to terms with the lasting legacy of slavery in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, even if a monetary payout never pans out.
In 2006, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed deep sorrow for Britain’s role in the slave trade but stopped short of an apology.