A recent #FridayFact tweet by the British Treasury stating that its government fully paid slave owners in 2015 for the 1833 abolition of the slave trade, sparked outrage in the Caribbean islands where there is a demand for reparation for slavery.
The tweet, which was deleted hours after it was posted on February 9, claimed that the British government used 40 percent of its national budget, almost US$30 million dollars at the time, to fully compensate slave owners after 180 years, reports local news portal Dominica News Online.
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The economic community of fifteen Caribbean nations and dependencies (CARICOM) reacted to the claims by the British government in a press conference in Jamaica where they described the loan payment as immoral.
The Chairperson of the CARICOM Reparations Commission, Sir Hilary Beckles, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of the University of West Indies faulted the British for refusing to pay reparations to Caribbean communities yet used taxpayers’ money to repay the loan.
“We consider this to be an immorality. For me it is the greatest act of political immorality, to be told consistently and persistently to put this in the past and yet Her Majesty’s Treasury has released the relevant information to suggest that it is just two years ago that this bond was being repaid,” said Beckles who chaired the press conference.
“This transfer of public money to the private holders of the slave bond makes it a present-day activity. It also implies that the 300,000 West Indian people who have been living in Britain, their taxes were being used to pay back the slavery loan, which suggests that you are speaking of a double payment,” he added.
Sir Hilary Beckles had made a presentation on reparations in 2014 at the British House of Commons, and he questioned the timing of the loan paid a few months later in 2015.
He further explained the racist nature of the Abolition Act of 1833 which ensured the transfer of the wealth of the Caribbean back to Britain, using the cash liquidated from slavery; while the Caribbean is left to suffer in poverty.
Beckles called for a united Caribbean front to urge the British to refund the money extracted from the region which has been riddled with poverty.
The British parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. The act gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom and the slave owners access to compensation. The amount that the plantation owners received depended on the number of slaves that they had.
According to Sir Hilary Beckles, the amount that was to be paid for the abolition of slavery was actually 47 million pounds and not 20 million pounds as claimed. He explained that the British parliament actually paid 20 million pounds in cash to the plantation owners and then stipulated that the enslaved should work for an additional six years for free under the Apprenticeship period, to pay off the balance of 27 million pounds.