Busiwagi

Elk jaar als ik het Suriname paviljoen op de Vakantiebeurs bezoek kijk ik of er iets is wat direct opvalt in het aanbod. Dit jaar was het de terreinwagen van Busiwagi (Boswagen in het Nederlands). Dit is echt iets voor avontuurlijke reizigers.

René van Velzen van Busiwagi wordt geïnterviewd door Sam Jones

Ik hoor vaak in Nederland van toeristen dat zij eigenlijk zelf in een terreinwagen door het Surinaamse landschap willen rijden. Dat kan dus nu met Busiwagi waar men met een gids een tour of rondreis kan maken.

Een aantrekkelijke folder ontbreekt gelukkig niet. Ik citeer uit de folder: “Avontuur bestaat nog… Busiwagi is een specialist in het verzorgen en uitvoeren van avontuurlijke reizen in Suriname. Busiwagi biedt een uniek concept aan om de Surinamebeleving van de reiziger voor één of meerdere dagen te verrijken en te verdiepen. Er schuilt ontzettend veel avontuur en uitdaging in Suriname. Dát is wat we met Busiwagi willen versterken. Met onze uitgebreide kennis en ervaringen hebben wij een uniek all inclusive reisaanbod voor jong en oud samengesteld. Met een veilige uitrusting en kwalitatief hoogwaardige materialen gaan we back to basic het prachtige land Suriname ontdekken.” Dat belooft dus wat.

Nu hoop ik snel ergens een verslag te lezen van iemand die het heeft uitgeprobeerd om zijn/haar bevindingen te vernemen.

Goede voornemens en 2017!

Ik heb al vijf jaar geen goede voornemens meer! Het is mijn ervaring dat het iets is voor 31 december en 1 januari. 2 januari krap je al achter de oren en heb je iets van morgen is ook een dag. Vandaar wordt het mañana mañana en voor je denkt is het weer december…

Eigenlijk heb ik twee lijstjes waar ik mee werk:
een to do list; en
een droom en wens lijst.

De to do lijst spreekt al voor zichzelf. Een lijst met zaken die ik wil ondernemen. Er zit niet een concreet tijdpad bij, alleen dat het moet worden ondernomen en dat je er naar toe werkt.

De droom en wens lijst bevat zaken die regelmatig opschuiven naar de to do lijst. Elk mens moet dromen en wensen hebben. Dit maakt het leven waardevol. Waar zouden wij zonder moeten zijn. Als je geen wensen of dromen meer hebt stopt het leven…

Beide lijsten zijn al jaren mijn trouwe compagnons en ik moet zeggen dat ik behoorlijk wat heb kunnen realiseren. Maar met dezelfde vaart waar ik zaken doorstreep komen er weer nieuwe bij.

Dit jaar is het eerste jaar dat ik weer een goed voornemen heb… Het is niet een heel bijzondere moet ik zeggen, maar wel een waar velen van ons niet bij stil staan. Ik hoor velen van jullie nu denken wat zal dit zijn…

Eerst zal ik aangeven waarom weer een goed voornemen. De oorzaak is eigenlijk drieledig. Wie mij kennen weten dat de afgelopen drie jaar niet bepaald over rozen zijn gegaan, maar dat ik mij niet al te veel uit het veld heb laten slaan. De tweede oorzaak is dat er mensen in mijn leven zijn of zijn gekomen die het best wel zwaar hebben (gehad) elk op hun eigen manier.  De derde oorzaak is ziekte. Ook hier vrienden die tegenslagen hebben gehad of er nog mee vechten…

Dit maakt dat je toch over van alles en nog wat gaat nadenken en daarom weer een goed voornemen. Ik zal jullie niet meer in spanning houden. Het goede voornemen voor 2017 is LEVEN!!! Omdat het leven al tekort is en je nooit weet hoe lang je op deze aardkloot zit.

Ik wens jullie daarom Leven en Liefde toe voor 2017…

XXX,
Peter

Tentoonstelling Joden in de Cariben

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Tentoonstelling Joden in de Cariben

Op donderdag 29 januari jl. werd de tentoonstelling Joden in de Cariben in het Joods Historisch Museum (JHM) officieel geopend.  Het was een drukte van belang waar een paar honderd mensen op af zijn gekomen. Het werd een ontmoeting met veel vrienden waar volop werd genetwerkt. Ik vond het veel te druk om langs te tentoonstelling te moeten schuiven en ben er gisteren met een aantal neven en nichten naar toe geweest om op ons gemak een kijkje te nemen.

De tentoonstelling wil een beeld geven van vestiging, opbloei en neergang van de Joodse gemeenschappen in de West. Met de West wordt bedoeld Suriname, Curaçao en Brazilië.  De tentoonstelling is verdeeld in vier categorieën en volgt de tocht van de Joodse gemeenschappen vanaf de zeventiende eeuw in Recife, Nieuw Amsterdam (het huidige New York), Curaçao en Suriname.

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Het bekende “bollen”karretje van Fernandes uit de jaren 70 van de vorige eeuw. Collectie Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

De tentoonstelling is in deze opzet denk ik goed geslaagd. In de beperkte ruimte valt veel te ontdekken en voor mensen met Caribische Joodse roots nodigt het uit tot verder onderzoek van de eigen (familie)geschiedenis. Minder is meer heb ik tegen een bezoeker gezegd die enigszins teleurgesteld was in de omvang van de tentoonstelling.  Er valt voldoende te zien. Een paar honderd voorwerpen zoals schilderijen, prenten, documenten, foto’s en historische objecten worden tentoongesteld. Onder andere van het Surinaams Museum maar ook bekende collecteurs als Kenneth Boumann, Ronald Tjoe-Ny en Carl Haarnack hebben stukken uit hun collectie ter beschikking gesteld.

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Pot met afbeelding Jodensavanne, 1800-1850. Collectie Joods Historisch Museum te zien in de tentoonstelling

Al lopend door de tentoonstelling de mooie objecten bewonderend kwamen wij genoeg tegen van onze voorouders (familie Samson) en vestigde onze neef Denie Kasan onze aandacht op een document dat de inventaris bevatte van panden die bij de grote brand van 1821 zijn verwoest.  Een van onze voorvaderen Salomon Marcus Samson verloor tijdens de brand zijn koffiehuis en winkel aan de Waterkant. De schade werd vastgesteld op 30.000 gulden. Na de brand verhuisde de familie naar het Comediehuis aan de Saramaccastraat. Later zouden ook andere familieleden huizen kopen aan dezelfde straat.

Omslag Joden in de Cariben
Tentoonstellingscatalogus Joden in de Cariben

De tentoonstelling is t/m 14 juni te zien in het Joods Historisch Museum. Op de website staat ook informatie over een uitgebreid activiteiten programma gedurende de tentoonstellingsperiode. Een aanrader voor iedereen die geïnteresseerd is in Surinaamse en Curaçaose geschiedenis.

Bij de tentoonstelling is verschenen de catalogus Joden in de Cariben onder redactie van tentoonstellingsconservator Julie-Marthe Cohen, die verkrijgbaar is in de (web)boekhandel, bol.com en de museumwinkel.

I love it when a plan comes together…

Ik vind het prettig om in alle rust aan projecten te kunnen werken. Je hebt een basisidee in je hoofd en werkt dit uit, presenteert het aan de klant en gaat aan het werk met het commentaar.

Als een ruwe diamant is het schuren en polijsten voor je het gaat snijden. Het is een voortdurend bijstellen en bijwerken van het basisidee tot alles op zijn plaats valt. Vaak moet je bijstellen omdat expertise of goede data niet aanwezig zijn of de beoogde auteurs geen tijd hebben. Sommigen vinden dat een moeizaam proces. Ik vind dat juist een uitdaging. Hoe krijg je het idee toch met kleine bijstellingen verwezenlijkt.

Belangrijker is het dat iedereen zich aan de deadlines houdt. Get with the program noem ik dat meestal. Gelukkig heb ik de luxe dat alles lekker op schema ligt en ik mij niet met calamiteiten bezig hoef te houden. Hierdoor kan ik mijn drie andere projecten ook oppakken. Hier moet er meer geschaafd en bijgewerkt worden om deze kunnen te realiseren. Prettig dat je ter plekke bent om met iedereen te kunnen overleggen en je meteen conclusies hier aan kunt verbinden. Deze gesprekken met de stakeholders (ook zo’n mooi woord) maakt dat je efficiënt aan het werk kunt.

Voor mij betekent het wel van het weekend weer rapportjes en nog meer e-mails schrijven maar goed…dit is wat je doet. Zo ben ik bijna aan het einde van de eerste week vrij content met how things are going. Gisteravond nog lekker op een terrasje met een vriend onder het genot van lekkere hapjes en heerlijke cocktails gepartnerd over beveiliging en content van twee websites so I’m loving it

Paramaribo!

Ik ben weer enige tijd in Paramaribo. Voor redactionele begeleiding en project management voor een publicatie die in januari moet verschijnen. Daar zal de komende maanden meer over bekend worden.

Het is prettig om ’s morgens in Paramaribo wakker te worden met de bekende geluiden. Vogels die al vanaf vijf uur in de ochtend beginnen met fluiten. Hoewel fluiten kan ik het niet noemen. Het lijkt eerder op gekrijs. Dit laat mij denken aan een studie die enige jaren gelden in Europa werd verricht naar de geluiden van de vogels. 10258735_10202974451540013_2760737148556182543_oWat bleek, dat vogels in Randstedelijke gebieden harden fluiten dan soortgenoten in rustige gebieden. Dat lijkt in Paramaribo ook het geval te zijn…

Van het weekend weer het gebruikelijke ritueel dat zich herhaalt als ik er ben. In de ochtend naar Uniqa om mijn internetverbinding te organiseren. Zonder internet kunnen we toch niet leven. Via de Gravenstraat (ik gebruik nog consequent de oude straatnamen) naar de Sommeldijckstraat om mijn maandabonnement af te sluiten. Dat ging weer snel en professioneel en alle apparaten waren weer verbonden na het verlaten van de winkel.

Op weg naar de Uniqa winkel ook een stukje meegekregen van het spektakel van Ronnie B in het Andre Kamperveen stadion. Grote drommen mensen die zich een weg baanden naar het station voor de ronde van brood en spelen. De verkiezingscampagne 2015 is blijkbaar al begonnen maar ik laat het voorlopig aan mij voorbijgaan.

In de middaguren had ik afgesproken met Carry-Ann en Wim die hier ook voor een periode van drie maanden vertoefden. Carry-Ann is een lieve vriendin die ik eigenlijk veels te weinig zie. Het was een genoeglijke middag en vooravond waar wij over alle mogelijke zaken hebben gehad en gefilosofeerd. Zij trakteerde mij op een exemplaar van haar nieuwe pennenvrucht Osopasi die zij een week eerder succesvol in Paramaribo presenteerde. Ik zal het met veel genoegen lezen.

Ook sprak ik met Wim over een boekvoorstel dat later in het jaar gaat spelen en waar ik erg enthousiast over ben en ik hopelijk ook verder bij betrokken ben. Ik hou in ieder geval de spanning er in want meer ga ik er op dit moment niet verder over vertellen.  Zo kom je in ieder geval de eerste dag wel aangenaam door en kan ik alvast de balans opmaken voor de komende week. De eerste afspraken zijn genoteerd en e-mails verzonden.

Paramaribo I’m BACK…

Dominican Republic citizenship ruling stirs outcry across Caribbean

 Dominican Republic citizenship ruling

Caribbean neighbors criticize a high court ruling in the Dominican Republic that strips the citizenship of more than 200,000 people, mostly of Haitian ancestry, born in the country, Tracy Wilkinson reports in this article for the Los Angeles Times.

The recent decision by the highest court in the Dominican Republic to cancel the citizenship of three generations of residents is meeting a firestorm of protest, with human rights advocates warning of a humanitarian nightmare for the entire Caribbean region.

The Dominican Constitutional Court, citing the country’s 2010 constitution, retroactively stripped the citizenship of people born after 1929 to parents without Dominican ancestry, declaring that they were residing in the country illegally or with temporary permits.

More than 200,000 people, most of them descendants of Haitians, may in effect be left stateless. Government officials and others could deprive them of a host of basic rights and services, including education and employment, activists say.

“To be stateless means you don’t have the right to vote, to go to school … freedom of movement … [access to] travel documents,” Sarnata Reynolds, who handles statelessness issues at Refugees International, said Thursday during a panel discussion in Washington about the Dominican ruling. “You’re stuck in a legal limbo and in a location where you can’t resolve your situation.”

Some fear the Dominican Republic will embark on a mass deportation effort. But to where? Haiti and other Caribbean states would be under no obligation to recognize people who were born in the Dominican Republic as anything but Dominicans.

After years of legal dispute and with Dominicans of Haitian descent already feeling prejudice, the court’s ruling in late September came in connection with a case involving Juliana Dequis Pierre, born in the Dominican Republic to Haitian parents in 1984. When she attempted to apply for a voting card, authorities seized her birth certificate and told her she was not Dominican, her lawyers say. Her attempts to challenge those actions led to the high court’s judgment.

“This is likely one of the most discriminatory decisions ever made by a superior tribunal,” said Santiago A. Canton, director of the Partners for Human Rights program at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, which joined Dequis’ legal team. The RFK center branded the ruling a case of “massive state-sponsored xenophobia.”

The court’s judgment in September expands the definition of “in transit,” a category of foreign-born people allowed to live in the Dominican Republic. It would consider people who have been in the Dominican Republic for decades “in transit” and their Dominican-born children and grandchildren ineligible for citizenship.

A spokesman for Dominican President Danilo Medina said the government, stung by a wave of fierce criticism, would seek a “coherent and humanitarian” solution that attempts to respect people’s rights. But the government also insisted that it had to obey and respect the highest court of the land.

Eduardo Jorge Prats, a Dominican attorney and leading constitutional law expert, told The Times from Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, that the high court erred by ignoring judgments from regional bodies, foremost among them the Inter-American Human Rights Court. That body in 2005 told the Dominican Republic that it could not use the nationality of parents as pretext for taking citizenship from their children. The inter-American court’s rulings are binding.

At a meeting this week of the governing council of the Organization of American States, known normally for vapid diplomatic niceties, comments from Caribbean countries were particularly pointed.

Haiti said the Dominican court’s action was “truly alarming,” and it was joined in the criticism by the 15-member Caribbean Community.

La Celia Prince, the representative of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and current spokeswoman for the Caribbean bloc, condemned the ruling because it “strips tens of thousands of people of rights which they have enjoyed from birth and gives them no recourse to appeal.”

“It directly impacts the lives of fellow human beings, citizens of our hemisphere and more specifically of our diaspora,” she said.

The Dominican Republic’s representative reportedly tried to have the meeting canceled.

“The neighbors are unhappy,” Canton said.

Haiti, especially, already a badly dysfunctional country, could not absorb the arrival of tens of thousands of people who don’t speak its language, he said.

Although many people inside and outside the Dominican Republic see the measure as racist and xenophobic, it has significant support in some domestic quarters among those who resent a large Haitian presence and what they see as outside interference, Jorge Prats said.

“In the legal community, the decision has little support,” he said in an email. “But there is certain support in the population because conservative, authoritarian elites have promoted an anti-Haitianism since the times of Trujillo.” Rafael Leonidas Trujillo was dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961.

In 1937, though Haitians had been working the Dominican sugar cane fields for generations, Trujillo sought to drive them out by ordering the so-called Parsley massacre, which killed thousands of Haitians. A century earlier, it was a Haiti newly freed by rebelling slaves that brutally occupied the Dominican Republic.

Tension between the two countries that share the Hispaniola island has festered continuously, with Dominicans especially begrudging Haitian immigrants, who have arrived in droves, driven by extreme poverty, political upheaval and, in 2010, one of the deadliest earthquakes on record.

Voor het origineel bericht:  http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-dominican-republic-citizens-20131101,0,508300.story#axzz2joNRwaWC

Latin American and Caribbean Drone Use on the Rise and Unregulated

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At least 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries have used or purchased drones, an Argentine human rights lawyer recently said. With the exception of Brazil, none of the countries have laws regulating the domestic use of drones. Some of the Caribbean countries that use drones to monitor drug traffickers include Panama and Trinidad and Tobago; Belize and Costa Rica use drones for conservation purposes; and others have used drones in joint ventures with the United States, such as The Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Aruba, and Curaçao.

Drone use in Latin America was brought before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Friday, McClatchy reported. One speaker before the commission was Santiago Canton, an Argentine human rights lawyer, who said that the list of Latin American countries that have deployed or purchased drones is substantial and growing. Other countries, he said, have hosted US drones.

Brazil is the only country of the 14 with laws guiding domestic use, meaning that in most other cases, drones are controlled by military forces and not civilian leaders. Brazil has the highest number of drones in the region, both made domestically and internationally, Canton said. GlobalPost reported in January that Brazil “spent $350 million for 14 Israeli drones in 2010 to monitor Amazon rainforest and border regions.” Other news outlets have reported that Brazil has used drones to monitor drug trafficking and for agricultural reasons, and have considered using them to monitor crime in Rio de Janeiro favelas, or shanty towns. Brazil has also helped Bolivia watch coca-producing areas with unmanned aerial vehicles. Bolivia’s air force also deploys drones.

Mexico, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago have also used them to monitor drug traffickers, Canton said, and drones have been used in Mexico City to surveil [sic] demonstrations.

Canton said that Argentina and Chile have developed their own drone technology for surveillance use. El Sol reported a year ago that Chile was on track to add to its fleet soon. “The Chilean government announced that it will begin manufacturing drones, embarking on the next ‘generation of drones.’ It plans to have 18 unmanned aircraft operational for the Chilean Air Force by March 2014.” El Sol also reported that Chile purchased aircraft from Israel – one of the world’s leaders in drone technology – in 2010. Chile has also acquired Iranian drones for border concerns, Canton said.

Colombia has used them to monitor the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and for drug trafficking surveillance and intelligence gathering, the lawyer said. He said that Peru also monitors guerillas, as the country watches the Apurimac area where the Sendero Luminoso operate. “The Ecuadorean army has purchased them and is using its own technology to develop them and use them on its border with Colombia,” he said.

Belize and Costa Rica, meanwhile, use drones for conservation aims. The Uruguayan army has drones as well, he said, and El Salvador has purchased drones from Israel. Various news outlets have also reported on surveillance drone use in Venezuela and joint ventures with the US in the Dominican Republic. Some of these countries and others have also hosted US drones. “US drones have been used in The Bahamas, Colombia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Aruba and Curacao,” Canton said.

Canton was formerly the commission’s executive secretary and is now the director of RFK Partners for Human Rights in Washington. He said the lack of civilian control of drones, as well as their uses to curb free speech, is cause for concern in many countries. “We see the chilling effect that this can have on societies…When people want to have public demonstrations, drones can have a chilling effect and can intimidate people from doing this.”

Voor het origineel bericht: http://rt.com/news/latin-america-drones-unregulated-216/

Confronting the Legacies of Slavery

Here are excerpts from an op-ed (The New York Times) by Laurent Dubois (Duke University) on the legacies of slavery, reparation, compensation, abandoning condescending visions of the Caribbean, and “consigning racial discrimination, exploitation and political exclusion to the past.”

Late one afternoon in March, officials unveiled a new monument at the University of the West Indies, in Cave Hill, Barbados. The ceremony featured African drumming, a historian’s lecture, a bishop’s prayer and a song performed by a school choir with the chorus, “We cry for the ancestors!”  Those ancestors, 295 of whom have their names on the monument, were slaves who once lived where the campus now stands. What today is a university was once a plantation. What is now a nation was once a colony. In Barbados and throughout the Caribbean, slavery remains a vivid and potent metaphor, and a cultivated memory.  Presiding over the event was Sir Hilary Beckles, the head of the university and a prolific historian. He and his Jamaican colleague Verene Shepherd have spurred on the recent call by the 15-member Caribbean Community for Britain, France and the Netherlands to pay an undefined amount of reparations for slavery and the slave trade. The group plans to file suit in national courts; if that fails, it will go to the International Court of Justice.

Uniting the Caribbean around any kind of policy is not easy. The region is linguistically and politically fragmented, with links to former colonial powers or the United States often trumping cooperation. But with this new call, the community, known as Caricom, is tapping into one thing that all its member states have in common: the lingering effects of slavery.

Calls for reparations have a long history. As early as the 1790s, one French anti-slavery activist argued that the enslaved could easily ask not just for freedom but for repayment for generations of unpaid labor. But at the time of emancipation, the British granted not the ex-slaves but their former owners “reparation” in the form of a large financial indemnity.  Haiti won its freedom 1804, but in 1825 it agreed to pay an indemnity to France in return for diplomatic recognition. The money was used to compensate French plantation owners.

[. . .] But only reparations can reverse the long-term harm. As Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said, “We have to have appropriate recompense.” The claim is not, however, about compensating individuals, but their communities. And in this way, since most countries in the Caribbean are financially in debt to international banks, Caricom is making a provocative argument: It is actually Europe that owes the Caribbean.

This is more than just creative accounting. When economists debate why some countries are poor and others are rich, they often focus on the cultural, political or economic structures of poor countries. But historians of the Caribbean have long argued that national inequality is a direct result of centuries of economic exploitation.

The foundations for this argument go back to a 1944 book by the Trinidadian historian Eric Williams, “Capitalism and Slavery.” [. . .] His argument, that the profits from the slave trade and slavery were the foundation for Britain’s Industrial Revolution, spurred decades of debate and research, and today there are hundreds of books documenting slavery’s profound impact on the modern world.

But knowing is one thing; figuring out what to do is another.

Consider this: In 2003, Haiti’s president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, called on France to repay the 1825 indemnity, which he blamed for his country’s poverty. The argument was historically sound: to pay France, Haiti had had to borrow money from French banks, entering a century-long cycle of debt.  But a French commission concluded that, while there was a responsibility on France’s part, financial reparation was not the solution. Its report suggested that French aid to Haiti was a kind of “reparation” and urged more of it. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, President Nicolas Sarkozy offered an aid and debt-forgiveness package to the country. But the French government never officially apologized, let alone offered compensation.

Despite the rightness of the Caribbean nations’ claim, European governments are likely to respond similarly this time. If Caricom accepts this approach, the call for reparations may ultimately just come to play a strategic role within international negotiations over aid and trade. Perhaps, though, something more will come of this. In the United States, calls for reparation have long served mostly as a catalyst for debate. One good way to make the point that something is important, after all, is to attach a monetary value to it.

That goes for history, too. Scholars have worked for decades to educate people through their writing and teaching. Now their arguments will be heard in court, and perhaps find their way into headlines.  Just as important, the discussions around reparations — in the Caribbean as in Europe — might become an occasion to delve into history, to mourn but also confront the many ways in which the past continues to shape the present.

What would it mean to truly rid our world of the legacies of slavery? In the Caribbean, it would mean undoing the divisions created by colonialism, through regional economic cooperation and reduced dependence on foreign aid and foreign banks.

It would mean, above all, ending the continuing mistreatment and stereotyping of Haitians, who were the pioneers in the overthrow of slavery and have been paying for it ever since.

In Europe and the United States, it would mean abandoning condescending visions of the Caribbean and building policies on aid, trade and immigration based on an acceptance of common and connected histories.

It would mean, above all, consigning racial discrimination, exploitation and political exclusion to the past. That would be the truest form of reparation.

Voor het origineel bericht: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/29/opinion/international/confronting-the-legacies-of-slavery.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

In Accounting for Slavery’s Cost, Figures Vary Widely

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Different approaches to tallying the harm wrought by slavery produce a vast range of results, Carl Bialik reports for The Wall Street Journal.

Fourteen Caribbean nations and a British law firm are trying to find the solution to a puzzle that has eluded many economists, historians and activists: how to put a price tag on the harm wrought by slavery, and then persuade someone to pay.

Members of the Caribbean Community, a regional bloc, have hired London firm Leigh Day to help them prepare a suit for the International Court of Justice. The countries plan to seek reparations from the U.K., France and the Netherlands for the lasting effects of the slave trade, which over four centuries brought millions of people against their will from Africa to European colonies in the Caribbean region.

The legal challenges to seeking reparations are immense: Countries must prove crimes committed by—and against—long-dead people.

But the bigger difficulty may be setting a price tag. Scholars have sought to quantify reparations for as long as activists have sought them—for slavery and, in the U.S., for racial discrimination after the Civil War. There are many approaches, from calculating lost wages over the years to tallying disparities in health that can be tied to slavery. All produce widely varying figures, and the sheer size of many of the numbers has been an impediment to the reparations movement.

Martyn Day, founding partner of Leigh Day, said his clients are working to document the legacy of slavery for today’s Caribbean residents, such as the economic effects of being unable to accumulate wealth over the centuries, and elevated diabetes rates due to the diet imposed on slaves and passed down the generations. “What in the end will all that work out to?” Mr. Day                     

  The Slavery Reparations Calculations

French president François Hollande, in rejecting reparations, points to the futility of tallying slavery’s cost. History, he said earlier this year in a speech commemorating slavery’s victims, “cannot be subjected to an accounting process that … would be impossible to complete.”

“We do not see reparations as the answer,” said a spokesman for the U.K.’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

A spokesman for the Dutch foreign ministry said, “the Dutch government has expressed its deep regret about the history of slavery and has thus recognized injustices from the past.”

In 1974, economists Julian Simon and Larry Neal ran one set of reparation numbers. They tried to estimate the total wages U.S. slaves might have earned on the free market, then account for what was spent on their upkeep, and then calculate how much the difference might have earned in interest in the years since then. The calculations required many assumptions, including that market wages would have prevailed even with an expanded labor force. The most significant assumption was which interest rate to use: A 6% rate produced a total cost 100 times larger than a 3% rate. Both figures were presented. The authors said the larger one was “so astronomical as to be almost meaningless.”

The varying numbers, and methods, have been used as arguments against reparations seekers. A Ghanaian group called the African World Reparations and Repatriation Truth Commission announced it was seeking reparations for the African continent of $777 trillion in 1999, or about 70 times U.S. gross domestic product that year. The group and its members couldn’t be located today, and activists distance themselves from the number. Yet it still pops up in arguments calling reparations unfeasible.

Such estimates fill a void that Richard America, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, said wouldn’t exist if the government or mainstream research institutions had been tallying costs from slavery. “This should be standard economic analysis,” he said.

Mr. America suggests first calculating the cost and separately seeking a remedy, which he would like to see achieved via policy changes rather than lawsuits. His ballpark estimate of the overall net cost of slavery and post-slavery discrimination for American blacks is $20 trillion, “if you need a provocative number that comes out of the air,” he said.

Perpetrators of more-recent atrocities have paid victims. The U.K. government agreed to pay about $21 million this year to Kenyans tortured in 1950s colonial detention camps. Germany has paid over $90 billion to victims of Nazi crimes.

Such developments encourage Mr. Day in his pursuit on behalf of Caribbean countries, though he added, “We don’t think for a single second we have some slam-dunk case.”

It remains unclear how the Caribbean governments will tally costs. “I’m not going to give you any sort of number,” Mr. Day said.

Voor het originele bericht: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304682504579155801059827092

Caribbean Nations to Seek Reparations, Putting Price on Damage of Slavery

LONDON — In a 2008 biography he wrote of an antislavery campaigner, Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, described the trade in human beings as an indefensible barbarity, “brutal, mercenary and inhumane from its beginning to its end.”

Fourteen Caribbean countries that once sustained that slave economy now want Mr. Hague to put his money where his mouth is.

Spurred by a sense of injustice that has lingered for two centuries, the countries plan to compile an inventory of the lasting damage they believe they suffered and then demand an apology and reparations from the former colonial powers of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

To present their case, they have hired a firm of London lawyers that this year won compensation from Britain for Kenyans who were tortured under British colonial rule in the 1950s.

Britain outlawed the slave trade in 1807, but its legacy remains. In 2006, Tony Blair, then prime minister, expressed his “deep sorrow” over the slave trade; the Dutch social affairs minister, Lodewijk Asscher, made a similar statement in July.

Britain has already paid compensation over the abolition of the slave trade once — but to slave owners, not their victims. Britain transported more than three million Africans across the Atlantic, and the impact of the trade was vast. Historians estimate that, in the Victorian era, between one-fifth and one-sixth of all wealthy Britons derived at least some of their fortunes from the slave economy.

Yet the issue of apologies — let alone reparations — for the actions of long-dead leaders and generals remains a touchy one all over the globe. Turkey refuses to take particular responsibility for the mass deaths of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, let alone call the event a genocide, as the French Parliament has done. It was not until 1995 that France’s president at the time, Jacques Chirac, apologized for the crimes against the Jews of the Vichy government. The current French president, François Hollande, conceded last year that France’s treatment of Algeria, its former colony, was “brutal and unfair.” But he did not go so far as to apologize.

His predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, offered an aid and debt-cancellation package to Haiti in 2010 while acknowledging the “wounds of colonization.”

In Britain, in 1997, Mr. Blair described the potato famine in Ireland in the late 1840s as “something that still causes pain as we reflect on it today,” but suffering pain is not the same thing as making a formal apology.

For some, such comments do not go far enough, particularly when some European nations, like postwar Germany, have apologized — the former chancellor Willy Brandt went to his knees at the Warsaw Ghetto in 1970 — and paid reparations for Nazi crimes.

Caribbean nations argue that their brutal past continues, to some extent, to enslave them today.

“Our constant search and struggle for development resources is linked directly to the historical inability of our nations to accumulate wealth from the efforts of our peoples during slavery and colonialism,” said Baldwin Spencer, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, in July this year. Reparations, he said, must be directed toward repairing the damage inflicted by slavery and racism.

Martyn Day, the senior partner at Leigh Day, the London law firm acting for the Caribbean countries, said a case could start next year at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, a tribunal that adjudicates legal disputes among states.

“What happened in the Caribbean and West Africa was so egregious we feel that bringing a case in the I.C.J. would have a decent chance of success,” Mr. Day said. “The fact that you were subjugating a whole class of people in a massively discriminatory way has no parallel,” he added.

Some Caribbean nations have already begun assessing the lasting damage they suffered, ranging from stunted educational and economic opportunities to dietary and health problems, Mr. Day said.

Critics contend that it makes no sense to try to redress wrongs that reach back through the centuries, and that Caribbean countries already receive compensation through development aid.

The legal terrain is not encouraging. Though several American and British companies have apologized for links to slavery, efforts by descendants of 19th-century African-American slaves to seek reparations from corporations in American courts have so far come to little. And, unlike the successful case made in Britain by Kenyans tortured during the Mau Mau uprising, there are no victims of slavery to present in court.

Even that case was disputed initially by a British government worried that it would expose itself to claims from numerous former colonies. And when he agreed to pay compensation, Mr. Hague insisted this was not a precedent.

Though Parliament abolished the Atlantic slave trade in 1807, the law took years to put into effect. In 1833, Parliament spent £20 million compensating former slave owners — 40 percent of government expenditure that year, according to estimates by Nick Draper of University College, London, who estimates the present-day value at about $21 billion.

Mr. Draper’s work traced recipients of compensation and showed they included ancestors of the authors Graham Greene and George Orwell, as well as a very distant relative of Prime Minister David Cameron.

But the prospects for a modern-day legal case for reparations by victims are far from clear. Roger O’Keefe, deputy director of the Lauterpacht Center for International Law at Cambridge University, said that “there is not the slightest chance that this case will get anywhere,” describing it as “an international legal fantasy.”

He argues that while the Netherlands and Britain have accepted the court’s jurisdiction in advance, Britain excluded disputes relating to events arising before 1974.

“Reparation may be awarded only for what was internationally unlawful when it was done,” Dr. O’Keefe said, “and slavery and the slave trade were not internationally unlawful at the time the colonial powers engaged in them.”

Even lawyers for the Caribbean countries hint that a negotiated settlement, achieved through public and diplomatic pressure, may be their best hope. “We are saying that, ultimately, historical claims have been resolved politically — although I think we will have a good claim in the I.C.J.,” Mr. Day said.

Mr. Hague’s own views add an intriguing dimension. In his biography of Britain’s most famous abolitionist, William Wilberforce, Mr. Hague highlighted many atrocities of slavery, including a case in 1783 involving a slave ship that ran out of drinking water, prompting its captain to throw 133 slaves overboard so he could claim insurance for lost cargo.

In 2007, on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trade, Mr. Hague spoke of his deep regret over “an era in which the sale of men, women and children was carried out lawfully on behalf of this country, and on such a vast scale that it became a large and lucrative commercial enterprise.”

But as foreign secretary, Mr. Hague is opposed to compensation. In a statement, his office said that while Britain “condemns slavery” and is committed to eliminating it where it still exists, “we do not see reparations as the answer.”

Voor het origineel bericht: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/world/americas/caribbean-nations-to-seek-reparations-putting-price-on-damage-of-slavery.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1382325204-3zyTzgS6cUdgibXxlLRdVA