KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 15, IWN – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he will use the rest of his life to seek compensation from the British for land, genocide against the Garifuna, and slavery.
Gonsalves, who turns 67 in August, noted on Thursday — National Heroes Day — that the average lifespan of a Vincentian male is 74 years.
“If I only do the average, I will thank God for the average. But, I have seven more years, to talk like this, with the help of almighty God, and to demand a proper historical recompense for genocide, for the land, and for African slavery and for us to reclaim our history,” he said at the Wreath-Laying Ceremony at The Obelisk in honour of National Hero Joseph Chatoyer in Dorsetshire Hill.
Gonsalves reaffirmed the position of his government as stated at the United Nations and other fora that it is making a case and a claim for reparation from the British.
“I want to say that the quantification of what we are owed as reparations that quantification has to be complete with the appropriate technical work.”
He said the Cabinet will shortly name its Reparations Committee.
“But we want to see not only a reparations committee for St. Vincent but we want to see a Caribbean wide reparations committee involving other Caribbean countries. Jamaica has one, Antigua has one, Barbados has recently set up one,” he said.
Gonsalves said in the 18th Century the British took 90,000 acres of land from the Garifuna, the original inhabitants of St. Vincent.
“Imagine the price of 90,000 acres of land [today]. Even if you valued it then for 100 pounds an acre, … you are talking about EC$500 million for the land, [at] the least. And then, what value you are going to put on people’s lives? That’s a number we will have to talk about,” he said.
Gonsalves said that at Emancipation the British gave slave owners in the British Caribbean 20 million pounds.
He said a recent study by Dr. Nick Draper of the University College of London concluded that 20 million pounds then is about 16.58 billion pounds now.
“Just forgetting for a moment the institution of slavery itself, that’s what they paid the owners of the slaves. If you take half of that representing for the Caribbean, you are talking about 8.25 billion pounds for the English speaking Caribbean,” Gonsalves further said, adding that the figure is about EC$40 billion.
“Great homes in England — lord this and lord that — were financed by the compensation money for the slaves. So when I talk like this you, you have some people saying Ralph [is] against the British.
“I have nothing against the British. I have nothing but admiration for the British and their achievement but there are some things for which we must take account.”
He said that some people argue that the British gives aid to St. Vincent.
“Well, I rather they give me that (reparation) than give me some aid. I rather we settle that. This is a matter which can’t be settled in law court. But this is a matter where, politically, we have to raise our voices,” Gonsalves said.
“Read study and research and let us not get involved in … fights about who is going to be our next national hero,” he said.
George Augustus McIntosh, Ebenezer Theordore Joshua and Robert Milton Cato have so far been proposed for declaration as National Hero.
“Any of the names which come forward — one, two or three. And whatever is done by the act of the Governor General through the process, we must accept it and move on.”
Gonsalves further said he expects “those who have suffered from French and Spanish colonialism to make those same claims against the relevant or appropriate European powers”.