St George’s, April 21, 2022: It’s been more than a week since the Grenada National Reparations Committee (GNRC) wrote a letter to Governor-General Dame Cecile La Grenade, “seeking an audience with the Earl and Countess of Wessex’’, who were scheduled to visit Grenada next Tuesday, April 26. The visit, however, is reported to have been cancelled.
GNRC officials said they are yet to receive a response to their letter in which the committee stated that its mandate is “to advocate for the attainment of reparatory justice’’.
The government-endorsed GNRC was established as part of a decision of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) calling for the setting up of a regional Commission for Reparations.
GNRC “would like to engage the royal couple for a meeting to outline the reasons as to why Great Britain should be held accountable for the crimes against humanity that occurred against the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, and against the Africans during the slave trade and slavery and the wanton exploitation of the Caribbean islands during colonization’’, the committee told the Governor-General in its letter signed by chairman Arley Gill, who also is Grenada’s CARICOM ambassador.
“We will welcome the opportunity to provide them with some literature on the topic, inclusive of the CARICOM 10-point plan and the recently published book by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, ‘How Britain Underdeveloped the Caribbean: A Reparation Response to Europe’s Legacy of Plunder and Poverty’’’
However, British media are reporting that Prince Edward – the youngest son of Queen Elizabeth – and wife Sophie, have scratched Grenada as a stop on a six-day trip to the Caribbean. The two still are due to visit St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Antigua and Barbuda.
Grenada “was removed from the itinerary on Thursday, though no official explanation for the change was given by Buckingham Palace,’’ the UK-based Independent reported.
“The decision was made following consultation with the government of Grenada and on the advice of the governor-general. The changed plans come days after fresh details emerged regarding Britain’s role in the enslavement of Black people in its former colony.’’
The results of an investigation into the Bank of England (BOE) recently revealed that the bank, which has been owned and controlled by the British government since 1946, owned two plantations in Grenada in the 1770s. Almost 600 Africans were enslaved on the Grenada plantation.
“Since the bank has been owned by Her Majesty’s government since 1946 and they exploited enslaved Africans and profited from free plantation labour, and exploited profits from the land and labour, it’s a conversation long overdue that we need to have with the Queen of England,’’ Gill said Thursday.
Gill and the GNRC, in the aftermath of last week’s revelation of BOE’s slave ownership in Grenada, issued a statement saying they were “appalled – but not surprised’’ – by the discovery.
“The exploitation of Grenada as a colony of Great Britain and its institutions’’, GNRC said, “should intensify our urgent call-to-action to every Grenadian to join the fight for reparations and reparatory justice for the descendants of enslaved people here in Grenada.”
According to the GNRC, “the time has come for the British government and the descendants of British elites who benefited from the enslavement of our ancestors to own up to this heinous crime against humanity—and do the right thing’’.
In addition to seeking a meeting with the Edward and Sophie, it’s reported that the GNRC was mobilizing to stage public protest during their visit to Grenada.
Protests are likely in St Lucia, St Vincent and Antigua, where there also are local reparations committees.
“In consultation with the government of Grenada and on the advice of the Governor General,’’ the Independent said, “the Earl and Countess of Wessex’s visit to Grenada has been postponed, it is understood; though, they hope to visit at a later date.’’
A Caribbean visit last month by Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton was met with protests in Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas.