Ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s first-ever visit to Jamaica, the British government is facing growing demands to apologize and pay reparations for the country’s “haunting” legacies of slavery, colonialism, and native genocide.
In an open letter published Monday in the Jamaica Observer, chairperson of the Caricom Reparations Commission Hilary Beckles declared: “We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint program of rehabilitation and renewal.”
“You owe it to us as you return here to communicate a commitment to reparatory justice that will enable your nation to play its part in cleaning up this monumental mess of Empire,” the letter states.
Those legacies continue to “haunt our best efforts at sustainable economic development and the psychological and cultural rehabilitation of our people from the ravishes of the crimes against humanity,” the letter continues.
Beckles made the case that Cameron has directly profited from the transatlantic slave trade via his cousin six times removed Sir James Duff, who inherited a Jamaican sugar plantation in 1785.
“You are a grandson of the Jamaican soil who has been privileged and enriched by your forebears’ sins of the enslavement of our ancestors,” wrote Beckles. “You are, Sir, a prized product of this land and the bonanza benefits reaped by your family and inherited by you continue to bind us together like birds of a feather.”
The missive echoes growing demands, including from National Commission on Reparations and the Jamaican Parliament officials. Jamaican MP Mike Henry recently told the Observer that if the issue of reparations is not on the agenda during Cameron’s visit, “I will not attend any functions involving the visiting prime minister, and I will cry shame on those who do, considering that there was not a dissenting voice in the debate in Parliament.”