By Lincoln DePradine
Attorney Arley Gill, who is a leading advocate in the Caribbean movement that’s demanding reparations for the enslavement of Africans in the region, has said that Britain’s King Charles must do more than express sorrow over slavery.
Reparations payment, “ultimately, is what we want,’’ Gill said in an interview with the BBC.
As well, Gill added, “we would want, and demand, that that profound sorrow be converted into an apology and acceptance that what they have done is a crime against humanity, and they should make some repair with regards to the harm that was caused by their action and their involvement in the slave trade and slavery’’.
Gill, a former Grenada ambassador to CARICOM, is chairman of the Grenada National Reparations Committee (GNRC).
GNRC is a member of the CARICOM Reparations Commission that was established by regional governments and headed by Dr Hilary Beckles, a professor and vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI).
A “CARICOM 10-point Plan for Reparatory Justice’’ calls for of “a sincere formal apology by the governments of Europe’’.
The plan says that reparations should include such things as Europe’s participation “in the alleviation’’ of what’s described as the “health disaster’’ in the Caribbean; and also in “illiteracy eradication’’ and “technology transfer’’, and appeals for “debt cancellation’’ for the region.
“Caribbean governments that emerged from slavery and colonialism have inherited the massive crisis of community poverty and institutional unpreparedness for development. These governments still daily engage in the business of cleaning up the colonial mess in order to prepare for development,’’ according to the 10-point Plan.
Caribbean governments, it points out, have accumulated “unsustainable levels of public debt that now constitute their fiscal entrapment. This debt cycle properly belongs to the imperial governments who have made no sustained attempt to deal with debilitating colonial legacies. Support for the payment of domestic debt and cancellation of international debt are necessary reparatory actions’’.
Gill’s interview with the BBC was conducted following an announcement from Buckingham Palace that King Charles was supportive of a University of Manchester independent research, exploring the relationship between the British monarchy and the slave trade in the 17th and 18th centuries.
King Charles, who last summer said he could not describe “the depths of his personal sorrow’’ at the suffering caused by the slave trade, takes the university’s research project “profoundly seriously,’’ a Buckingham Palace statement said. “Given the complexities of the issues, it is important to explore them as thoroughly as possible.’’
The statement said the Royal household will grant researchers full access to the Royal archives. The study will be completed in 2026.
The issue of the British Empire’s slavery links and demands for reparations have been growing in the Caribbean, where discussions also have been taking place on replacing Britain’s monarch as head of state of many of the former British colonies.
A Caribbean tour, in March last year by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton, was met with anti-monarchy protests.
Negative headlines in Britain followed a subsequent visit – undertaken by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie – who embarked on a Caribbean tour in May 2022. The two, who also faced protests, were scheduled to visit Grenada but cancelled at the last minute, with Buckingham Palace saying the tour stop to Grenada was called off, “in consultation with the government of Grenada and on the advice’’ of the country’s Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade.
Barbados, on November 30, 2021, transitioned to a republic and replaced the British monarch as head of state, with Barbadian Sandra Mason now serving as the first President of the Republic of Barbados.
The Trevelyans, a British family that owned six sugar plantations in Grenada and enslaved more than 1,000 Africans on the island in the 19th century, issued an apology to Grenadians in February.
Family member and journalist Laura Trevelyan has offered to contribute £100,000 to establish a community fund for economic development.
She also has resigned from her job with the BBC to become a “roving advocate’’ for reparative justice. Trevelyan said she will assist in campaigns looking to secure apologies and financial reparations from former European colonial powers.
Gill also suggested incorporating UWI representatives into the conducting of the study.
“We’re hoping this research would trigger the discussion of reparative justice in the castle of the British monarchy and, indeed, in the parliament of the British
government, in the soonest possible time.’’