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Sir Hilary: Colonial mess leaves behind a pandemic of diseases

Published:Wednesday | July 8, 2020 | 12:08 AMDanae Hyman/Staff Reporter

Demanding reparation for the more than 300 years of slavery in the Caribbean, Sir Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), charged that colonialism has left a legacy of diabetes and hypertension that continues to plague the people of the region.

Beckles wants a three-day summit between the Caribbean Community and the European Union to discuss the debt owed to the region.

“The colonial mess that we have inherited from Britain and from Europe remains visible in every aspect of the Caribbean world. Britain left behind a pandemic of chronic diseases. The hypertension, the diabetic pandemic collectively have constituted a threat to the existence of Caribbean society,” the UWI vice chancellor lamented.

He noted that Barbados and Jamaica constitute the amputation capital of the world as the result of complications arising from diabetes. Beckles pointed out that more than 60 per cent of all of the people in the region over the age of 60 either have hypertension, diabetes or both.

“More amputations are committed in the Caribbean per capita than any other part of the world, this is because for 300 years, the people of this region were forced to consume a diet based on what they produce, sugar.”

In this part of the world, sugar was consumed not as a sweetener but as a meal, the acclaimed academic argued.

“We now have this enormous pandemic sweeping through this region. Billions of dollars are spent each year dealing with the consequences and the legacies of an enforced diet of sugar and salt to which the people of the region are now addicted,” Beckles said.

As part of the three-day summit, it is proposed that governments meet on the first day followed by a conversation with the private sector on the second day with the civil society having dialogue on the final day.

“The civil society institutions and individuals, most of the universities in Europe participated in the enrichment from slavery. Some universities are now ready to discuss this legacy and to allocate resources for research for collective action,” he said.

Additionally, Beckles said that the Church of England that owned hundreds of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean should also join in the civil society conversation about reparations for development of the region.

The CARICOM Reparations Commission since 2013 has been actively pursuing compensation for native genocide and African enslavement from the former colonising nations of Europe, namely the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.