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Letter: Reparations debate and the Commission for Pan-African Affairs
Published on February 5, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

“The century just about to end has been often cited as the American century, in the sense that it saw the rise of the USA to be a great nation. Well, there has been a great awakening in Africa, led and energized by the liberation of Southern Africa. And I confidently say to you that the next century, the 21st century, may very well come to be the African century. It is for us of African origin to help make it happen!” Owen S. Arthur November 1998.

Why is Barbados the only island in the Caribbean and Latin America that is not projected to have economic growth in 2014? Why would parliamentarians continue to be abusive to colleagues? Finally, why is Barbados in such a state of moral decline? These and others questions are putting Barbados under the international spotlight at a time when Afrika and people of Afrikan descent are advancing towards economic and spiritual liberation in the 21st century.

The United Nation Secretary General has finally submitted his report to the General Assembly for the adoption of a ‘Decade for People of Afrikan Descent’. This might formally commence in 2014 or 2015. In addition, CARICOM governments have established a CARICOM Reparations Commission to pursue reparations claims against former colonizing powers of the region. These claims reminds us of what was said: “If there is any justice in heaven, the area which has the just claim to being declared a zone of peace is the Caribbean area, which has for so long been affected by the machinations and maneuvers, the hot wars and the cold wars of the great powers and superpowers.” late Dr. Eric Williams 1964.

To adequately address the above issues and others we must appreciate why we are at this stage in 2014. Why has it taken so long for CARICOM governments to join the international reparations movement? Could it be that some people of influence such as Peter Wickham and Sir Courtney Blackman in Barbadians’ society and others in Caribbean territories had failed to make the connection between the problematic situation in our region and the liberation of Afrika? If they had done their homework they would not try to belittle the work of the Commission for Pan-African Affairs and similar bodies which aim to promote this connection.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling in the case of Ms Myrie of Jamaica has implications for Caribbean integration. This integration process is vital to the liberation of Afrika. Those of us who are aware of our identity must be concern that the tired voices of influential Barbadians singing the old anti-Commission for Pan-African Affairs (CPAA) song has been joined by Members of Parliament.

These Members of Parliament and others who share the views of these influential Barbadians on the matter of closing the Commission appear to be ignorant of the views expressed by the Rt Hon. Owen Arthur and the late Dr Eric Williams as quoted above and many other similar views by leading Caribbean visionaries about the way forward for the Caribbean.

The persons calling for the closure of the CPAA are claiming that it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. With such views they have been attracting others who have been misinformed to give credit to their views. These same persons will also have objections to reparations for Afrikan people. There is an old saying: “Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.”

It would appear that these persons do not know what white supremacy (racism) is or that they are apologists for the elitists of Barbados and the status quo. During the enslavement period they were called “house niggers”. This label can now be given also to a national who has resettled from England. He was a former deputy High Commissioner to Britain. In his ignorance he organized a remembrance and thanksgiving service on 17th November 2013 for the late Prime Minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party of Britain. There has been a backlash to this event from Barbadians and other Caribbean nationals at home and abroad who understand what racism in Britain was like during the 1950s to 1980s, and which is still alive and well today.

As for those of us in the struggle against racism and for economic and spiritual liberation for the masses of Afrikan people we would have been called “field niggers” during slavery. We knew then, as we do now, that if one does not understand white supremacy everything else that one thinks one understand will only be confusing.

If those with the views of these influential persons did understand racism they would know the importance of the CPAA; the first and still, only such department of any government with a mandate to help guide people of Afrikan descent through the “maze” of self-identity, African consciousness and the way forward, by understanding family values and community morals that were practiced by us before chattel enslavement and colonialism.

Since emancipation Afrikans have been struggling to find solutions to the decline in our dysfunctional families. The Barbados Land ship a civil society organization is one such attempt. In 2013 this organization celebrated its 150th anniversary (since 1863), but most Barbadians are not aware of its historical roots. This has been a direct result of our miss education. We do not intend the same fate to befall the CPAA.

History of the CPAA and its contribution to the Reparations debate

The Commission for Pan-African Affairs (CPAA) was established in November 1998. It was placed under the portfolio of the Prime Minister’s Office. At its launching the prime minister said: “The century just about to end has been often cited as the American century, in the sense that it saw the rise of the USA to be a great nation. Well, there has been a great awakening in Africa, led and energized by the liberation of Southern Africa. And I confidently say to you that the next century, the 21st century, may very well come to be the African century. It is for us of African origin to help make it happen!”

At the time the majority of Caucasians elites and leading members of the opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) objected to the formation of the CPAA and were calling for its closure. Money was not the issue then. They had an ideological position.

We shall highlight some of the work of this unique department of government. In 1999 within months of the launching the first major project was to organize a Global Afrikan Diaspora Think Tank in Barbados to help prepare Afrikan people for economic liberation in the 21st century. The second task also in 1999 was to advise the government to have a national consultation on racism. The outcome was a report in 2000 “A Shared Vision for the 21st Century” by the Committee for National Reconciliation.

In 2000 it coordinated a regional conference to prepare for the 2001 United Nations (UN) third and final conference of a 30 years programme for the eradication of Racism (1973-2003). The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related intolerance held in Durban, South Africa concluded that racism was a consequence of and the legacy from the transatlantic trade in Africans, chattel enslavement and colonialism all crimes against humanity. Among the major recommendations from the conference is that reparations is due to Afrikan people. This is what the late Dr Eric Williams meant about justice. The officials of the CPAA played a pivotal role in influencing the outcome of that conference.

In October 2002 Barbados hosted the first follow-up to the Durban conference, the Afrikan and Afrikan Descendants World Conference against Racism. This was a non-governmental organisation initiative. Out of that gathering came the Global Afrikan Congress (GAC), an international NGO movement for reparations. That conference would not have been made possible without the contributions from the CPAA and its officials. In 2007 Barbados also hosted one of the African Union (AU) -- South African Regional Consultative Conferences.

In the 2008 General Elections the DLP administration took the helm of power, the government did not close the CPAA, and DLP influential members stop calling for it to be closed. The action taken by government was to remove it from the Prime Minister’s Office and place it under the Ministry of Culture. The work done by the founder staff officials of the CPAA in particular Mr David Comissiong, the late Dr Ikael Tafari and Rev. Buddy Larrier has been paying dividends for Barbados and the Caribbean.

Both Mr Comissiong and Rev. Larrier have been acknowledged by the African Union and Diaspora activists as key Afrikans of the Diaspora in advancing the movement towards a United States of Afrika.

Both Rev. Larrier and Comissiong have continued their connection with the CPAA giving it their full support. At times advising the Minister of Culture to hold firm as the former Prime Minister Owen Arthur did, by not allowing the influential persons to have their way against this important department, which has the admiration of the Global Afrikan Liberation Movement.

In 2002 the UN Human Rights Council established a Working Group of Experts on People of Afrikan Descent. In 2010 this group was planning a programme of activities for 2011 - the ‘International Year for People of Afrikan Descent’. Rev. Larrier led a two-member delegation to Geneva to attend the planning session. This small Barbados delegation was the only delegates from the English-speaking Caribbean in attendance. The ideas that Rev. Larrier contributed to the year’s programme with the theme: “Recognition, Justice, Development” included some ideas he had gained from his 10 years tenure with the CPAA. Those ideas now formed part of the draft programme of action for the “decade for people of Afrikan descent” from 2014 or 2015.

Concluding facts

The DLP administration has built on the foundation and programmes laid by the CPAA. With directive from the CPAA it established a Reparations Task Force on 12th October 2012 and the CPAA is its secretariat. Both Mr Comissiong and Rev Larrier are members of that Reparations Task Force. CARICOM member states have also built on the work of CPAA and the Global Think Tank it established in 1999. Today, there is a CARICOM Heads of State Sub-Committee on Reparations with our prime minister as chair. There is also a CARICOM Reparations Commission with Sir Hilary as chair. Barbadians have produce two books on reparations that are contributing to the debate on the economic liberation for Afrikan people. Also the secretary general of the UN has appointed one of the authors of the books to join his team of advisors.

Influential persons the likes of Peter Wickham and Sir Courtney in particular should discontinue from making statements that give our oppressors comfort, such as calling for the closure of CPAA and also voicing negative views against reparations. This gives comfort to the divisive elitist elements whose objective is to derail the process towards our economic liberation. If we do not publicly denounce these persons it allows the colonialists, to make public statements such as those that came out of Jamaica from the British Under-Secretary for the Caribbean who made remarks saying that “we will never get reparations”.

The CPAA has been a beacon of hope to the rest of the Pan-Afrikan world that has looked to it for inspiration. Among the proposals that were put on CPAA agenda from 1998 was that of the 12th October as an International Day for truth, justice, peace, healing and reconciliation to reverse the psychological damage. Today, the 12th October is being considered for designation as the ‘International Reparations Day’ across the Afrikan Diaspora civil society. Now that the UN General Assembly is in committee to consider proclaiming a decade for people of Afrikan descent it is only for the Governments of CARICOM to show leadership by joining the global civil society movement and endorse the 12th October as ‘Reparations Day’.

We hope that the foregoing will help these influential persons in Barbados to be more informed about the history of the CPAA. They should now stop giving support to the enemy of our liberation struggle. Ignorance of Afrikan heritage has plagued Barbados masses for the past 386 years, if allowed to continue it will become infectious to future generations and our morals will continue to decline. Declining morals breed violence and crime.

Those influential persons referred to above and others who are ignorant in things Afrikan need to be brave and wise enough to put their names forward for the training programmes on white supremacy, African consciousness; heritage and history that the Non State Actors Reparations Commission (NsARC) will be conducting in collaboration with CPAA from this year.

If such persons are allowed to continue with the kind of ignorance about the significance of CPAA and that people of Afrikan descent are not deserving of reparations -- repairing the damage -- then they must be of the view that they are wiser than all of CARICOM heads of state and the majority of the United Nations General Assembly combined.

Summary

The NsARC applauds the steps taken by the Ministry of Culture, even in these economically challenging times not to give in to those influential persons. Presently the CPAA is helping to take the liberation struggle to its ultimate. The following four facts need to be appreciated:

1. the BLP gave birth to the CPAA, the first and only Afrikan consciousness department of any government, with a mandate and programme which strengthened the foundation for our liberation during the 21st century (see CPAA leaflet);

2. the DLP has been building on that foundation;

3. the masses of CARICOM people are about to benefit from that foundation through reparations;

4. Barbadians are being betrayed by some influential persons who don’t know or appreciate their Afrikan history including some members of both the BLP and DLP who seek to belittle the CPAA.

Non State Actors Reparations Commission (NsARC)

For further information contact NsARC:
Tel. (246) 267-1257/265-8849/236-4569.
Email:
nsarcbarbados@gmail.com
 
Reads: 8039





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