British minister says no to reparations
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
It took Mark Simmonds, the new British minister with responsibility for the Caribbean, mere seconds of his 24-hour visit to Jamaica to scorch the hope of local reparation agitators clamouring for compensation for slavery. But Member of Parliament for Central Clarendon, Mike Henry, finds his 'colonialistic' off-hand remarks an insult.
Instead of focusing on reparations, Simmonds said the United Kingdom was keen on assisting Jamaica revitalise its economic base.
Simmonds, on his first trip to the island Wednesday, said that while his country decried the acts of slavery past and present, he could not countenance compensation for human atrocities committed two centuries ago.
"Do I think that we are in a position where we can financially offer compensation for an event two, three, four hundred years ago? No, I don't," declared Simmonds at a press conference at the British High Commission in St Andrew hours after his arrival on local shores.
Simmonds said: "I made our position clear. We believe slavery was abhorrent and modern-day slavery is occurring and we need to work together to eradicate it totally, and that is the United Nation's position."
Insult to Caribbean
Henry, who had been actively lobbying for reparations, said the comments by the British minister were an insult to the countries in the region that have also called for compensation and have already taken action in that regard.
"The country has before its Parliament a private members' motion to debate and to take a political position on," said Henry. "In addition to this, the prime minister of this country has joined my cry that reparations should be addressed, so also has former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson. In light of that, maybe someone should advise the minister that history will record and that what he is saying is incorrect," he said.