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PJ slams Cameron for stance on reparations

Published:Thursday | October 8, 2015 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding
P.J. Patterson
Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain addressing a joint sitting of the Jamaican Houses of Parliament at Gordon House in Kingston on September 30.

Former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has taken United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron to task for failing to adequately respond to local demands that talks be opened on reparation for slavery.

In a no-holds-barred open letter to Cameron, Patterson declared that gifts the UK prime minister brought during his visit to Jamaica, while appreciated, could not soften the psychological blows inflicted for centuries by slavery.

"You have refused to apologise," said Patterson. "Yet your government has apologised to everyone else for horrid crimes."

He asked of the UK prime minister: "Are we not worthy of an apology or less deserving?"


Refused to apologise


Cameron addressed a gathering in the aftermath of bilateral engagements with members of the Portia Simpson Miller administration as well as a special joint sitting of Parliament during his visit.

He, however, refused to apologise for slavery in response to thunderous demands reverberating through the region for reparation.

Patterson told Cameron: "The most noble intentions were jarred by those portions of your address which asserted that slavery was a long time ago, in the historical past, and 'as friends, we can move on together to build for the future'."

It was clear that, as with many Jamaicans, Cameron's comments irked Patterson wrong.

"Contrary to your view, the Caribbean people will never emerge completely from the 'long, dark shadow' of slavery until there is a full confession of guilt by those who committed this evil atrocity," asserted Patterson.

"The resilience and spirit of its people" is no ground to impair the solemnity of a privileged parliamentary occasion and allow the memory of our ancestors to be offended once again," said the former prime minister.

Responding to Cameron's urging to move on, a pronouncement that has inflamed many Jamaicans, Patterson declared that the Caribbean people have long been looking to the future.

"This is what we do in our development visions, but these legacies are like millstones around our necks," proclaimed Patterson.

He stressed that the region was looking to reparatory justice as the beginning of shaping a new future.

"We invite Britain to engage in removing this blot on human civilisation, so that together, we can create a new and secure future," said Patterson.

Patterson told Cameron: "As I watched your presentation, knowing them on both sides of the aisle as I do, their good behaviour which you commended ought not to be interpreted as acquiescence in everything you said."


Threw down gauntlet


He noted that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in welcoming Cameron, referred to the difficult issue of reparation which should be discussed in "a spirit of mutual respect, openness and understanding as we seek to actively engage the UK on the matter".

Said Patterson: "You chose instead to throw down the gauntlet."

He declared that mere acknowledgment of its horror would not suffice. "It was and still is a most heinous crime against humanity - a stain which cannot be removed merely by the passage of time."