Jamaica, Belize and Bahamas groups unite in reparations, republic push after Royal visit

Exclusive: A Caribbean coalition has been launched following a controversial royal tour

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Tuesday 29 March 2022 23:22 BST
British royals' Jamaica visit stirs demands for slavery reparations

Black and indigenous groups across Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas have formed a coalition as part of a collective push for slavery reparations from Britain and to remove the Queen as head of state in each country, The Independent can reveal.

The move comes following an eight-day tour of the three nations by Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, which ended on Sunday.

The royal couple’s trip was marked by protests and a string of “PR failures”. By the trip’s conclusion, both Jamaica and Belize’s governments signalled an intent to decouple from the monarchy and become a republic.

Moreover, the Bahamas National Reparations Committee (BNRC), the Advocacy Network in Jamaica and the indigenous Maya people of Belize – all of which staged demonstrations during the Cambridges’ time there – denounced the royal visit, declared a “united” stand in ongoing calls for reparatory justice and condemned Britain’s “brutal” colonial legacy.

“We stand united in rejecting the so-called charm offensive tour of the Caribbean undertaken by William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which is in sharp opposition to the needs and aspirations of indigenous peoples and people of African descent in the Caribbean,” a joint statement from the three organisations, issued on Sunday, read.

“We stand united in condemning Britain's savagery in enslaving our ancestors, the coarse indecency of colonial exploitation, the brutality of its enforcers, and the enduring legacies of impoverishment and colonial-era ideologies that have damaged and continue to damage our people, our society and our economy.

“Going forward, we will stand stronger, united in our call for reparatory justice and in supporting the roadmap for redress laid out by the CARICOM Reparations Commission. We will stand strong, united in our celebration of the resilience of Caribbean people who have accomplished much since our independence, against the odds, and we commit to continuing in this tradition in tackling contemporary challenges, rooting out all vestiges of our post-colonial past and empowering our people to achieve more.”

Cristina Coc: ‘We will not continue to remain silent in the face of continued threats to our identity’

This follows protests which took place during their visit to the northern Caribbean country following conflict about the “colonial legacy of theft” and land rights between the Maya people, local indigenous residents, and Flora and Fauna International, the conservation charity Prince William supports as patron.

The Cambridges were forced to cancel a planned visit to India Creek village because of this dispute.

Cristina Coc, a human rights advocate within the Maya community in southern Belize, said: “Indian Creek has for years been embroiled in a land dispute where approximately 13,000 acres of their customary lands is being annexed from the community lands, without their consent. Through, what can only be described as an indigenous land grab, an international conservation organization called Flora and Fauna international has taken over the charge, depriving and restricting Indian Creek Villagers of their lands and resources for their use and enjoyment.”

“We will not continue to remain silent in the face of continued threats to our identity, dignity and agency while privileged royals travel around in desperation to maintain the legacy of colonies,” Ms Coc continued.

“The royal family’s entitlement and privilege were built off the of the labour of our people and the richness of our lands. Exploitation, plunder and racism is not a thing of the past as they would have you believe, especially as indigenous land grabs continue through charity and large international fortress conservation groups like Flora Fauna International (FFI).

“Before they ask us to heal, they must right the wrongs they have caused on Indigenous people and People of African heritage.”

Professor Hamilton (left) and two other protesters at the Advocates Network demonstration

Professor Rosalea Hamilton, of Jamaica’s Advocates Network, said support for their organisation has grown since their protest outside of the British High Commission in Kingston last Tuesday.

“We were joined by several individuals from all walks of life, including Rastafarians and Garveyites who have been on this resistance journey for decades, demanding reparations and repatriation. As members of the Advocates Network we daily confront the harsh social and economic legacies of our past, as well as the consequences of our own choices over the past 60 years of our independence.

“Colonial legacies are perpetuated by policies, laws and institutional arrangements that encourage conformity to norms and practices that are ill-suited for the modern world. So our decision to write an open letter demanding an apology and reparations was driven by our commitment to find sustainable solutions to these pressing challenges, especially now given the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will continue the long historic fight against human rights abuses, with the resistant spirit of our ancestors. We will also fight to promote good governance to strengthen the voice of the Jamaican people in shaping the future we want for our children.”

A spokesperson for the BNRC, which penned an open letter to Prince William and Kate calling for reparations last week, said: “We were motivated to write the letter to show that we do not owe this family and the regime they represent anything and to reject the notion that we are the model colony that won’t rock the boat.

“Bahamians are not limited to only being a legal jurisdiction for financial services; and an ideal tourist destination. We are a free and sovereign nation and believe that it is time to change our narrative to reflect that.”

The BNRC also expressed solidarity with members of the nation’s Rastafarian community.

At the end of the tour, Prince William acknowledged that the monarchy’s days in Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas nations may be numbered as he stated the future “is for the people to decide upon”, adding that overseas tours as “an opportunity to reflect” following protests.

This comes after Barbados became a republic nearly four months ago by removing the queen as the sovereign head of state and after The Independent revealed that Jamaica has already begun the process of removing the Queen as head of state.

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