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Reparatory justice

Saturday, February 17, 2018

In March 2014, the Reparations Commission which was established in 2013 by Caricom comprising 15 member States in the Caribbean published its Ten Point Plan for Reparatory Justice. This report outlined what Great Britain and seven other European countries owed the nations of the Caribbean and demanded inter alia that reparations should include a full apology for the slave trade, the cancellation of debts, investment in educational, health and cultural resources to assist with developing these nations.

In or about 2015, Jamaica was very vocal about Reparatory Justice when it demanded from England’s then Prime Minister (David Cameron) during an Official State visit by him to Jamaica, that reparations ought to be made.

Are people operating in an outdated mode of thinking when they seek reparation more than one hundred years after the abolition of slavery? Or are these people seeking recourse for inhumane and degrading treatment meted out to them as well as entrenching their basic right to be treated with dignity and compassion?

When I called for fellow Trinidadians to boycott Tobago (and I continue to make this call), it was as a result of a Tobagonian in high office (Hilton Sandy) “warning” fellow Tobagonians on an election platform that if they were not careful that “the Calcutta ship” would come for them. The Prime Minister himself was on that platform, but he, nor anyone else saw it fit to condemn this racist statement and/or disclaim any association with it. It was a good laugh at the end of the day and it served its purpose in the imminent elections.

My call for complete severing of ties between Trinidad and Tobago and total independence for Tobago resulted instead, in me being called “racist” and “unpatriotic.” I would like to think that I speak for many when I say that I felt extremely hurt at the “Calcutta ship” statements. It can only be stated as an affront to Trinidadians’ and East Indians’ (in particular) right to be treated with a basic respect for our dignity!

I dare say that Tobagonians should make reparations for such a statement. It was one man who made it, but the politicians ostensibly endorsed it and the overwhelming election results in favour of the PNM showed that the majority of the population agreed with it. Rather than condemn such statements by boycotting the elections, Tobagonians appear to have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the camp from whence such racist statement originated.

Putting aside bitter feelings over being “marginalised,” I did make calls to the Government via previous articles in this column, to treat Tobagonians fairly and with compassion by expeditiously resolving the inter-island transportation woes. A properly-functioning air bridge continues to elude us during long weekends and public holidays. But I focus on the sea bridge at this time.

The T&T Express appears to be down at this time with no statement as to when it would be back up and sailing. In or about June 2017 the T&T Spirit was dry-docked for a 30-day period. It is still dry-docked.

Recent articles in the press referred to small hotels and businesses closing down in Tobago as a result of the Government’s failure to deal with the inter-island issues. Now, the Government has secured a boat called Galleons Passage to provide inter-island ferry services. If, how and when, this will ensure efficient services to Tobago is even beyond divine omniscience.

I ask, why has no private enterprise seen it fit to run an inter-island ferry service? It is only with Government’s heavy subsidy that the cost to islanders will be less than with a private ownership and management of an inter-island ferry. Everyone appreciates that the economy may not permit any sizeable subsidy from the Government. In fact the Government has consistently reduced subsidy from gas and diesel in successive budgets.

Why then has no private enterprise stepped up to the plate as yet? Why has the Government not seen it fit to partner with the private sector to secure the sea bridge? Could it be that local investors appreciate the “Calcutta ship” statements as more than what I have stated above, and are therefore not prepared to invest in an inter-island ferry service? Is it that reparations must first be made by Tobagonians before moving forward?


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