Free at last? Live Wire looks at Jamaica’s call for slavery reparations

The Jamaica Government has probably become the first Caribbean nation to formally raise the topic of slavery reparation with the United Kingdom.

But Mr Live Wire is not ruling out the possibility of a post-match disqualification. Putting your hand out for a quick buck off of someone else’s work is as Trini as calypso and callaloo.

Photo: Make me rich, beeyatch!
Photo: Make me rich, beeyatch!

Is that what slavery reparations are really about though? Handouts?

More about that later.

Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller first raised a call for “non-confrontational discussions” on slavery reparation in a UN address in 2013 and has not tired of the subject.

But Britain Prime Minister and Snoopy-lookalike, Dave Cameron, made it clear that he would not even entertain the topic.

In his address to the Jamaica Parliament today, Cameron refused to so-much as apologise for his government’s role in the slave trade. But he did give his view of slavery.

“Slavery was and is abhorrent in all its forms,” said Cameron. “It has no place whatsoever in any civilised society, and Britain is proud to have eventually led the way in its abolition.”

Mr Live Wire cannot confirm whether the Jamaica Parliament rose to its feet as one to give Cameron a standing ovation. It should have.

Photo: Britain Prime Minister Dave Cameron bears more than a passing resemblance to Snoopy. Only drinks are not on the house where is concerned. Pick up your own tab.
Photo: Britain Prime Minister Dave Cameron bears more than a passing resemblance to Snoopy.
Only drinks are not on the house where he is concerned. Pick up your own tab.

It is such a noble gesture to release the men, women and children you held captive like animals for almost two centuries, as they worked—often until they dropped dead—for your financial gain.

Something akin to Jamaica’s Parliamentarians pummelling Cameron for two hours, releasing him and congratulating each other for finally deciding to stop.

Of course, two hours is small change, as opposed to being born as a slave and dying as one.

But what sort of savage would inflict either horrific abuse on poor Dave?

And speaking about ‘those sort of savages’, it turns out that Cameron is no more removed from slavery than the Jamaican Parliamentarians. He was just on the other end of the whip.

Cameron’s ancestor, General Sir James Duff, was a former British Member of Parliament and the most senior general in the Queen’s army at the time. He also owned over 200 Jamaican slaves.

Photo: I like this Duff fellah already.
Photo: I like this Duff fellah already.

But why quibble over such historical footnotes?

The point is Cameron—whose father Ian Cameron avoided the Queen’s taxes by moving millions of pounds to offshore banks—is the UK Prime Minister and a free Jamaica is deep in debt to the IMF. So it’s a win-win.

“That the Caribbean has emerged from the long shadow it cast is testament to the resilience and spirit of its people,” said Cameron. “I acknowledge that these wounds run very deep indeed.

“But I do hope that, as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times, we can move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future.”

Or, to paraphrase: Slavery was bad. But, hey, it filled our bank accounts and built your character. So aren’t we square?

Well, Mr Live Wire supposes there is no point crying over spilt milk. How did General Sir Duff “move on from this painful legacy” though?

According to the UK Guardian: Cameron’s ancestor “was (financially) compensated for losing 202 Jamaican slaves in 1833 when the trade was abolished” as were other slave owners.

Photo: Tell me again who got paid up in full when they abolished slavery?
Photo: Tell me again who got paid up in full when they abolished slavery?

Hold up. At the point when slavery was abolished, the people who still had a couple hundred slaves in the fields had surely been negligent in observing market trends.

How was that the British taxpayers’ fault then? Since slavery no longer existed, why did the British Government pay cash for free men, women and children?

And if the British Government saw it fit, in 1833, to put a financial value on the loss of labour to slave owners, then why was no appropriate value—retroactive or not—put on the cost of the labour provided by those free men in the first place?

Are the descendants of slaves really asking for handouts? Or is it a request for belated parity for not only emotional trauma but the economic value of two centuries of forced labour?

Where is my great-great-great-grandpappy’s gratuity, dammit!

Photo: Get off your high horse, Live Wire!
Photo: Get off your high horse, Live Wire!

To be fair to Cameron, he did not just turn up to be discourteous to Jamaicans in their own Parliament. He brought along a £25 million “gift” too.

Although, Dave might have felt a bit awkward unwrapping this present after all that talk about slaves and reparation. You see, the gift was a prison. Yayy.

Not just any prison, either. It is a special prison for Jamaicans who are incarcerated in the United Kingdom.

You see what happens is, every year, hundreds of Jamaicans head to the United Kingdom to work. They add to Britain’s labour force of skilled and unskilled workers and keep the economy ticking in terms of producing and consuming goods and services.

And, of course, they pay the Queen’s taxes.

But some of those Jamaicans are naughty and get into trouble.

So, Cameron wants to send those back and keep the good ones. And he wants the Jamaica Government to not only pay to feed, nurse and guard those criminals, but the UK PM wants Jamaican taxpayers to stump out 60 percent of the cost of the prison too.

Photo: Nice one, Portia. For the cost of just about £37 million plus the price of food, staff and maintenance, I get to house UK prisoners! Wait... What?!
Photo: Nice one, Portia. For the cost of just about £37 million plus the price of food, staff and maintenance, I get to house UK prisoners!
Wait… What?!

And, no, the UK will not send back the taxes they pocketed from those deportees or the value of their labour while they were gainfully employed in ‘Hengland’ either.

Mate, you think we’re stoopid innit?

Listen Dave old chap. If a Jamaican or Trinidadian is living in Brixton, paying taxes to your Queen on his income, television, heating, subway and everything short of windows—they abolished that one—and coping with your horrible winters, then he is as British as he needs to be. He certainly is not doing the Caribbean any favours.

So why should our taxpayers have to pay because he stabbed someone in the tube?

Too late, though. Simpson Miller has already agreed to UK’s terms on the new prison.

And her request for “non-confrontation” discussions on reparations?

They’d probably be laughing about that on Number 10 Downing Street by next week.

Photo: And while you're waiting for that one-third of a prison we just gave you to house our prisoners for us... Would like to see our inventory?
Photo: And while you’re waiting for that one-third of a prison we just gave you to house our prisoners for us… Would like to see our inventory?

So, Keithos, Mr Live Wire is warning you before Snoopy visits Trinidad. Tell him where he can stick his prison.

For sure, West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron was not the only arrogant, shifty twat in Jamaica named “Dave Cameron” today.

And, as for the reparation business. That fine gentleman Sir Duff, according to the Slave Compensation Commission records held at the National Archives in London, received the equivalent of what would now be £347,000 or TT$3.3 million for his 202 slaves. Or roughly TT$16,000 per slave.

And we can probably agree that parity is the least that descendants of slaves deserve, since those 202 men, women and children surely found their time with Sir Duff a damn sight less enjoyable than he did.

Now, let’s open those slave ledgers and tabulate how many slaves were owned by British citizens in roughly 200 years. And do try to remember that income gained by slave labour was surely taxed by the Queen.

Or, out of an abundance of generosity, the Caribbean would probably accept a couple of Premiership clubs. Jamaica, out of respect for John Barnes, has first right of refusal on Liverpool. Trinidad and Tobago has dibs on Manchester United for obvious reasons.

Photo: Your new number 10 is Ataulla Guerra. (Copyright UK Guardian)
Photo: Your new number 10 is Ataulla Guerra. And your technical director is Nigel Grosvenor.
(Copyright UK Guardian)

Do not ask us what we are going to do with them, Dave, because the Queen surely didn’t ask Sir Duff how he would spend his money.

Pipe down, Liverpool and United fans, we promise not to let Jack Warner or Brent Sancho anywhere near the place!

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  1. “As friends who have gone through so much together”. Hmm I thought the relationship, even after the end of slavery -where the Queen was still our head of state so Trinidad was still subservient to Britain-was still reminiscent of a more dignified form of slavery-master and servant. Wow. Did not know slave owners were compensated for losing slaves. Wonder if companies went into bankruptcy in those days and if they were similarly compensated. As for ‘gift’ of a prison-does anybody else find this ironic, or insulting given the history. If I read the article right though the prison is not part of reparation but ‘focusing on the future’ by building a prison does not seem to be a step in the right direction. As a point of interest Nalis has a register of slaves-how accurate,complete and useful it is may be an issue. Also did not know blacks also owned slaves in the Naparimas if I recall from article.

  2. How is this going to help hiw we are personally?

    • “But tough-talking attorney-at-law Dr Paul Ashley is of the view that “Wherever you do the crime, you spend the time.”

      Exactly! Jamaica’s need for a proper prison and the UK’s wish for a place to dump Jamaican prisoners are not related. Or should not necessarily be.

  3. Yeah Barack’s white side does not have to pay his black side

  4. Barack dad is from Kenya, he not eligible for reparations.
    I on my own! :'(

  5. Also I’m studying me …….. I am a Trinidadian expatriate who happens to be a descendant of slaves.

    How I getting my cut? LOL

  6. Lasana Liburd I was trying to figure out if reparations in the form of National debt forgiveness would be fair. Wouldn’t doing so be in effect awarding reparations for slavery to not just the descendants of slaves, but the descendants of those who were not slaves as well?

    Indentured servants were compensated, as were the Merikins of Hard Bargain, New Grant and Indian Walk!

  7. He had me at “deportations are celebrated while reparations are ridiculed.”

  8. Black people will never get reparations through the white man system. True freedom from slavery is to be totally independent and to be in control of ones culture and way of life and not to imitate the dominant white world ‘civilization” .


    “With tens of other black men, handcuffed to their seats, escorted by security agents, he was flown, against his will, to a country in which he had no support or resources. If this image does not feel uncomfortable, then we really are in a place where historical amnesia rules…and where, ultimately, deportations are celebrated while reparations are ridiculed.”

  10. Gees, trinidad could sooo benefit from written off debt it aint funny

  11. Not us?
    That’s what they offered Portia ….. and yes I’m with you, I don’t want nobody in a dashiki negotiating fuh me! LOL

  12. There is a lot of potential for us to do positive things by reinvesting the money into our communities in the Caribbean.
    After slavery, they sailed away with so much wealth and we did our best as a people.
    Now they offer us one third of a prison?
    I’m not sure what the best way is and that is an important discussion to have. But we are certainly within our rights to expect compensation.
    Btw, let me say from the start that Daaga has no authority to negotiate for me eh. Let me just put that out there. Lol.

    • When last you hear from Daaga? He dotish! He cyar make two consecutive sentences make sense. Some might say that has long been the case but that’s unkind, Is the UNC do him dat!
      Besides, haven’t you noticed that he’s been supplanted by Brian Lara?

  13. I don’t know, this whole reparations idea conjures up images of family feuds after a relative dies and the will is read!

  14. Good point. Hear that Vernal Damion Cadogan?! Don’t take it for granted that allyuh will just pay our bills with the money you owe us! Lol.
    (Kidding, kidding…)

  15. Debt forgiveness sounds nice. As does development-specific aid. But both of those options are tantamount to others telling us how we should spend our money. As opposed to writing us a cheque and letting us decide how to spend the money ourselves… If we want to repay debt etc etc.
    But I would love for CARICOM heads to get together and have a position on the issue. Portia raised this since 2013 and no other regional head of government saw it fit to offer an opinion on the issue? Strength in numbers, CARICOM. Strength in numbers.

  16. The first thing the Caribbean should do is work out what our leverage is. I think we can assume that China and the United States doesn’t visit with treaties and trade agreements for us to sign simply because they like us and want to give us a ‘bligh.’
    And Vernal Damion Cadogan who tell you that I won’t know how to spend my great-great-great-grandpappy’s severance? Yuh fass!
    Reparations can take several forms. Someone mentioned debt forgiveness towards Caribbean countries for instance. I can live with that.
    Count slaves per island in other words rather than try to trace lineage.

    • The other irony is that the reason he offering to build JA a jail is that the existing ones are so horrific… on that score, T&T needs to hide its face as well. With regards to how we treat our own people, our government should feel shame.

    • Certainly our prisons are horrific. But the UK isn’t offering to build a prison. They will meet 40 percent of the cost with the catch that Jamaica must put their countrymen held in the UK there.
      It suits UK more than it does Jamaica in financial terms.

  17. Instead of schools and libraries…but a damm jail

  18. Wire is pretty ‘live’ today! So how many cricket admin slaves did the other Dave Cam receive compensation for. Er.

  19. And the jail must be for all the deportees that we get on a regular basis.

  20. The only other option would have been to take it lying on her back!

  21. I agree with Richard. I still can’t believe Portia bent over and take dat! Jamaicans must be mad as hell. Imagine if Tanty Kams accepted that “gift”! Is level cuss!

  22. This whole reparations debate is pointless ……. the descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade have absolutely no leverage to compel the European powers that benefited from the trade to even consider paying reparations.

    That’s why Portia was insultingly offered a prison instead. Think about it, had it been Israel Jamaica would never been responded to in that fashion!

  23. Lol. I could see if we collected any money it should never be distributed based on ethnic heritage. After so many years we all Trini anyway. It would have to be put in something like the Heritage Fund. To be used for the betterment of the country and not for any individual group or so. You could see Khafra Kambon beating his chest!

  24. Lasana boy, I can’t talk bout reparations yet…I still can’t get past, “screw you and your ‘reparations’, here’s a jail”. That’s boldness on a Jack Warner kinda level.

  25. People will suddenly start tracing their lineage all the way back unbroken to homoerectus.

  26. yeah people does see it in me more than i do….#OhBachannal

  27. Yes Judy-ann.
    Then we’ll all find that elusive inner blackness!

  28. Has anyone heard how, if such payments were made, would they be shared? Is this when the Trini whites become black? Lol!

  29. i think every country should apologize for slavery

  30. Just think of the problems collecting reparations would introduce to a society ……. particularly a society like our’s!

  31. I agree we don’t have to officially jump in dey business. But… we need to establish our official policy on the issue of reparations because it is a relevent issue…maybe not a burning one but it is being discussed. Also we should have some choice words ready for Cameron if he wants to offer us £25M to build a prison.

  32. Trinidad ought to stay away ftom this issue. We’re no longer slaves, we’re no longer indentured, we’re no longer subjugated and we’re no longer subjects of anyone …… we’re free and we need not give them another opportunity to demean us further like they are doing to Jamaica!

    • I think you missed the boat on this one, Vernal. Or maybe you have a little limey blood in you and you’re deliberately not seeing that the issue has nothing at all to do with present circumstances. None so blind…?

  33. And after all that talk Portia bent over and allowed massa to buss her proverbial arse. Smh. As for repatriation, while I think it’s owed, my next 10 generations might not see that ever come to pass so I’ll continue breathing meanwhile

  34. Lasana you artistic and imaginative treatment of the faux rationale for not paying reparations are much appreciated. Furthermore, you did not hide behind humuor but stood true to the fundamental premise that justice, precedent and economic principals warrant not only a confrontational conversation but payment.

    In fact, humour is possibly the best coping mechanism for people of African descent when confronting the absurd rationale of a British PM who’s wealth, education, privilege and authority is built on the labor of those he self-righteously denies compensation.

    Based on our history of colonization by the French, English and Spanish. I would request 50% ownership in PSG, 50 % Arsenal(no obvious connection but better balance sheet than MAN U) and 50% Real Madrid. Lets not forget the Dutch which we will ask 60% of AJAX.

    Last concern is that the Arawak and Carib peoples claim might put us in 2nd position.

  35. It a must in some form – but the elite white man who runs the world would never agree to it. Then again black ppl aren’t united enough worldwide in most facets of life to properly argue and push for it, whatever way the best african history scholars could derive is the best platform to argue it from.

  36. Well it looks like Portia actually agreed to let England put some proverbial licks on Jamaica all over again. I wonder if he even bought her a drink first. Smfh. Waiting to see the T&T official position on this reparation issue. Keith Rowley administration better take note. Trinidadians should not be such an easy lay as Jamaica.

  37. Very complex issue in terms of how they should look but definitely some sort of financial compensation/reprieve should be given.

  38. I’m interested to hear opinions on reparations.

    • Though I think reparations are owed, paying it isn’t feasible.
      Before anyone even asks for reparations it needs to be determined how the funds would be distributed and/or used, genealogies would need to be traced accurately to see exactly who is eligible (there would definitely be people who aren’t considered black who have African ancestors who were slaves in the New World) and it would need to be determined who exactly it liable to pay (slavery would not have been possible without the cooperation of many African tribes).

  39. On this Phil Simmons “faux pas” – only Bravo and Pollard’s names are being mentioned, but what about Chris Gayle and Andre Russell’s omissions? If they were available how could they be omitted? These four players along with Sunil Narine are in demand by teams in every cricketing country that has established a world class reputation. Sadly, the WICB is more concerned about personalities and pettiness than a desire to see Windies rise again. Fortunately, like politicians they eventually will be replaced, hopefully before our players pass their peak.

  40. Does the name “Dave Cameron” mean stupid in another language?

  41. .Mr Liburd, it takes consummate skill to take a serious topic like this and elicit more than a couple of chuckles as one scrolls one way through the three or four pages. What a tour de force!

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