David Cameron says No to Repa­ra­tions

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

The UK Prime Min­is­ter, David Cameron, has called for Ja­maica to “move on” from the “painful legacy” of slav­ery as he de­fied calls to apol­o­gise for Bri­tain’s role in the slave trade.

The Prime Min­is­ter said that slav­ery was “ab­hor­rent” dur­ing an ad­dress to the Ja­maican Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day but failed to di­rectly dis­cuss repa­ra­tions de­spite de­mands from politi­cians on the is­land.

It comes af­ter cam­paign­ers called on the Prime Min­is­ter to “per­son­ally atone” for his fam­ily’s his­toric ties to slav­ery dur­ing the two-day Caribbean visit. The row over com­pen­sa­tion for slav­ery over­shad­owed Mr Cameron’s trip to Ja­maica, where he be­came the first UK prime min­is­ter to visit the coun­try for 14 years.

Speak­ing to Ja­maican MPs on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Mr Cameron spoke out over slav­ery but fell short of apol­o­gis­ing for Bri­tain’s role or dis­cussing repa­ra­tions. “Slav­ery was and is ab­hor­rent in all its forms. It has no place what­so­ever in any civilised so­ci­ety, and Bri­tain is proud to have even­tu­ally led the way in its abo­li­tion,” Mr Cameron said.

“That the Caribbean has emerged from the long shadow it cast is tes­ta­ment to the re­silience and spirit of its peo­ple. I ac­knowl­edge that these wounds run very deep in­deed.

“But I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much to­gether since those dark­est of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and con­tinue to build for the fu­ture.”

There re­mains anger in Ja­maica that while the UK gov­ern­ment com­pen­sated slave own­ers when the prac­tice was abol­ished in 1833, those en­slaved were not given any money for their suf­fer­ing.

Ja­maican politi­cians from across the aisle re­ferred to the is­sue of repa­ra­tions in their speeches to Mr Cameron. Por­tia Simp­son Miller, the Ja­maican Prime Min­is­ter, said she had raised the “dif­fi­cult” is­sue of fi­nan­cial com­pen­sa­tion for slav­ery with Mr Cameron and pledged to con­tinue dis­cus­sion with a “spirit of open­ness and un­der­stand­ing”.

An­drew Hol­ness, the Ja­maican leader of the op­po­si­tion, spoke out against what is “uni­ver­sally agreed to be the wrongs of the past”.

There was bang­ing of desks from MPs when Mr Cameron men­tioned slav­ery but the op­po­si­tion benches in the par­lia­ment cham­ber were far from full.

Links be­tween Mr Cameron’s fam­ily and slav­ery had resur­faced ahead of the visit. Gen­eral Sir James Duff, an army of­fi­cer and Mr Cameron’s first cousin six times re­moved, ac­cord­ing to records, was com­pen­sated when slav­ery was abol­ished. Sir James, who the Prime Min­is­ter is re­lated to on his fa­ther’s side, was awarded £4,101 when he for­feited 202 slaves on the Grange Sugar Es­tate in Ja­maica – equal to more than £3 mil­lion to­day.

Bert Sa­muels, a mem­ber of the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Repa­ra­tions which is de­mand­ing bil­lions of pounds be paid in com­pen­sa­tion, had said Mr Cameron must apol­o­gise over slav­ery dur­ing his visit. “His lin­eage has been traced and his fore­fa­thers were slave-own­ers and ben­e­fited from slav­ery,” Mr Sa­muels told Tele­vi­sion Ja­maica. He added: “There­fore he needs to atone, to apol­o­gise per­son­ally and on be­half of his coun­try.” Mr Sa­muels said that Bri­tish slave own­ers had won com­pen­sa­tion from the gov­ern­ment af­ter abo­li­tion thanks to lob­by­ing but that slaves them­selves never got any money. “We were left be­hind be­cause of racism,” he added.

UK Prime Min­ster, David Cameron, ad­dresses the Ja­maican Par­lia­ment on

Wed­nes­day.

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