Leaders of Caribbean nations have unanimously adopted a broad plan on seeking reparations from European nations for the lingering ill-effects of the ÂAtlantic slave trade.
A UK human rights law firm hired by the Caribbean Community group of nations said that prime ministers had authorized a ten-point plan that would seek a formal apology and debt cancellation from former colonial powers such as Britain, France and the Netherlands.
The decision came at a closed meeting in St Vincent & the Grenadines. According to the Leigh Day law firm, the Caribbean Community also wants reparations to repair the persisting â€œpsychological traumaâ€ from the days of plantation slavery.
The community is also seeking assistance to boost the regionâ€™s technological know-how since the Caribbean was denied participation in Europeâ€™s industrialisation and confined to Âproducing and exporting raw materials such as sugar.
The plan further demands European aid in strengthening the regionâ€™s public health, Âeducational and cultural institutions such as museums and Âresearch centres.
It is also pushing for the creation of a â€œrepatriation programmeâ€, including legal and diplomatic assistance from European governments, to potentially resettle members of the Rastafarian spiritual movement in Africa.
Repatriation to Africa has long been a central belief of Rastafari, a melding of Old Testament teachings and Pan-ÂAfricanism whose followers have long sought reparations.
The law firmâ€™s Martyn Day called the plan a â€œfair set of Âdemands on the governments whose countries grew rich at the expense of those regions whose human wealth was stolen from themâ€.
Mr Day said a forthcoming meeting in London between Caribbean and European officials â€œwill enable our clients to quickly gauge whether or not their concerns are being taken seriouslyâ€. It was not immediately clear when the meeting to potentially seek a negotiated Âsettlement would take place.
The idea of the countries that benefited from slavery paying some form of reparations has been a decades-long quest but only recently has it gained Âserious momentum in the ÂCaribbean.
Caricom, as the political grouping of 15 countries and dependencies is known, announced in July it intended to seek reparations for slavery and the genocide of native peoples and created the Caribbean Reparations Commission to push the issue and present recommendations to political leaders.
It then hired Leigh Day, which waged a successful fight for an award compensation of Â£19.9â€‰million for surviving Kenyans who were tortured by the British colonial government during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s and 1960s.
The commissionâ€™s chairman, Hilary Beckles, an academic who has written several books on the history of Caribbean slavery, said he was â€œvery pleasedâ€ the political leaders adopted the plan.
In 2007, then prime minister Tony Blair expressed regret for the â€œunbearable sufferingâ€ caused by the United Kingdomâ€™s role in slavery but made no Âformal apology.
In 2010, then French president Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged the â€œwounds of colonizationâ€ and pointed out France had cancelled a â‚¬56 million (Â£47m) debt owed by Haiti and approved an aid package.
The Caribbean Reparations Commission said on Monday that far more needed to be done for the descendants of slaves on struggling islands, saying it sees the â€œpersistent racial victimization of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering todayâ€.
By David Mcfadden [/sws_red_box]