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Parliament not ready to take vote on reparation - Hanna

Published:Thursday | April 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Simpson Miller

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

MINISTER OF Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna on Tuesday proposed that any parliamentary deliberation of reparation from Britain be delayed.

Hanna told the House of Representatives that a Reparations Commission, which was set up to do national consultations, has not met since February 2010, because it has no money to conduct its work.

"This honourable House will not be in a position to make the kind of decisions being recommended, including taking the necessary vote, without the report of the consultation with the wider constituency of the Jamaican citizenry, as well as the information that we will need from the Reparations Committee," Hanna said.

Britain should pay

Central Clarendon Member of Parliament Mike Henry, in opening the debate to a private member's motion he brought to the House, said Britain should pay with "cold, hard cash as debt relief".

"Great Britain, of all the slave countries, paid the Caribbean slave owners of the Caribbean compensation for losing their chattels and human animals and they have not yet paid the slaves," Henry said.

Stressing the need for the Parliament to vote on the matter, Henry said, "a decision which is made by a government would sanction the pursuance of the matter to the highest world court and have the world court reject or accept the position.

"I feel we have resiled from the political decisions," he said. "We have allowed the lead to be taken by individuals and organisation of legal minds," he added.

But Hanna said the House will need to be guided by the report of a Commission of Reparation that was set up to undertake, among other things, public consultations.

Hanna told the House that former Culture Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange had set up a Reparations Committee in May 2009 to do groundwork on the issue.

She, however, said the commission's work ceased in February 2010 due to financial limitations.

"By June 2010, CHASE was approached on the recommendation of the Cabinet to provide funding for the continuation of the commission's work, estimated then at $26 million and reduced for submission to CHASE to $14 million," Hanna said.

She added: "CHASE was not able to accede to the request for the assistance."

Motion suspended

Following the intervention of the minister, the debate on the motion was suspended until next Tuesday.

In March, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said her administration would not be seeking reparation from Britain.

"I have heard the calls, I am not making any call on the British government about whether they pay or give us compensation," the prime minister said.

Simpson Miller said slavery was "wicked, it was brutal", arguing that "No race should have been subjected to what our ancestors were subjected to."

Nonetheless, she indicated that her Government would accept an apology from Britain for the atrocities.

"We gained our freedom on the sweat, blood and tears of our ancestors and we are now free. If Britain wishes to apologise, fine with us, no problem at all," she said.

Henry said an apology would not suffice.

"I have no problem with receiving or accepting apologies, which by their very essence and their issuance carry a guilt and a responsibility. That is not good enough, it must carry with it compensation to the act," Henry said.