By Bert Wilkinson
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
Caribbean governments this week erased any lingering doubts that they are serious about making Europe pay for the horrors of the Transatlantic slave trade by holding their most important preparatory meeting yet ahead of plans for a high level delegation to travel to Europe to serve demand payment letters in the coming weeks.
From his office in Bridgetown, Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart Monday evening presided over a four-hour video conference session on the subject of reparations where all the loopholes in the region’s case for payments were refined and defined. In this he had the support of Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the man credited with bringing other leaders on board to push Europe into compensating the region for the slave trade and the genocide associated with it.
Officials close to the meeting said that the video conference had involved about 70 persons, most of them delegates representing all 15 nations in the regional trade bloc and decisions flowing from this will be handed to presidents and prime ministers when they meet at their main annual summit in Antigua from the beginning of July.
A draft letter of demand has been prepared, setting out the horrors of the slave trade, “its lasting effects on the Caribbean population” and offering countries like Britain, The Netherlands, France, Spain and Portugal among others a chance to negotiate a settlement with countries.
And because some countries were colonized and its slave populations brutalized and robbed of wages more than one European nation, the narrative for every country varies to cater for such highly place officials said.
“After we would have served the letters of demand on Britain and the Dutch to start with, it will offer them a chance to sit down and negotiate with us but if this fails it will lead to a lawsuit seeking compensation before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands,” an official who attended the meeting said.
Regional attorneys general are being brought on board to help refine the draft for on passage to leaders. Some of those who attended Monday’s video conference meeting favor a physical presence in Europe to serve the letters but a final decision will be made as to exactly how this will be accomplished.
Additionally, a group of eminent Caribbean attorneys will be drafted in to liaise with the British firm of Leigh Day which had successfully sued and made Britain pay for brutalizing the Mau Mau Tribe in Kenya several decades ago. The firm has already said that it is confident that the region has a strong case and like academics and doctors in the University of the West Indies system, has linked a string of chronic diseases rampaging through the Caribbean to the horrors of slavery, poor diet on plantations, forced labor, rape and other inhumanely stressful conditions.
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