Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali has now backed calls for reparations announcing his support behind the movement and stating that the UK must apologise for their role and subsequent benefits of the transatlantic slave trade.
President Ali called for an apology from the UK Government after meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the House of Commons on Wednesday to discuss investment, climate change and other issues.
The Guyanese President made his thoughts clear at a recent meeting to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, held under the theme “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent”.
Mr Ali told those attending: “Guyana is committed to gaining international reparations for the crime of African enslavement. Reparative justice must not only include a full and unconditional apology from those responsible and/or who benefitted from the transatlantic trade in captive Africans and their consequent enslavement, but must go beyond apology.”
Speaking to Sky News, the Guyanese leader said that a decision calling for reparations over “one of the greatest atrocities in human history” must be taken by all Caribbean nations.
He added: “That suffering was not only immense, it was generational. And a lot of wealth was derived from the suffering”.
His comments come after Sophie Wessex and Prince Edward’s recent week-long visit to the Caribbean where they were met with anti-colonial protesters in St Lucia.
The royal couple were also forced to cancel their visit to Grenada at the eleventh hour following advice from the country’s government and governor-general.
Calls from protesters increased throughout their week-long visit, and by the end of the tour, more countries in the Caribbean had indicated a future desire to breakaway from the British monarchy including Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Kitts & Nevis.
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Politicians and royals have acknowledged the “atrocities” caused by the slave trade but are yet to issue an apology.
Mr Ali said that this needs to be addressed but believes “the conversation is getting closer to an apology”.
He said: “Not a simple apology, it has to have great depth and meaning. But in my view and looking at the last announcements, I think they’re heading closer to that position”.
The president explained that his optimism comes from the continued work of CARICOM, which is an intergovernmental organisation pushing for reparations from the UK ankd other governments of all the former colonial powers.
He said: “We have established a committee in the region itself that is looking at this because we understand that the region needs to have a common position”.
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Mr Ali believes is it important for all Caribbean countries to unite in order to “advance the process”.
Despite pushing for an apology from Mr Johnson, the Guyanese President confirmed his hopes to strengthen the partnership between the UK and Guyana.
The country has recently discovered offshore oil and gas reserves but explained that investment in the country is still vital.
President Ali said: “Revenues from oil and gas are not transformational if it is not utilised to create transformation, and the transformation we want to create must begin with the people”.
He explained that the country’s economy should be multifaceted and requires a lot of investment and new technology, with the UK now dynamically pursuing those opportunities.