David Cameron’s trade trip to Jamaica looks set to be disrupted by a row over crueler commerce, the slave trade.
Sir Hilary Beckels, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, has called on Britain to open talks on its role in the slave trade in the 18th century.
Jamaica wants billions in reparations.
Sir Hilary has gone further and pointed to David Cameron’s personal links to slavery through his cousin six-times removed, General Sir James Duff.
In an open letter in the the Jamacia Observer, Beckels wrote:“We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal.”
Cameron is due to address the Jamaican parliament and if reparations are not on the agenda than a diplomatic incident may well erupt.
Jamaican MP, Mike Henry says he will “not attend any functions involving the visiting prime minister, and I will cry shame on those who do.”
Not surprisingly Cameron has refused, a spokesperson for his office said: “ We are talking about issues that are centuries old and taken under a different government when he was not even born.”
Cameron has a problem here, in 2103 it emerged that millions of pounds of compensation was awarded to British slave owners when the slave trade was outlawed.
General Sir James Duff benefited from a payment of £4,101,0s,1d, that amounts to £347,000 in today’s money.
Dr Nick Draper, lead researcher from University College London, claims many wealthy British families are still indirectly benefiting from the abolition of the slave trade.
In 2007 the Lord Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, led a ceremonial apology on behalf of the capital for its role in the outrage.
Aiden McQuade, the director of Anti-Slavery International said it would: “Increase pressure for a formal apology from the government.”
Pressure David Cameron has so far resisted.