Caribbean Community leaders want formal apology from Europe for slavery

Caribbean Community leaders Monday adopted a 10-point slavery reparations program that calls for a formal apology from Europe, debt forgiveness and psychological rehabilitation for those still suffering from the damage of slavery.

Exactly how the 15-member bloc known as Caricom will go about collecting, including the hiring of lawyers, will be discussed in greater details Tuesday, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said.

Persad-Bissessar, the bloc’s most recent chair, was among 13 regional leaders who flew here for a two-day summit. The summit takes place almost three months after a bizarre, unpredictable Christmas Eve storm killed at least 12 people in three eastern Caribbean nations, including St. Vincent, as rain triggered floods and landslides.

“People lost everything; their furniture, their fridges, their stoves, their beds … even the pigs in their yard,” Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said as he opened the summit as incoming chairman. “But we are recovering.”

That said, leaders such as Guyana President Donald Ramotar said he hopes to have his fellow leaders agree to adopt a regional policy on climate change as they deliberate the issue.

“There I think we can make an impact because of our numbers, and the very fact that we all are so vulnerable,” Ramotar said. “We can play a bigger role internationally, if we operate with one policy.”

Guyana has been the regional leader on climate change issues, and was among the nations that came to the aid of St. Vincent as well as St. Lucia and Dominica, which were also affected by the adverse weather.

In addition to being asked to tackle climate change, leaders also have on their agenda: strengthening regional economies, improving air and sea transport as well as crime and security concerns. They also will discuss endorsing medical marijuana use.

Gonsalves opened his remarks by seeking to temper expectations, and address criticism that the regional body is ineffective and drags its feet on decisions and implementing policy.

“The disillusionment from many of the critics nevertheless stems from their illusions of what Caricom,” is, Gonslaves said, adding that the body is not a central government, federation or confederation of states.

During her opening remarks, Persad-Bissessar asked leaders to include one more item on the agenda: support for her oil-rich twin island republic’s bid to make Port of Spain headquarters of the Arms Trade Treaty.

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