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Commentary: Sabotage: Jomo's take on Hilary Beckles' speech
Published on August 7, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anatol Scott

My purpose, in this article, is to expose unacceptable behaviour by one leading official in the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Unless Jomo Thomas has been given permission by Mr Hilary Beckles to alter his speech and to use that altered document for nefarious political purposes -- i.e. the continuing misinformation of the Vincentian public -- with regard to the issue of reparations, then Mr Jomo Thomas is engaged in a reprehensible act that should not be allowed to go unnoticed by the public and, more particularly, the Vincentian media.

anatol_scott.jpg
Anatol Leopold Scott is a graduate of the St Vincent Boys’ Grammar School. In 1969, he was appointed executive secretary of the St Vincent Tourist Board under James Mitchell, the then minister of agriculture, tourism, and trade. He emigrated to Canada where he worked at different jobs in government and private enterprises. He pursued higher education at the University Of Alberta, graduating BA (1993) with distinction, and MA (1994) in History.
I doubt very much that Mr Beckles gave permission to minimize his message and I intend to show here that, by altering the original text and, most of all, by removing important sections of the text, Mr Thomas has succeeded in involving Mr Beckles in an act of collusion that Mr Beckles should either disavow or avow publicly.

Here, I present the entire text as provided by the CARICOM Secretariat. By means of interspersed notes, I have inserted applicable comments in order to stress the importance of certain issues.

The Original Text

Address Delivered By Professor Sir Hilary Beckles Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission to the House Of Commons, Parliament of Great Britain Committee Room 14 July 16, 2014

Madam Chair, the distinguished member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, Diane Abbott, other distinguished members of the House of Lords, and House of Commons, Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corp, colleagues at the head table, Ladies and Gentlemen. I speak this evening, in this honourable chamber of the House of Commons, as Chairman of the CARICOM Commission on Reparations.

Understandably, Mr Thomas has not included the above introduction; his mantra was far more important. Instead, in the Friday, August 1, 2014, edition of The Vincentian newspaper, he replaces the above with the following: On this Emancipation Day, 2014, I present passages from an address delivered by Dr Hilary Beckles, Chairman of the Caribbean Reparations Commission to the House of Commons, Parliament of Britain on July 16, 2014. Note that Mr Beckles introduces himself as chairman of the CARICOM commission on Reparations, not as the chairman of the Caribbean Reparations Commission as per Mr Thomas. In my view, there is a big difference but such a little matter is not important to Mr. Thomas.

My colleagues of the Commission are tasked with the preparation and presentation of the evidentiary basis for a contemporary truth: that the Government of Great Britain, and other European states that were the beneficiaries of enrichment from the enslavement of African peoples, the genocide of indigenous communities, and the deceptive breach of contract and trust in respect of Indians and other Asians brought to the plantations under indenture, have a case to answer in respect of reparatory justice.

Mr Beckles has not made clear exactly who are the colleagues that are tasked with the creation and presentation of the evidentiary truth. Does Mr Beckles have a group of people operating out of an office somewhere who would be providing this evidence or will he be relying on the evidence, based on proper research, which would be supplied by the several reparations committees from several countries in CARICOM or the wider Caribbean? In other words, and with regard to St Vincent and the Grenadines, would he be relying on evidence being provided by Jomo Thomas’s Reparations Committee? If so, has the committee done its work and when will that committee present that evidentiary truth to the Vincentian public?

The case of genocide is not only in respect of our decimated native community.

With regard to genocide of the decimated native community, will there simply be an assumption that native people died because of slavery or does the research exist to prove or disprove the effect of European diseases on native peoples throughout the Caribbean. Research throughout North, Middle, and South America suggests that European diseases, not necessarily slavery, were the main cause of the decimation of native communities before slavery was introduced.

It is also important to recognize the genocidal aspect of chattel slavery in the Caribbean. British slave ships brought 5.5 million enslaved Africans into their Caribbean colonies over 180 years. When slavery was abolished in 1838 they were just 800,000 persons remaining. That is, a retention/survival rate of 15%.

Note that, as compared to the original native peoples and, unlike many reparations advocates, Mr Beckles does not use the term ‘genocide’ as far as slavery is concerned. Instead he uses the very different terms “genocidal aspect’ or ‘genocidal.’ Language is very important and this is the way to couch one’s argument.

Jamaica received 1.5 million Africans. Only 300,000 remained at Emancipation (20%). Barbados received 600,000 Africans. Only 83,000 remained at Emancipation (14%). The regime of enslavement was crafted by policies and attitudes that were clearly genocidal.

Note: In Mr Beckles’ speech, the last sentence in this paragraph is placed as the first sentence in Mr Thomas’s article. Why Mr Thomas would change the order is a question worth pondering. On the other hand, it could possibly be an unacceptable clerical error by The Vincentian newspaper.

This case is for the CARICOM governments to present on behalf of its citizens.

These are Mr Beckles’ words but, in Jomo Thomas’s article, he reported that Mr Beckles said, “CARICOM governments present this case on behalf of its citizens.”

I am sure that in its presentation there will be due regard for the principles of diplomacy and development cooperation - for which they have long distinguished themselves. This process will bring honour and dignity to the people of the Caribbean as well as to the people of Great Britain and Europe. CARICOM governments, like the government of Great Britain, represent nations that are independent and equal. As such, they should proceed on the basis of their legitimate equality, without fear of retribution, in the best interest of humanity, and for a better future for us all. I am honoured to be asked to speak in this historic parliament of the people of Great Britain. Like you I am aware that this Parliament prepared the official political basis of the crimes that defined the colonial past. It is here, in this House, that the evil system of slavery, and genocide, were established. This House passed laws, framed fiscal policies, and enforced the crimes that have produced harmful legacies and persistent suffering now in need of repair. This House also made emancipation from slavery and independence from colonialism an empowering reality. It is in here, we now imagine, that laws for reparatory justice can be conceptualized and implemented. It is in here, we believe, that the terrible wrongs of the past can be corrected, and humanity finally and truthfully liberated from the shame and guilt that have followed these historical crimes. We must believe in the corrective power of this Parliament to respond positively to this present challenge, and in the process free itself from the bondage of its own sins and crimes. Without this belief our journey here this evening would be lacking integrity, and without a doubt, would be a useless exercise.

But I speak in this honourable House this evening, not only as Chairman of a rightfully constituted commission that is peopled by some of our finest Caribbean citizens, and who have been selected by our distinguished Presidents and Prime Ministers, but as a Caribbean person with an affinity for this country. I was raised and educated here. I came from the Caribbean to this country as a child; I grew to maturity here; and was educated here in a fine university that has distinguished itself in the Liberal-Progressive pedagogy of the nation.

This paragraph is completely omitted from Mr Thomas’s presentation of the speech.

Great Britain is my second home and I care for it as I care for my first home, the Great Caribbean. I wish for Great Britain, as I do for the Great Caribbean, peace and prosperity.

At the beginning of the paragraph, after ‘Great Britain,’ the word ‘therefore’ has been inserted in the Vincentian article by Mr Thomas. Perhaps it was inserted by Mr Thomas to ensure continuity of thought after having removed Mr. Beckles’ former paragraph.

I wish that their shared past, painful though it has been, will be transformed into a moral force of mutual respect and development cooperation. It is for these reasons that I have joined the Caribbean and global movement for reparatory justice. I believe we can settle this case within the context of diplomatic initiatives that are consistent with our status as equal nations. The crimes committed against the indigenous, African, and Asian peoples of the Caribbean are well documented. We know of the 250 years of slave trading, chattel slavery, and the following 100 years of colonial oppression. Slavery was ended in 1838, only to be replaced by a century of racial apartheid, including the denigration of Asian people. Indigenous genocide, African chattel slavery and genocide, and Asian contract slavery, were three acts of a single play – a single process by which the British state forcefully extracted wealth from the Caribbean resulting in its persistent, endemic poverty. I wish to comment, as a result, on the 1833 Act of Emancipation, and how this august Parliament betrayed the enslaved people of the Caribbean by forcing them to pay more than 50% of the cost of their own emancipation. This is an aspect of the history long hidden from public view. We know, for example, that this Parliament in 1833 determined that the 800,000 enslaved people in the Caribbean were worth, as chattel property, £47 million. This was their assessed market value. We know that this Parliament determined that all slave owners should receive just and fair compensation for the official taking away of their property. We know that this Parliament provided the sum of £20 million in grants to the slave owners as fair compensation for the loss of their human chattel.

This one paragraph is broken into three separate paragraphs by Mr Thomas, each beginning, for emphasis more than likely, with the words “We know.”

And we know that this Parliament determined that the enslaved people would receive none of this compensation. The argument made in this House was that ‘property’ cannot receive property compensation. This Parliament, in its emancipation Act, upheld the law that black people were not human, but property. What this Parliament has hid from the world is that it also determined that the remaining £27 million would be paid by the enslaved people to their enslavers, by means of a 4 year period of free labour called the Apprenticeship. This period of additional free labour by the emancipated represented the enforced extraction of £27 million by the state. It was a cruel and shameful method of legislating Emancipation by forcing the enslaved to pay more than 50% of the financial cost of their own freedom. The £20 million paid the enslavers by this Parliament was less than the £27 million paid by the enslaved to the enslavers as dictated by this House.

Mr Thomas’s article ends at this point but, the actual speech does not!

My comments on the above:

1. I find it atrocious that Mr Thomas, a practicing lawyer, would take the liberty of modifying Mr Beckles’ speech in the ways that I have pointed out. More particularly, his modifications and editing of the original text were accepted and printed by The Vincentian newspaper with the full knowledge that the altered text was partly designed to influence the thoughts of a largely uninformed Vincentian public and to support the government’s praxis; they are also contributing to a societal malaise in the sense that, not knowing better, the public will take these published words as being the total truth as spoken by Mr Beckles without realizing that a major portion of the speech has not been reported.

2. The main point being articulated by Mr Thomas in the minimized Vincentian article is his stress of the importance of a monetary compensation for genocide and slavery.

3. My arguments throughout these discussions have been that (1) the emphasis on monetary compensation diminishes the essence of the struggle for reparations and that (2) the main problem for former British Caribbean nations, in terms of their present monetary and social deficiencies, is primarily the result of the governmental structure that followed after slavery (that runs from the Apprenticeship period through to all governments before the dawning of independence in the area). The Vincentian newspaper denied me the right to rebut Mr Jomo Thomas’s original presentation on reparations. Before my three-part article, “Don’t Mess with History,” was published on Caribbean News Now, I offered it to The Vincentian newspaper as a rebuttal to Mr Thomas’s presentation in the National Assembly. The editor did not even see fit to respond to my offer. Now, they have added insult to injury by, once again, engaging in publishing something that should not have been published in its present form. In my opinion, The Vincentian newspaper is guilty of misinforming the Vincentian public by continuing to publish one-sided, state sponsored, misinformation while denying the right of citizens to publish opposing arguments.

Here is the missing portion of the speech:

I wish now to engage the argument of the British Government that the slavery and other colonial crimes were ‘legal’, and that they took place ‘a long time ago’, and are beyond the border of adjudication. Allow me, Madam Chair, to breach protocol and to interject myself into the discourse, in order to demonstrate how very contemporary and current this exploitation of the Caribbean people is and has been. Upstairs this chamber sits the Earl of Harewood. He is an honourable member of the House of Lords. But does Lord Harewood know that my grandfather after Independence in Barbados in 1966 labored on this sugar plantation, as did his father and forefathers, going back to the days of slavery? Does the goodly Lord know that as a child I took lunch for my grandfather into the canefields of his sugar plantation? Lord Harewood, and my family, go back a long way, from slavery right into the present. Take also the very aristocratic and very distinguished Cumberbatch family. It has now produced the brilliant young actor, Benedict Cumberbatch [who I would love to meet one day]. Benedict’s grandfather owned the estate on which my beloved great grandmother worked all her adult life. They enslaved my family on their Cleland plantation in the parish of St. Andrew. My great grandmother, who helped to raise me, and who we all called ‘mammy’, carried the name Adriana Cumberbatch. The actor and academic are joined therefore by a common past and present, and maybe, common blood! My case is but one of ten thousand such cases. Everywhere across the Caribbean the presence of our enslavers can be identified in our daily domestic lives. This history is not remote. It is alive and pressing upon our daily affairs.

Here, in these three preceding paragraphs, for those who have followed my posts, is the reason why knowledge of one’s ancestry is important. Here, Mr Beckles displays the effective use of history and historical minutiae to buttress a sense of a people’s pride, place and social consciousness.

And what have our people and governments been doing with respect to this legacy since we have gained national independence? The truth is, the people of the Caribbean have been very courageous in their effort at self-development and self-help in respect of this terrible history and enduring legacy. Our citizens have faced this past head on, and have established a vibrant culture of community self-help and sustainable regional development mobilization. We are not beggars! We are not subservient! We do not want charity and handouts! We want justice! Reparatory justice! When all is said and done, our governments these past 50 years have been cleaning up the mess left behind by Britain’s colonial legacy. Our finest Presidents and Prime Ministers have been devising projects to clean up the awful mess inherited from slavery and colonization. They must be commended for this effort, but the fact is, this legacy of rubble and ruin, persistent poverty, and racialised relations and reasoning, that continues to cripple our best efforts, has been daunting.

Here, Mr Beckles makes it clear the huge difference between his view and approach to reparations and that held by the approach to the subject of the Ralph Gonsalves government. Mr Beckles stresses the achievements, the pride and industry of Caribbean peoples in their attempt to build nations and make something of themselves. He is against begging, subservience, handouts and presenting of our people as unclear thinkers who are mired in psychological and other overstated debilitations as a result of slavery.

Britain, and its Parliament, cannot morally and legally turn their back upon this past, and walk away from the mess they have left behind. This Parliament has to return to the scene of its crimes, and participate as a legitimate parliament, as a legal parliament, in the healing and rehabilitation of the Caribbean. We cannot, and should not, be asked to do this by ourselves. We have done our part. This Parliament must now return, and do its part, within the context of reparatory justice, and within the framework of development cooperation. I wish to give two examples of how this reparatory justice can work:(1) Jamaica, Britain’s largest slave colony, was left with 80% black functional illiteracy at Independence in 1962. From this circumstance the great and courageous Jamaican nation has struggled with development and poverty alleviation. The deep crisis remains. This Parliament owes the people of Jamaica an educational and human resource investment initiative.(2) Barbados, Britain’s first slave society, is now called the amputation capitol of the world. It is here that the stress profile of slavery and racial apartheid; dietary disaster and psychological trauma; and the addiction to the consumption of sugar and salt, have reached the highest peak. The country is now host to the world’s most virulent diabetes and hypertension epidemic. This Parliament owes the people of Barbados an education and health initiative. It is the same for all our countries; the Bahamas, the Leewards, the Windwards, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, and beyond.

These two examples are, I suspect, merely a microcosm of the type of evidentiary truths that the Jamaican and Barbadian governments have prepared. They seem to have done their homework and it seems that they are ready to deal with the subject of reparations head on. Has St Vincent and the Grenadines done this type of homework? Instead of presenting a totally racialist argument and a demand for money, can Mr Jomo Thomas present some type of evidentiary truth to the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines? Will the other countries listed by Mr Beckles present the type of truth that Jamaica and Barbados are willing and able to present? So far, I have seen no such evidence from them and therein lies the weakness of the reparations struggle going forward.

The CARICOM Ten Point Plan for Reparatory Justice addresses these development issues that are central to the case Britain has to answer. It is an invitation to Great Britain to demonstrate leadership within the legal, moral, and diplomatic culture of the world, within the Commonwealth, and within its relations the Caribbean. There can be no escaping the importance of this exchange of views about the matter before this honourable chamber tonight. It took all of the 19th century to uproot slavery from the Caribbean; from Haiti in 1804 to the Spanish sub-region in the 1880s. It took another 100 years to create citizenship, nationhood, and democracy across the Caribbean as a development framework. We have helped ourselves. This 21st century will be the century of global reparatory justice. Citizens are now, for the first time since they were driven into retreat by colonialism, able to stand up for reparatory justice without fear. Their claim, their just claim for reparations, will not go away. Rather, like the waves upon our beautiful shores, they will keep coming until reparatory justice is attained. Madam Chair, we call upon you, and all members of this House, to rise to this challenge and to assist Great Britain to be truly worthy of the title “Great”. I urge you to do the right thing, in the right way. There is no other right time, other than right now, in our time. There is so much to gain from your leadership. The Caribbean is counting on you. In 1823, the honourable Thomas Buxton, M.P. for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, presented a bill to this House calling for an Emancipation Act with compensation for the enslaved people. His bill and vision were defeated. Instead, ten years later, an emancipation bill was passed, not with compensation for the enslaved, but with handsome and generous compensation for enslavers. Some 40% of the national expenditure of the country was handed over to slave-owners as reparations. The enslaved people of the Caribbean got nothing. Indeed, they were then called upon by the said Emancipation Act to give £27 million in free labour to their enslavers. The injustice and the cruelty of that Emancipation Act, remain today like a fish bone stuck in our throats. We urge you, Madam Chair, and other members of this Parliament, to rise up and bring the Buxton vision to life. He was a noble warrior for reparatory justice; his spirit can return to this House, in both places, and the 21st century will be ours to forge a new moral order for our collective wellbeing. On behalf of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, all my colleagues across the Caribbean who have worked with our governments in order to bring this case before you, I ask that you respond with humility and openness when your government receives an invitation to meet with our governments in summit in order to discuss this matter. May the values and the spirit of development cooperation and mutual respect guide us all. Thank you Madam Chair.

My Opinion

I salute Mr Beckles, an individual that I fully recognize as a notable and accomplished senior historian, for presenting the CARICOM reparations case in the way that it should be presented; the presentation is not as comprehensive as I would have liked but it is more than sufficient as an unbiased opening salvo to the British Parliament. I hope that he realizes, as chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, that his work is being sabotaged by the politically inappropriate approach being taken by the Ralph Gonsalves government in St Vincent and the Grenadines. As one respondent indicated, Ralph Gonsalves’ approach “is about the false promise of (individual monetary) compensation by cynical and manipulative regional politicians.” I hope that Mr Beckles will do something to correct the damage that is being and has already been done in other jurisdictions of CARICOM.

I think that his speech synchronizes much better with my arguments than anything presented by Jomo Thomas or Ralph Gonsalves and their silent, absent, submissive committee. Apart from the grand-standing and the obnoxious drive for self-aggrandizement, Mr Thomas has not done the job he is required to do. He simplifies and distorts the true purpose of the drive for reparations and, if the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines continues to proceed along this farcical path, the justification and, hence, the legal argument for reparations, will be much weaker and the desired end will, more than likely, be unattainable.

In short, my claim is: Members of CARICOM should stand together with one diverse, but solidly combined, evidentiary based, legal argument. If they cannot do this, they will fail!
 
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Comments:

Vinciman:

Gee Whiz! Did anyone hear from Beckles?

Anatolyah all this guy was wack!

Which side he on, really?

I am beginning to believe he learned something from PKnight, P Knight, same difference.

Vinci Vin:

Dear Mr. Scott:

Many thanks for taking the time to present this discourse on the Beckles speech to the British Parliament in relations to Jomo's attempt to disseminate the gist of the speech (or the sections that he deemed relevant to his reparations Committee case) in a newspaper article. Your analytical skills must be recognized and admired.

I am in full agreement with your contention: "Here, Mr Beckles makes it clear the huge difference between his view and approach to reparations and that held by the approach to the subject of the Ralph Gonsalves government. Mr Beckles stresses the achievements, the pride and industry of Caribbean peoples in their attempt to build nations and make something of themselves. He is against begging, subservience, handouts and presenting of our people as unclear thinkers who are mired in psychological and other overstated debilitations as a result of slavery."

After all,I believe that in the longrun, the political strategy of casting our people as "international beggars" could prove to be even more harmful than slavery.

However, I am quite saddened by the realization that the present political strategy in SVG has rendered the nation powerless to take advantage of the combined intellect of ULP supporters and non-ULP supporters on such important matters as seeking remedies for the sins of colonialism and slavery. In a world where national priorities would otherwise dictate the need for collaboration among our scholars for national benefits our divisive politics appears to be defeating patriotism in favor of political tribalism and veiled racial exploitation. Wouldn't it be great if Anatol Scott and Jomo Thomas could work together on this reparations issue? Greater still would be the utilization of the difference of opinions and experiences in historical analysis that you could provide to the Vincentian reparations committee and the Vincentian people.

Jomo Thomas is a hard working Vincy with strong beliefs in Vincentian development and nationalism. I believe that he is sincere in his efforts to help our nation to emerge from its underdeveloped state. On the other hand, I just hope that he can find the intellectual fortitude to avoid becoming a clone of our present PM -- the sole authority on everything Vincentian.... yet a pseudo leader who appears not to have the ability to complete initiatives in the national development interests.

Please continue to write and disseminate your ideas pertaining to our nation's problems, history, and potential solutions. There is strength and value in varying opinions for problem solutions. And as you have so aptly demonstrated, our people can benefit greatly from your frame of references.

Thank you.

Vinci Vin

Peter Binose:

Dear Anatol, if you analyze anything that the Marxist brigade write or say, its inevitably borrowed and modified from someone else. They are so narrow minded as Marxists that if the used there own comments and views they would be rejected out of hand by the electorate.

Even things that the fat man wrote and published years ago you can find other people work within every piece of it.

This expose by you shows the cunningness of the little man who copied it, not the cleverness that is something that we must doubt. If he was that clever he would of used his own words.

Even the fat man's quote "we will hunt them down until they exist no more" was a phrase stolen from someone else and modified ' we will hunt them down and exact vengeance'.

November the 19th 2013, I wrote a letter titled ' Why so many accusations against PM Gonsalves? The contents of that letter are even more relevant today.

Peter Binose:

Dear Anatol, like Vincy Vin I appreciate the input and your very intelligence in analysing and the forensic input in writing this amazing piece.


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