Tue | Sep 17, 2019

Phipps: Petition Queen directly on slavery reparation

Published:Wednesday | June 12, 2019 | 12:09 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer

Queen’s Counsel Frank Phipps has invited reparation protagonists to set a new precedent by directly petitioning Queen Elizabeth II, Jamaica’s head of state, for crimes against humanity when Britain shipped approximately 600,000 Africans to work on sugar plantations here.

He was speaking at a press conference at The University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters at Mona on Monday, where City University of New York Professor Ahmed Reid presented new findings of the Slave Voyages 2.0 Database.

“The British were the people who promoted human rights; we thank them for that. Our head of state as Jamaicans is Her Majesty the Queen, and justice is being administered in Jamaica by her. Any case you have and you don’t like the result of the case, where do you go? To the Queen,” said Reid.

“You petition the Queen, and she refers the case to her Privy Council, who advises her what their decision is. That is by law under Section 3 of the Judiciary Committee Act, and that is the law that is being applied in Jamaica today.”

He continued: “But there’s also a Section 4 to the same law that says if you have some grievance or some injustice, you are entitled to petition directly to the Queen, your head of state.”

He said that while slavery was a crime against humanity, Jamaican attorneys have no jurisdiction in local courts to pursue the British government for reparation. Phipps suggested that action be taken against Britain through the Queen.

Meanwhile, explosive information was released implicating Russia, Latvia, Switzerland and Sweden in the trafficking of Africans, a cash-rich industry that became the bedrock on which many families and industries in Europe acquired wealth.

CONDEMNED VESSELS

Reid also showed that during the last 60 years of the transatlantic trade in African captives, courts around the Atlantic basin condemned more than 2,000 vessels for engaging in trafficking and recorded the details of the slaves found on board.

Reid said that when the Eltis Database of slaver trips to Africa, which shows the country of origin of ships that transported African captives to the Americas, was first made public in 1999, there were no surprises in the involvement of Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, Portugal and Spain as the leading nations in the forced relocation of an estimated 12.5 million Africans between 1514 and 1866. Now an expanded database completed in 2018 has added more than 1,000 new voyages.

The expanded database not only details a stunning total of 36,000 voyages, up from 27,000, but also comes with videos, maps and 3-D animation on a slaver.

The data showed that between 1719 and 1734, the Swiss city state of Bern was home to banking houses of Malacrida and Samuel Muller, which held shares in the speculative South Sea Company. With £ 253,000, Bern was the biggest single investor.

The South Sea Company shipped 1,230 slaves from Jamaica to America in the first year of its existence. All in all, it shipped 20,000 from Africa. Those who were left on the docks of Jamaica to die were called “refuse slaves”.

And Hans Rudolf Zeller (1639-1700) and Hans Heinrich Hauser (1638-1683) from Zurich were Anglican clergymen in Jamaica.

“They probably had slaves, and Zeller complained about the Quakers’ antislavery activities, while a medical doctor named Jeremias Muller from Bale owned a few slaves in Jamaica also.

“... Switzerland was not involved in the trafficking of Africans itself, but Swiss city states were – trading companies, banks, family enterprises and private individuals who participated in and profited from the commercial activities or are linked to the Atlantic trade in Africans,” Reid said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com