Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Shepherd blames forefathers for reparation struggles

Published:Saturday | August 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Verene Shepherd

Western Bureau:

Professor Verene Shepherd, chairperson of the National Commission on Reparation, has blamed the country's political forefathers for the struggles reparation advocates are now facing.

"We did not negotiate the reparation package at the time of emancipation, which could have helped to maintain the social infrastructure that the colonisers left," said Shepherd, while addressing the unveiling of a freedom monument for enslaved Jamaicans at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre on Wednesday.

"We could have done everything if those who negotiated for independence had negotiated reparation at that time," added Shepherd.

She said that today's advocates were the ones struggling to reach an agreement on reparation for the people of Jamaica for the injustices of slavery some 180 years after emancipation and 56 years of independence.

"There has been a long gap, and that is why it is so hard for those of us who advocate [for reparation] today. Several generations have forgotten what British barbarity in our country was like," continued Shepherd, who is a professor of social history at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

"Jamaica and its people are being affected today, yet they keep saying, 'Forget about it and move on. That was too long ago.' It was not long ago because we are suffering the consequences today," argued Shepherd.

Shepherd pointed out that reparation was not just about compensating historical wrongs, but also continuing hardship as the current generation is facing the legacies of enslavement and the system of divide and rule laid down by colonisers.

"[We are advocating] reparation framed as a package, not just a sum of money. But we want a development package to improve our social infrastructure. Reparation will help many of the problems we are experiencing in terms of debt and poverty today even though some of the politicians will not tell you that," stated Shepherd.