Jamaica plans to ask the UK to pay billions in compensation for the centuries-old slave trade in the former British colony, a senior government official has announced.
“Our African ancestors were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labor to the benefit of the British Empire,” Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture Olivia Grange told Reuters.
“Redress is well overdue,” she insisted.
Grange refused to say exactly how much the Caribbean nation is seeking, but the reparations petition is based on a motion by Jamaican lawmaker Mike Henry, who has put it as worth more than $10.5 billion, roughly equivalent to what Britain paid the slaveholders.
“I am asking for the same amount of money to be paid to the slaves that was paid to the slave owners,” said Henry, a member of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party.
“I am doing this because I have fought against this all my life, against chattel slavery which has dehumanized human life.”
The petition, with approval from Jamaica’s National Council on Reparations, will be filed pending advice from the attorney general and three legal teams, Grange said.
The attorney general will then send it to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who remains head of state of the Commonwealth country.
An estimated 600,000 Africans were shipped to toil in Jamaica, according to the National Library of Jamaica.
Britain prohibited trade of slaves in its empire in 1807 but did not formally abolish the practice of slavery until 1834.
Seized from Spain by the English in 1655, Jamaica was a British colony until it became independent in 1962.
It remains part of the Commonwealth, although the petition coincides with increasing efforts by some Jamaican leaders to sever formal ties with the UK. Opposition lawmaker Mikael Phillips in December presented a motion to remove the British monarch as head of state.
With Post wires