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Establishment of The Bahamas National Reparations Committee
Mar 28, 2014 - 1:16:41 PM

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The following is a press statement by Fred Mitchell, Bahamas Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration made on March 24th, 2014:

At the Thirty-First Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regular Meeting held 23 July 2013, the Heads agreed on an action plan on the matter of reparations for native genocide and slavery, it was also agreed that National Reparation Committees be instituted in each member state to establish the moral, ethical and legal case for the payment of reparations by the former colonial European Countries, to the Nations and people of the Caribbean Community, for native genocide, the transatlantic slave trade and a racialised system of chattel slavery. The Chair of each committee would sit on the CARICOM Reparations Commission.

“Reparations is the process of repairing the consequences of crimes committed, and the attempt to reasonably remove debilitating effects of such crimes upon victims and their descendants” (Hilary Beckles, Chairman CARICOM Reparations Commission and Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies) .

Today I wish to inform you that Messrs. Alfred Sears and Philip Smith represented The Bahamas at the Second Meeting of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC) held 27-28th January, 2014 in Barbados in their role as Co-Chairs of the Bahamas Reparations Commission.

In preparation of a legal claim, each National Reparation Commission is to gather information pertaining to each claimant state; illustrate the link between historic discrimination and present day racial discrimination; outline modern racial discrimination resulting from slavery in areas of health, socio-economic deprivation and social disadvantage, education, living conditions/housing, property and land ownership, employment participation in public life and migration; and identity policies of the United Kingdom, which have perpetuated the discriminatory effects of slavery in the country (The Bahamas). This will serve as the Terms of Reference for The Bahamas Commission.

The Cabinet approved on the 4th March, 2014, Messrs. Alfred Sears and Philip Smith as Chair and Co-Chair respectively of The Bahamas Ad Hoc Committee on Reparations and the following persons to serve on the Committee:

Dr. Chris Curry (Historian, COB)

Dr. Gail Saunders (Historian, COB)

Fr. David Cooper (Rector, Mary Star Catholic Church, Freeport)

Rev. Williams Higgs (Rector, Trinity Methodist Church)

Ms. Marion Bethel (Poet, Filmmaker, Lawyer)

Rev. Timothy Stewart (Pastor, Bethel Baptist Church )

Ms. Keisha Ellis (Researcher, COB)

Mr. Pedro Rolle (Chair, Chamber of Commerce, Exuma)

Ms. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham (President Sajouner College)

Dr. Niambi Hall-Campbell (Professor Sociology COB)

Mr. Michael Symonette (Businessman)

Mr. Michael Stevenson (Professor of Law, COB/UWI)

Ms. M. Elaine Toote (Director, Archives)

Ms. Kim Outten-Stubbs (Director, Pompey Museum)

Dr. Tracy Thompson (Director, Oral & Public History)

Mr. Whitman McKinney (Rastafarian Movement)

Mr. Elsworth Johnson (President, Bar Association)

Ms. Bianca Beneby (Attorney, Office of the Prime Minister)

Ms. Alesha Hart (Journalist, Businesswoman)

Mr. Travis Cartwright (Journalist)

Mr. Cecil Thompson (Retired Educator, Freeport)

Mr. Loren Klein (Attorney, Office of the Attorney General)

These persons were chosen because of their broad expertise and their representation of The Bahamian society. The members are to create a robust public education programme that would mobilize communities in order to secure the support of, inter alia, political entities, focus groups, civic leaders, the Diasporas and the media.

Statement by Alfred M. Sears ,Chair, Reparations Committee of The Bahamas Goodman Bay’s Corporate Centre Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday 24th March 2014:

 I am privileged to accept the invitation from the Government to Chair the Reparations Committee of The Bahamas. I accept this appointment as an opportunity to achieve restorative justice that would produce healing and reconciliation as we address the legacies of 400 years of slavery and continued direct colonial control of The Bahamas until 1967. As a lawyer, I am proud to be part of an effort to expand international humanitarian law.

In July 2013 in Trinidad & Tobago the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM agreed to set up National Committees on Reparations to establish the moral, ethical and legal case for the payment of reparations by the former colonial European countries to the nations and peoples of CARICOM for native genocide, the transatlantic slave trade and a racialized system of chattel slavery.

The Permanent Secretary (Acting) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, by letter dated the 18th December, 2013, invited me to serve as Chair and Mr. Philip Smith as Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Reparations for The Bahamas. Foreign Service Officer, Ms. Charmaine Williams, was designated as the Ministry’s representative on the Committee. The appointment letter stated that the Chair would have the power to ask others to serve at his pleasure and sit on a CARICOM Reparations Commission providing political oversight.

In consultation with the Co-Chair, we recommended a group of distinguished Bahamians ranging the professions, private and public sectors, religion, geographic location, race, political persuasion and age demographics of our archipelago. The Cabinet approved our recommendations. So today, we announce the full constitution of the Reparations Committee of The Bahamas

Our first briefing meeting was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration on Thursday, 23rd January 2014. In attendance were Co-Chair, Mr. Philip Smith, Ambassador Picewell Forbes, M.P., Ms. Charmaine Williams of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and myself. At that meeting it was resolved that The Bahamas Reparations Committee use as its terms of reference those recommended by the Regional Reparations Commission.

The Co-Chair and I attended the Second Meeting of the CARICOM Reparations Commission at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados from the 27t-28 January 2014. We had two intense days of deliberations and discussion on the agenda dealing the role and function of the national committees; data requirement for the legal case; research and translations; mobilization and public education, media strategy; preparation of a regional strategic and operational plan and financing the national committees.

The Principal of the Cave Hill Campus and Chair of the Regional Reparations Commission, Dr. Hillary Beckles, chaired the meetings. The National Reparations Committees represented at the meetings were Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Republic of Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent & Grenadines, St. Lucia, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago. Also present were Dr. Hillary Brown from the CARICOM Secretariat and the lawyer, Martin Day, Esq. from the U.K. law firm Leigh Day.

Each of the national commissions gave an update on our respective appointment, terms of reference, composition and action plan.

Martin Day, Esq. summarized the legal opinion produced by his firm for CARICOM. The discussion highlighted the view that the legal opinion did not and should have incorporated the concept of “crimes against humanity,” with respect to the jurisdictional limitations of extra-territoriality and remoteness, and seeks to marshal the historical, sociologic and economic evidence and legal arguments to advance humanitarian law from its current position. I thought that the legal opinion of Leigh Day was too conservative and did not manifest the requisite creativity that such a case requires.

Representatives of the Barbadian Rastafari community met with us yesterday and presented a written proposal and contribution to Chair of the Barbadian Reparation Commission to be incorporated into their contribution.

We concluded by agreeing that the CARICOM Regional Commission will recommend to the Heads, at the CARICOM meeting scheduled for February in St. Vincent, a path to reconciliation, truth and justice for victims and sufferers within the following 10 points framework:

1. Apology

2. Reparation

3. Indigenous Peoples Development

4. Cultural Institutions

5. Public Health

6. Illiteracy Program

7. African Knowledge Program

8. Psychological Rehabilitation

9. Technology Transfer

10. Debt Cancellation

In the meantime, each national commission will undertake the following tasks for the preparation of the lawsuit:

(a) Gather Historical Information Pertaining to Each Claimant State

(b) Establish a Link Between Historic Discrimination and Present Day Racial Discrimination

(c) Outline Modern Racial Discrimination Resulting from Slavery in areas of health, socio-economic deprivation and social disadvantage, education, living conditions/housing, property and land ownership, employment, participation in pubic life and migration.

(d) Policies of the UK, which have perpetuated the discriminatory effects of slavery in The Bahamas.

The 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM accepted the Draft Regional Strategic and Operational Plan for a Caribbean Justice Programme, calling for an Apology by the Governments of Europe involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade; the establishment of Caribbean Cultural institutions through which the Caribbean experience could be told; and Indigenous Peoples Development Programme; Technology Transfer; and Debt Cancellation as the basis for further action

In conclusion, each national commission will design and execute a vigorous public education program for its national community and Diaspora as well as engage the global community through intellectual exchanges, artistic presentations and other means.

Composition of Committee

The national reparation committees throughout the region are constituted to ensure stakeholder representation and broad expertise to assist the Committees with their mission. Guided by these two principles, The Bahamas National Committee on Reparation comprise the following persons:

l. Dr. Chris Curry 2. Dr. Gail Saunders

Historian, COB Historian, COB

3. Fr. David Cooper 4. Rev. William Higgs

Rector, Mary Star Rector, Trinity Methodist

Catholic Church, Freeport Church

5. Marion Bethel 6. Rev. Timothy Stewart

Poet, Filmmaker, Lawyer Pastor, Bethel

Baptist Church

7. Ms. Keisha Ellis 8. Mr. Pedro Rolle,

Researcher, COB Chair, Exuma Chamber

of Commerce

9. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham10. Dr. Niambi Campbell

President, Sajouner Professor of Soc., COB

11. Michael Symonette 12. Michael Stevenson

Businessman Professor of Law, COB

13. M. Elaine Toote 14. Kim Outten-Stubbs

Director, Archives Director, Pompey Museum

15. Tracy Thompson 16. Whitman McKinney

Director, Oral & Public History Rastafari

17. Elsworth Johnson 18. Loren Klein,

President, Bar Assoc. Office of Attorney General

19. Bianca Beneby 20. Alesha Hart

Attorney, Office of P.M. Journalist, Businesswoman

21. Travis Cartwright 22. Cecil Thompson

Journalist, Retired Educator, Freeport

Having been fully constituted, the Committee will now prepare an action plan and establish sub-committees in functional areas of research, legal research and analysis and public mobilization and education to carry out its mandate.

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