Blame the former leaders - Mike Henry
Staunch reparation advocate, Central Clarendon Member of Parliament Mike Henry, has accused Jamaica's founding fathers of not placing sufficient emphasis on some critical issues relating to empowerment and reparations.
The outspoken veteran politician suggested that former political leaders Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante were short-sighted on some issues, and that has left many Jamaican blinkered.
"I am not afraid to raise the issues; look at that of ganja," he said. "If Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante had said marijuana was used by an indigenous set of people (the Rastafarians), it would never have been a crime," Henry told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.
Founding fathers' failures
He argued that many Jamaicans are still suffering from the "failures of the perceptions of the founding fathers that prevented them from seeing ahead when they ventured into independence".
Manley was the founding president of the People's National Party (PNP) and Bustamante the founder/leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
Both men are national heroes, with Manley being the first premier and Bustamante the first prime minister of post-independent Jamaica.
"I want to make it very clear that my political pursuit and position is very responsible," said Henry.
He expressed relief that more current leaders were coming around. He noted that former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has conceded that reparations are now due.
"Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding was not against it (reparation) and (Opposition Leader) Andrew Holness and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller have spoken in supported of it," said Henry.
"They are still not gung-ho about reparations because a lot of them are holding to their political position, not to their true selves but to who support them," charged the veteran politician.
Henry has been a determined campaigner for reparations for Jamaica and other former slave colonies in the region.
He has tabled several motions in the House of Representatives in which he has been a member since 1980, but they failed until the last one was debated.
Gov't should fix issues
The National Committee on Reparations that was established found that many Jamaican citizens do not see a relationship between the legacies of colonialism and the present state of the country.
It cited disconnect between external call for reparation and post-colonial wrong that they feel must be righted by the Government of Jamaica.
"I am not going ahead, unaware of the plantocracy and the issues that are involved," said Henry when asked about the complexities involved in seeking reparation as a result of West Indian slavery by European slave masters.
"I am fully aware of what we seek to fight for politically. I think that coming out of that there should be some internal reconciliation on the social issues that exist."
However, Henry argued that the challenges should not stop Jamaica from moving forward on the issue of reparation as quickly as possible.
"Even if we have to do a civil court test in Great Britain on any one of the persons who we now know individually benefited from slavery," he added.