Kamla: PNM disbanded national reparations committee

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets drummer Richard Lewis from the group Waka Ife at Emancipation Day celebrations at the Southern Marine Steel Band Foundation, Marabella, on Monday. Photo by Lincoln Holder

OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar claimed the PNM disbanded a national reparations committee which was established under the former UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition government which she led as prime minister.

Addressing an Emancipation Day celebration at Southern Marines panyard in Marabella on Monday, Persad-Bissessar said the UNC always respected the legacy of African slaves who came to TT and whose descendants played an integral role in TT’s development over the years.

“It was a recognition of this historic injustice that under my leadership, I mandated the establishment of a national reparations committee.”

Persad-Bissessar recalled that UWI Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles collaborated with her on this matter.

Former young king Sheldon Reid performs at Emancipation Day celebrations at the Southern Marine Steel Band Foundation, Marabella, on Monday. Photo by Lincoln Holder

One of the purposes of the committee, she continued, was “righting the historical wrongs, addressing the historical record regarding our account of slavery and making a case for reparations for persons of African descent as well as our indigenous (Amerindian) community.”

She said the committee was created as part of the PP’s commitment “to the international decade of persons of African descent.”

In December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 68/237 to declare this decade to run from 2015 to 2024.

Some of the objectives of resolution 68/237 were to promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies and to strengthen national, regional and international action and cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society.

Persad-Bissessar asked, “What do we have to show for it?”

She said, “Had I been in office, it (the committee) would not have been disbanded. That is what has happened.”

Members of the Southern Marine Steelband Foundation perform at Emancipation Day celebrations in Marabella, Monday. Photo by Lincoln Holder

Persad-Bissessar promised that once the UNC is returned to government, “we must get that committee working again.”

She said, ‘The case for reparations remains an essential commitment to honour the memory of those Africans who who fought for liberation.”

Persad-Bissessar also promised that a new UNC government will revisit the idea of building a steelpan factory in TT.

She did not think it was right for steelpans to be built in any country other than TT.

“We must take it back.”

She also saw the pan factory would give children an opportunity to learn to play the steel pan give them an opportunity to earn an income and develop a career.

I commit to you that this will be recognized in a meaningful way when returned to office.”

Persad-Bissessar also promised a future UNC government would revisit the pan in schools initiative started under the PP.

“On our return (to government) we shall work closely with Pan Trinbago to expand this programme to include the steelpan facilities in our communities that continue to work with our youth. “