THE EDITOR, Sir:
The discussion on reparations for slavery reopened dramatically when both CARICOM and the Jamaican prime minister announced their support for the campaign at the United Nations (UN). Now that the case has been placed on the UN table, and the argument rages hot, with so many voices declaring and explaining details of the horrors of enslavement, the wealth accumulated by colonial powers from slave labour and the justification for payment of reparations, few voices have explained the 'how' of payment of reparations. No set figure, no plan of action for the useful deployment of any financial gains of reparations, nor explanation of how such gains would be shared by those most affected. For instance, would Rastafari - who have campaigned for reparations to finance repatriation to Africa of whose who so desire - be allocated any funds for this purpose out of the receipts of reparations?
In 2001, the UN sought to address the issue of reparations, as it became a stumbling block to the overall discussions of its World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa. Eventually, a separate plenary was set up on reparations and, as a UN-invited delegate co-opted to the Jamaican delegation, I was appointed to it in the distinguished company of Ambassador Dudley Thompson and Professor Hillary Beckles, among other Caribbean and African representatives.
After lengthy and passionate discussions, the committee made recommendations that became enshrined in the Final Report of the WCAR. Nineteen forms of reparations were recommended, the first of which was debt relief and the final one was "Facilitation of welcomed return and resettlement of the descendants of enslaved Africans".
As the UN has already come to conclusions and recommendations that will ultimately be the result of the call for reparations, we need not reinvent the wheel to come up with ways in which reparations can be awarded. The UN has already addressed the issue.
BARBARA MAKEDA BLAKE HANNAH