By Orita BaileyNoted speaker, lawyer and activist Michael Lorne, in his lecture to the people of St. Kitts declared, that we the descendants of the millions of enslaved Africans deserved, had a right to REPARATION and were failing in our duty if we failed to pursue REPARATION from the former enslavers and colonisers.
After expressing his gratitude and pleasure at being invited to be the Keynote speaker for this lecture, and thanked to The Governor General his Excellency Sir Cuthbert Sebastian for his hospitality, Mr Lorne commended the National UNESCO Slave Route Project Committees, for their hard work and diligence.
He also commended the previous speaker Mr Leonard Stapleton, historian and researcher who gave a short presentation on his work for the Project – an inventory of sites where enslaved Africans were held, lived and died. He lauded the Federation, “While St. Kitts and Nevis might appear as only a dot on the world map, in the struggle for dignity and pride and glory, St. Kitts-Nevis is very big indeed.” Mr Lorne said.
He also reminded us of our debt as Caribbean peoples to Haiti; and urged our continued support in helping Haiti to gain Reparation from France, as it was as recently as the 1940’s that Haiti was still making Reparation to that country for their freedom from their enslavement.
At the 5th UNESCO Slave Route Project lecture, presented by the St. Kitts-Nevis National UNESCO Slave Route Project Committee Mr Lorne gave a packed auditorium a full explanation of the various forms of reparation and why reparation was necessary and must be vigorously pursued by the descendants of those were systematically abused and dehumanised to enrich others. He also gave examples where reparations were given to other groups; and the various cases going through the courts of several countries on behalf of ancestors.
While many people think of reparations as a monetary compensation that is paid, Mr Lorne however, was adamant that reparation began with an apology from the Heads of State of those former colonisers, acknowledging the wrong they had done and their willingness to make reparation. “Some may say that Slavery happened centuries ago and expecting reparation now is unrealistic, but as recently as 1993 the British government acknowledged the wrongs done to the Maori people of New Zealand and paid restitution by treaty to the tune of $160 million US dollars with interest at 7.1% .” Mr Lorne explained.
The return of treasures, artefacts and books stolen from the continent which documents our contribution to civilisation should also be a priority. The calculation of a monetary compensation is a hugely complex issue, but should be pursued; just the computation for unpaid wages of the millions of enslaved and their offspring is a vast sum. Equally important is the claim for damages done to children of the enslaved for the loss of their fathers and the accruing and cumulative effects that has had on generations of us.
In his wide ranging lecture – more a series of conversations, Mr Lorne looked at the issue of land ownership and explained the affects of land ownership on the psyche of a people; citing the South African experience where after Apartheid land distribution was made on a voluntary basis, i.e. willing seller/willing buyer arrangements and where land re-distribution has not happened, the landscape in that country has not changed and the majority of the population is still landless. He compared that example to Nevis our sister island where after emancipation most families were given land and where even today the majority of Nevisian families own land. He stressed that the issue of land ownership cannot be down played.
Reparation can also take the form of land, equipment and machinery. The cancellation of debts should also be considered, especially as many Caribbean and African countries are heavily indebted.
The evening also featured cultural presentations by several local performers, the all-male voice group Quatro Vocci and the Okolo Tegremantine Arts Theater performed to rapturous applause.