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Guyana: Former slave-owning British PM family apologies not enough

Sunday, August 27th 2023 - 15:41 UTC
Full article 4 comments
Charles Gladstone called on the United Kingdom to hold talks with CARICOM on reparations (AP Photo) Charles Gladstone called on the United Kingdom to hold talks with CARICOM on reparations (AP Photo)

Activists were not entirely satisfied with Friday's apology speech by a descendant of former British Prime Minister and slave exploiter/trader William Gladstone at the University of Guyana and insisted reparations worth around US$ 1.2 trillion were due as messages along the lines of “our ancestors deserve real justice” became rife.

Former British Prime Minister, William Gladstone is the son of John Gladstone, an absentee owner of plantations in Jamaica and Guyana, and the Chairman of the Liverpool West India Association. He is also believed to have owned two ships that transported thousands of Asians from India and elsewhere to work as indentured laborers after the abolition of slavery in 1834. At the time of abolition, William Gladstone received compensation worth around £ 10 million of today's money.

“Slavery was a crime against humanity and its damaging impact continues to be felt across the world today,” Charles Gladstone, William’s great-great grandson, said at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre during an event hosted by the University of Guyana’s International Centre for the Study of Migration and Diaspora.

“It is with deep shame and regret, that we acknowledge our ancestor’s involvement in this crime and with heartfelt sincerity that we apologize to the descendants of the enslaved in Guyana,” he added.

“We the undersigned, descendants of John Gladstone…wish to offer our sincere apologies for his actions holding your ancestors in slavery in Demerara, Guyana,” he also pointed out.

“We also urge other descendants of those who benefited from slavery to open conversations about their ancestors’ crimes and what they might be able to do to build a better future,” he went on.

However, several Guyanese descendants of African slaves were not welcoming of the message, and placards reading “Your guilt is real Charlie. Move quickly to reparations now” were displayed. “The Gladstones are murderers,” others insisted.

“Is this all our ancestors are worth to you?”; “How dare you offer pittances?” displeased protesters shouted.

Afro-Guyanese activist Nicole Cole said “No apology can suffice but it is a step towards recognizing that a crime was committed and that people’s lives have been disrupted,” according to AFP.

Charles Gladstone and five other family members vowed to support the work of the new university department and called on the United Kingdom to hold talks with the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on reparations. In addition to an apology, repatriations for descendants, and debt cancellation to clean up the “colonial mess,” CARICOM is seeking a development program for their member states’ Indigenous communities together with the funding of cultural institutions such as slavery museums.

On Thursday, Guyana President Irfaan Ali stressed that those who profited from the slave trade should offer to pay reparations to today’s generations, while those involved in the business should be tried posthumously for crimes against humanity. “The descendants of John Gladstone must now also outline their plan of action in line with the CARICOM…plan for reparatory justice for slavery and indentureship,” Ali said.

“In recent years, the demands for reparations for African enslavement and indentureship have intensified. The call for reparations is not intended to promote or leverage shame or guilt over the slave trade and slavery. It is not extortion, instead, the demand for reparations is a commitment to righting historical wrongs,” he said.
Eric Phillips, who chairs the Guyana Reparations Committee and is a representative of the CARICOM Reparations Council said: “Reparations are a moral, legal, political, cultural, diplomatic, health, financial [and] international development issue of our time.” It was Phillips who estimated that reparations would amount to US$ 1.2 trillion.

“I’ve come to accept the honesty and integrity of the Gladstone family and the Guyana Reparations Committee unconditionally welcomes them to Guyana, knowing the soul searching they have been through…,” Phillips remarked.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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  • Livepeanuts

    The Africans seem to be the lowdest cry babies! What about the white slaves taken from England by the Africans of the Barbary coast? More white slaves were taken from Northern Europe than all the black slaves taken to the North of America (mostly captured by blacks and Moslesm the wholesellers).
    So why African enslavement, what about the enslavement by Africans? The reason “Rule Britania was invented”.
    Another good one is that most whites were very poor and were slaves in all but name, do we count those in? They were worthless, nobody owned them, there would be another in the queue the next day if anyone died.
    Until the Briish Empire put an end to slavery world wide nobody had tried to do this before. TODAY blacks are enslaving blacks and in Islam slavery is still legal! (according to the Quran)! It is a travesty of the cry babies to attack the British, Marxists today have loads of laves with the additional “organ harvesting”.
    Behind all this precisely are the Marxists of course the largest slavers of today.
    Presentism is a Marxist lie invented to destroy the West. You can't oblige somebody in the past to obey a law of the future, those who say so need to see a doctor. Are you living by the laws of the year 3000? Do you what to do for your descendents not to have to pay reparations then?

    Aug 28th, 2023 - 01:14 pm +3
  • Don Alberto

    The Gladstones and other descendants of slave owning families should be forced to repatriate the descendants of their slaves home to Africa, where they can live happily everafter. ,)

    Aug 28th, 2023 - 12:43 pm 0
  • Pugol-H

    US$ 1.2 trillion, is that all?

    Whilst we all have a responsibility to try and correct the effects in today of injustices of the past and money should be paid for ‘holistic repair’ of communities most affected, no one alive today is responsible for things that happened 200 years before they were born.

    Handing someone a US$ 1.2 trillion bill today and saying you’re responsible for this because of your genetic lineage and skin colour is as racist as it gets.

    ‘repatriations for descendants, and debt cancellation to clean up the “colonial mess,”’

    I think they mean reparations rather than repatriations, debts were taken out after independence and as for “colonial mess” these countries were independent in the early 60 any ‘mess’ there today is of their own making.

    A regressive and racist ideology which sets back the cause of equality for Black people.

    Aug 28th, 2023 - 02:25 pm 0
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