In this 200th anniversary year of the abolitition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the governments of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) are, commendably, singing from the same hymn sheet. At their 18th inter-sessional meeting held last week in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they unanimously agreed to request from the ex-European colonial powers both an apology and reparations for profiting from the abominable crime of African slavery.
Next month, on March 25, begins international observance of the 200th anniversary of that great crime against humanity. All member states of Caricom are to be involved in various appropriate programs of activities, consistent with an approved United Nations resolution that was co-sponsored also by the Caribbean.
Current Caricom chairman, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in addressing the Kingstown inter-sessional meeting, made a spirited call for the community to pursue in "a coherent, focused way the legitimate demand for a full apology and reparations."
Though primarily for the crime of African slavery, said Gonsalves, compensation as well for "the ignoble subjugation of indentured labourers from India, China and Madeira."
As a microcosm of the world's diverse peoples and cultures, the Caribbean's "rainbow family," with its predominant African personality, would know only too well of the dastardly criminal acts perpetrated by Europeans against enslaved Africans and the subsequent subjugation and humiliation of indentured labourers from Asia.
To give substance to their call for appropriate observance of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Caricom governments have decided to request the universities of the region to conduct research in support of the demands for both apology and compensation for African slavery.
This is a sensible approach since what's being sought, and desirable, is not any gratuitous "hand-out" from the ex-colonisers. Not "aid" but "payment" to be utilised for specific people-focused economic, social and cultural programs and for which independent auditing could be an important factor in the official dialogue to come.
The regional program of activities being encouraged at the popular level by Caricom, includes the observance of a minute's silence in each member country of the community at noon on March 25 in honour of those who died as a result of slavery, especially in the Middle Passage and in resistance to slavery.
In some Caricom states, programs are already being pursued at various levels in support of compensation for slavery.
Last week in Jamaica, home of the internationally famous Marcus Garvey, both government and parliamentary opposition came out in support of reparations from Britain for the profits earned from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
We look forward to the collective approach to be officially made by Caricom as a whole, based on the requested academic research, to Britain for its own involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
This editorial was originally published in the Nation Newspaper of Barbados. Reprinted with permission from the editors.