Tue | Aug 20, 2019

Letter of the Day | Acknowledge and address past wrongs, Britain

Published:Thursday | April 26, 2018 | 12:04 AM

The Editor,Sir:

The National Council on Reparation welcomes the decision of the UK government to make an apology and grant compensation to our brothers and sisters who had been denied the rights and benefits to which they were entitled as citizens of the UK. Although there was no formal recognition of their British citizenship, the government has promised to 'put this right'. The result reached in the Windrush matter demonstrates that, regardless of how powerful a state may seem, pressure from ordinary folk can force a reversal of its inhumane policies. We, in the reparation movement, will never lose sight of our ultimate goal, which is to see an apology followed by action to deal with justice with the crimes committed against the fore parents of that very Windrush generation.

The ship HMT Empire Windrush was not the only one to transport our people to work and build Britain. Less than two centuries ago, other British ships transported our enslaved ancestors to work in the Caribbean. The difference being that then they were unpaid forced labourers. They were the great grandparents of the Windrush generation who are in their 80s today.

We call on Britain to accept that now is the right time to acknowledge and address past wrongs. In the name of justice, Britain cannot now recognise the work and worth of the Windrush generation, while hiding from the forced labour of their enslaved fore parents. There is not only a bloodline connection between the two groups, but Britain has profited greatly from the former, and immensely for centuries from the latter.


Move beyond apology


The move beyond apology to compensation for present and past generations is more than justified. Britain must acknowledge that justice is whole and cannot be meted out in degrees. The call for justice for the Windrush generation echoes the call for Britain righting its earlier wrongs. She cannot build a monument in Whitehall outside her Houses of Parliament to the memory of Jews and their Holocaust, and ignore her own crimes against humanity, and the dehumanising of African people over centuries, of which the consequences are still being suffered.

The reparation claim for compensation for trans-Atlantic slavery is indistinguishable from Windrush demands. The lesson learnt from this unjust immigration scandal is that when a just cause is supported by the weight of public opinion, British ships cannot withstand the Windrush.

Let us join hands and demand reparations now!

Bert S. Samuels

Member of the Reparation Council of Jamaica