Wed | Nov 21, 2018

We want our back pay! - Grange adamant that Jamaica entitled to reparations from British, not into tit-for-tat

Published:Thursday | March 1, 2018 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Professor Verene A. Shepherd, co-chair of the National Council on Reparation, and Olivia Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sports, at the public forum on Back Pay Dispute: Reparation and the outstanding labour struggle with Britain and Spain.

Another senior member of the Government has come out demanding that former colonisers "back pay" Jamaica and other Caribbean countries that they conquered for their economic benefit as the fight for reparations continues to gather steam.

Minister of Culture, Gender Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange said that she was not advocating a tit-for-tat in demanding "back pay", but was nevertheless adamant that there should be "back pay" for what is rightfully due to the people.

According to Grange, social and cultural scars from slavery have not faded and continue as an imprint on the psyche of the country.

"Back pay, rather, speaks to the standing debt owed to the labour force, which must be paid as part of the respectful negotiations of reparatory justice," Grange said, adding to her colleague Mike Henry's stance in maintaining that the Queen must be called to answer for the crimes of slavery.

The culture minister contended that the negotiations for back pay must include the consideration that slave owners were compensated only on an economic basis, and the social, psychological and cultural damage was left out.

"Back pay is measured or calculated by computing the related amount owed by using the established rates of remuneration for work done. It often also includes responses to various issues that impacted the debtor. This may include the acknowledgement and measurement of the psychological and socio-cultural damage that may have affected the labourers over the period and which may still impact negatively current and future activities of the workforce," Grange argued as she delivered an address at a forum on 'Back Pay Dispute: Reparation and the Outstanding Labour Struggle with Britain and Spain' held at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters on Tuesday.

Grange said that even though the dark system of slavery has been labelled a crime against humanity, "it must now be tested in international fora under modern enlightened systems of global governance and justice".

"The treatment of those who were enslaved must be seen as criminal negligence and injustice," she added.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the British Treasury continued to fork out money, up to three years ago, to pay back a staggering £20 million (present value - £15 billion) loan, used to compensate slave owners.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com