Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Peter Espeut | Killing in good faith

Published:Friday | April 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM

There are several current topics which demand public comment. This week's column is a potpourri.

More needs to be said on the granting of indemnity from prosecution to low-ranked Jamaican soldiers known to have invaded the home of a private Jamaican citizen, executing him in a hail of bullets. The indemnity certifies that they were under orders and, therefore, were acting "in good faith". Move higher up the chain of command, then, until you find the bad faith!

I would enjoy answering the history question given to the Hillel students last week: "One justification for the enslavement of African people was their lack of civility. Discuss your chosen punishment type [shackles, cat-o-nine, thumb-screw, mutilation] as an example of European civility." I would have immediately said that it was the enslavers who showed a lack of civility, which I think was what the history teacher was trying to get at.

But, as is so common in the classroom, many misread the question, and jumped to the conclusion that the teacher, the school, and the Jewish community were trying to justify slavery and its accompanying forms of punishments. Slavery is still an open wound in our Jamaican psyche, and rather than giving us clear heads, it blinds us to so much that we might otherwise learn.

There is no doubt that those enslaved under British law in the Caribbean until 1834 were due compensation (reparation) for the rank (we would say 'renk') injustice meted out to them. The fact that their enslavers were the ones compensated for the loss of their property has to rank as one of the most morally bankrupt inversions and reversals in history.

There is also no doubt that many in the British Isles are now prosperous because they inherited wealth from the exploitation of enslaved persons in the Caribbean, and benefited from the proceeds of the compensation money paid to their ancestors.




Research has shown that much of the poverty, illiteracy and family dysfunction among Caribbean people today is inherited from the inequities and iniquities of our slave plantation past. There is a moral and, possibly, a legal debt that cries out to be paid, especially to the rural poor.

I commend those - including Caribbean governments - who lobby for reparation to be paid to descendants of slaves. What I don't understand is the proposal many make: that the reparation money should be paid to the governments, especially in the form of debt relief. Slavery is not responsible for Jamaica's high debt burden; the PNP and the JLP did that all on their own. They owe the Jamaican people reparation for their economic profligacy over the last 50 years. Forgive Jamaica's debt, and our irresponsible politicians will have us back in the same position within 20 years.

When - not if - reparation comes, a way must be found for the descendants of slaves to benefit. We have had enough pirates in our history, without our politicians misappropriating more poor people's money.

I was amused to see a story reported in another newspaper last week that "a group of experts in human rights in patient care" were calling for the legalisation of abortion. Humans give birth to humans, and the unborn child is human. This group of human rights 'experts' discriminates between the human rights of their patients who are mothers and the rights of their human patients who are as yet unborn.

Pregnancy is not a disease to be treated. The problem is careless sexual behaviour leading to inconvenient pregnancies. This group of 'experts' wish to assist persons to avoid taking responsibility for their careless behaviour. Why do they believe that irresponsibility is a human right?

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and Roman Catholic deacon. Email feedback to