Jamaica is planning to sue the UK government for the Atlantic slave trade in the former British colony, government officials have said.
The Caribbean island nation will file a petition that could seek billions of pounds in reparations, pending legal advice, Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s minister of sports, youth and culture, said.
‘We are hoping for reparatory justice in all forms that one would expect if they are to really ensure that we get justice from injustices to repair the damages that our ancestors experienced,” Reuters quoted Grange.
Jamaica was a centre of the slave trade, with the Spanish, then the British, forcibly transporting Africans to work on plantations of sugar cane, bananas and other crops that created fortunes for many of their owners.
An estimated 600,000 Africans were shipped to toil in Jamaica, according to the National Library of Jamaica.
Seized from Spain by the British in 1655, Jamaica was a British colony until it became independent in 1962.
The West Indian country of almost three million people is part of the Commonwealth and the British monarch remains head of state.
Britain prohibited trade in slaves in its empire in 1807 but did not formally abolish the practice of slavery until 1834.
To compensate slave owners, the British government took out a 20 million pound loan, a very large sum at the time and only finished paying off the ensuing interest payments in 2015.
The reparations petition is based on a private motion by Jamaican lawmaker Mike Henry, who said it was worth some USD $10.56, a sum he estimated is roughly equivalent in today’s terms to what Britain paid to the slaveholders.
‘I am asking for the same amount of money to be paid to the slaves that was paid to the slave owners,’ said Henry, a member of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party.
‘I am doing this because I have fought against this all my life, against chattel slavery which has dehumanised human life.’
The petition will also be sent to Queen Elizabeth.
The petition also coincides with increasing efforts by some in Jamaica to sever formal ties with the United Kingdom.
Opposition lawmaker Mikael Phillips in December presented a motion to remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state.