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Mike Henry responds to British Minister, describes comments as an insult to CARICOM

Published:Thursday | November 7, 2013 | 4:45 PM

Monique Grange, Assistant News Editor

The Gleaner/Power 106 News Centre

Member of Parliament for Central Clarendon Mike Henry has described as an insult to CARICOM, comments made by the new British Minister with responsibility for the Caribbean, Mark Simmonds, on the issue of reparations for slavery.

While acknowledging that slavery is abhorrent, Simmonds said he doesn’t believe his country is in a position to offer financial compensation for events that happened 400 years ago.

But Mr. Henry, who has been actively lobbying for reparations, says the comments by the British Minister are an insult to the countries in the region that have also called for compensation and who 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 as the former Prime Minister 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.

He says the minister of Foreign Affairs needs to call on the British High Commissioner to address the issue.

"In the first instance, we were speaking firstly of chattel slavery which was abolished by act of his parliament and it was his British parliament that paid 20 million under a lobby group of Plantation owners and it is his government that has not, so far, compensated the slaves in equivalent amount," said Henry.

He says the 'colonialistic' off-hand remarks should not have been made by the Minister in that capacity.

Mr. Henry says to suggest that the issue of reparations should not be pursued is not in keeping with the laws of justice and human rights abuse.

He points out that Jamaica is not seeking handouts from Britain and as such, investment opportunities should be separate from the issue of reparations.

The British minister had said that instead of focusing on reparations, the United Kingdom is keen on assisting Jamaica to revitalise its economic base.

In the meantime, Mr. Henry says he’s in the discussions with the committee on reparations and other stakeholders as he considers amendments to his private members motion on the issue.

He says as soon as he gets the report from the committee he will pursue the issue of a debate with the leader of the House of Representatives.


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