Reparations Committee to start public awareness campaign

The Guyana Reparations Committee is set to kick off a public awareness campaign this week in an effort to sensitize the population to the work of the Caricom Reparations Movement; to quash the belief that Africans are seeking a hand out and prompt civic involvement in its ongoing outreach programmes.

Speaking on Friday at a committee meeting, Chairman Eric Phillips said that members are expected to make their first appearance on the television programme First Look and continued television and radio appearances as they execute their mandate. Some of the objectives of the campaign are to officially launch the work of the committee, provide a cultural context for activities and to plan a coordinated calendar to meet the terms of reference mandated by the Caricom Heads of Government. In addition to media appearances, consultations with the President and Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport will be sought to publicly endorse the work of the committee. The National Reparations Committee was established last year, in accordance with the Caricom decision

Committee Members discussing progress of the reparations initiative
Committee Members discussing progress of the reparations initiative

to deliver letters of demand to the respective European countries in July. Its mandate includes providing clear and minute detail of the content upon which the individual reparation demands of Guyana will be made. The committee is working steadfastly to make the June 1 deadline to deliver critical information on Guyana which will be used in Guyana’s Letter of Demand. According to the terms of reference, the committee is tasked with creating a detailed historical narrative of Indigenous genocide and African slavery, to link past discrimination to present day inequality, define and prove the nature of modern inequality and denote policies adopted by Europe to continue this process. With Phillips as chair and Professor Emeritus Dr Winston McGowan as vice-chair, the committee comprises representatives from African, Indigenous, Rastafarian, Pan-Africanist, geographic, human rights, religious and academic constituencies of Guyana. Each member was appointed by Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport Dr Frank Anthony, according to Phillips.

Philips boasted of developing a robust countrywide outreach programme and media plan which will be rolled out in the coming week. He further explained that the committee has met and consulted with over 55 different African groups, University of Guyana Law and History students, the umbrella organisation known as the African Guyanese Council which comprises 13 organisations. Meanwhile, Phillips has been invited to be the keynote speaker at the Reparations Day in Suriname in May. The purpose of these consultations and outreaches is for them to gather as much information from as many perspectives from civic society as possible, regarding the effects of slavery on African and Indigenous people today. Committee meetings are scheduled once weekly at the Museum of African Heritage in Bel Air Park where the members are updated on the progress of the work and discuss pertinent issues relating to the reparations movement of the Caribbean. The Caricom body is slated to present its demands in July to the foreign ministries of the relevant European countries to negotiate a settlement and Guyana is said to be on track to meet the June deadline.

Phillips hailed the upcoming negotiations as a positive expected outcome but stated that failure to come to a resolution will result in a lawsuit being filed in the International Court of Justice which has recognized slavery and its effects as a crime against humanity deserving reparation. The Caricom demands from the culpable first world nations are first and foremost an official apology, rather than a statement of regret, which expresses no responsibility for the suffering of victims; an admission of wrongdoing; a commitment to reasonable reparatory actions and a commitment to non-repetition.

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