Peter Josie’s ‘Repa­ra­tions Con­fer­ence’

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Re­viewed by Clau­dia Elei­box

Peter Josie's new­est ti­tle, Repa­ra­tions Con­fer­ence, comes on the heels of UWI Vice Chan­cel­lor Sir Hi­lary Beck­les' an­nounce­ment this week that the Uni­ver­si­ties of Glas­gow and the West In­dies are in dis­cus­sions for repa­ra­tions from the for­mer worth £200 mil­lion in cash and in kind to Ja­maica (see page 8).

Beck­les has been spear­head­ing di­a­logue about repa­ra­tions jus­tice for slav­ery in the Caribbean for a long time and in July 2014 pro­posed a repa­ra­tions agree­ment to the Bri­tish House of Com­mons. Beck­les also di­vulged in Fe­bru­ary this year at a Caribbean Repa­ra­tions Com­mis­sion press con­fer­ence that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment only fin­ished re­pay­ing the loan for slav­ery abo­li­tion in 2015. His role has been vi­tal in any con­sid­er­a­tion of Caribbean repa­ra­tions jus­tice, de­spite the many naysay­ers on the mat­ter.

Repa­ra­tions Con­fer­ence is what I be­lieve Josie hopes to hap­pen to at least launch pro­duc­tive con­sul­ta­tions on repa­ra­tions and per­haps to lead Saint Lu­cia where Beck­les is headed.

The book is a work of fic­tion de­scrib­ing the an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment of the coun­try lead­ing up to the first ever com­mu­nal dis­cus­sion about rea­sons why past col­o­niz­ers should re­dress Caribbean slav­ery and its af­ter-ef­fects. Josie out­lines the de­tails of the con­fer­ence and the rea­sons be­hind the choice of lo­ca­tion, the au­di­ence in­vited, the se­lected panel and how the idea came into pub­lic con­scious­ness. The repa­ra­tions con­fer­ence was planned for months and pro­moted through all me­dia, its fi­nal hur­dle be­ing a rainy morn­ing on the sched­uled date.

All in all, apart from the CARICOM Repa­ra­tions Com­mis­sion ac­tiv­i­ties in Saint Lu­cia, in­clud­ing a Youth Rally in 2016, there has not been an event quite like what Josie pro­poses in his book. He sets a tone of over­all in­clu­sion and non-dis­crim­i­na­tion by bring­ing both com­mon and un­ortho­dox per­spec­tives of repa­ra­tions jus­tice into his char­ac­ters' speech and con­ver­sa­tion.

The cen­tral fig­ures in Josie's imag­i­nary con­fer­ence are Toney Grant, the repa­ra­tions com­mit­tee's chair­man, Mary Mor­gan who rep­re­sents teach­ers past and present, John Sandy who speaks for trade union­ists, Andy Charles or Ras Lion, the Rasa­ta­far­ian pop­u­la­tion's as­signee, and Anna Leon for the coun­try's stu­dents. My per­sonal favourite is Mary Mor­gan who se­cretly has a more ra­tional idea for a case for repa­ra­tions jus­tice than the Rasta­far­i­ans who birthed the con­cept. She knows it would not sit well with Saint Lu­cians but she is bold none­the­less. Mary Mor­gan also re­minds me of my mother too, ob­vi­ously be­cause she is a witty school­teacher.

Flip­ping through the pages, the reader is not al­ways bur­dened or an­gered by the bru­tal­ity of slav­ery as through­out the en­tire con­fer­ence the chair­man keeps push­ing the crowd to me­di­ate a tan­gi­ble plan for a way for­ward, al­though a few char­ac­ters are clearly bit­ter, some even in­sist­ing on a Mar­cus Gar­vey ap­proach to jus­tice.

The con­fer­ence is a day long and gets more and more crowded as the day pro­gresses and peo­ple hear about it over the ra­dio. Some come in at the eleventh hour hop­ing to voice their con­tri­bu­tion. It is ev­ery­thing the or­gan­is­ers hoped for and more. In the end, Toney Grant has a solid case to de­liver to the gov­ern­ment en­com­pass­ing ev­ery­thing the is­land de­serves from repa­ra­tions jus­tice, and it is plau­si­bly what would hap­pen if Josie's idea came to life.

Of course—like any­one else who reads some­thing they did not write—there were parts I en­joyed and oth­ers that I just did not fancy. I wished that there was more Lu­cian bro­kenEnglish and a small fight, but Josie cov­ered all his bases with ef­fec­tive se­cu­rity mea­sures and an au­thor­i­ta­tive chair­man. Josie does de­scribe the novel as an ama­teur at­tempt but his ex­pe­ri­ence in pol­i­tics and with other lead­ers in the is­land's so­cial af­fairs in­form this book and the pos­si­bil­i­ties if such a con­fer­ence was ever a re­al­ity. All in all, I be­lieve Josie has the blue­print for a lo­cal repa­ra­tions cat­a­lyst right in the pages of his book.

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