Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 52 Number 7, April 2, 2022 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Royal Visit to the Caribbean

Caribbean Peoples Take a Stand against the Legacy of Colonial Rule and Demand Reparations for Crimes against Humanity

The aim of the recent royal visit to bolster aspects of Britain's colonial rule over parts of the Caribbean appear to have ended in abject failure and it is widely viewed as a disaster for the monarchy. Campaigners in Jamaica, The Bahamas and Belize issued a joint statement explaining, "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."

It concluded: "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."

Both Jamaica and Belize have signalled their intention to remove Britain's monarch as head of state and to become republics in the near future. The example of Barbados, which became a republic just last year, appears to have acted as some encouragement to others.

The government of Jamaica has already begun taking measures in this direction, even before the recent visit of William Windsor. During the latter's visit, Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness openly told the royal party, "Jamaica is, as you can see, a country that is very proud of its history, very proud of what we have achieved and we are moving on and we intend to attain, in short order, our developing goals and to fulfil our true ambitions... as an independent, developed, prosperous country." Holness also referred to some of the protests that greeted the visit explaining that in regard to Britain's responsibility to make reparation for past crimes against humanity such as human trafficking and colonial rule. He said, "There are issues here which are, as you would know, unresolved, but your presence gives an opportunity for these issues to be placed in context, put front and centre and to be addressed as best we can."

There were protests against the monarchy and demands for reparations throughout the royal trip which had been especially organised to bolster the role of the monarch in former colonies in the Caribbean. But the old arrangements are beyond repair. Protests against the "colonial legacy of theft" even prevented the Windsors from landing in one part of Belize, while in Jamaica over 300 people protested at British High Commission on their arrival. Many carried placards with slogans objecting to the visit, such as "Kings, Queens and Princesses and Princes belong in fairytales... not in Jamaica" and "We demand apologies and reparations". An Open Letter of Protest signed by a hundred prominent Jamaicans from various fields was also presented to the High Commission for the Windsors.

Amongst other things it pointed out: "We see no reason to celebrate 70 years of the ascension of your grandmother to the British throne because her leadership, and that of her predecessors, have perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of humankind. Her ascension to the throne, in February 1952, took place 14 years after the 1938 labour uprisings against inhumane working/living conditions and treatment of workers; painful legacies of plantation slavery, which persist today.

"During her 70 years on the throne, your grandmother has done nothing to redress and atone for the suffering of our ancestors that took place during her reign and/or during the entire period of British trafficking of Africans, enslavement, indentureship and colonialisation."

Other campaigners in Jamaica are demanding that the country withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which acts as the country's court of last resort, even before becoming a republic. In Belize following the visit, a new body, the People's Constitutional Commission, has been established that will begin a nationwide consultation campaign regarding Belize's becoming a republic.


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