The planned visit of David Cameron in Jamaica recently unleashed new controversies about the slave trade organized by the British Empire from Africa to this Caribbean nation. In fact, it’s well-known that Jamaica was a British colony and many Africans were deported to this place and forced to work as slaves. On this occasion, the Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller introduced the necessity to receive a compensation from the British Government for these crimes committed in the past.
The Jamaican leader clearly addressed this issue during her meeting with Mr. Cameron. According to The Guardian “she said her nation wanted to engage the UK on the matter while also being aware of obvious sensitivities”(1). On the other side, the British PM showed a doubtful attitude and tried to ignore this request. Obviously, he cannot deny the presence of this need and the pressure of public opinion. According to the journalist Rowena Mason, the Tory PM “is facing calls for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery”(2).
What is obvious is that Cameron and the entire Conservative cabinet have no intention to recompense this huge sum to the Jamaican government. Furthermore, they intend to minimize this issue through politically correct excuses and ambiguous and superficial statements. Lastly, a distant ancestor of Cameron was involved in slave trade and benefited from the exploitation of slaves. In fact, according to a Jamaican official called Bert Samuels ““his lineage has been traced and his forefathers were slave-owners and benefited from slavery”(3).
Beyond all this, Mr. Cameron tried to please the Jamaican government through new financial and commercial proposals between the two nations. In fact, the meeting shifted to the possibility to inaugurate a deeper business relationship between London and Jamaica. The main goal of these proposed deals is to stimulate the local economy and to guarantee higher standards of living. It seems that this partnership will also include the construction of new infrastructures. In fact, according to BBC News “Mr Cameron also announced £25m in British aid for a new Jamaican prison and a £300 million development package for the Caribbean which will provide grants for infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges”(4).
Probably, after these disputes the British government could find a faster solution in ensuring a public apology for these crimes rather than a monetary compensation. A Jamaican official called Bert Samuels commented about Cameron “he needs to atone, to apologise personally and on behalf of his country”(5). Beyond these recent diatribes, the slave trade was one of the darkest pages in British history. Between the seventeenth and nineteenth century, Britain kidnapped thousands of Africans and deported them in Jamaica. Most of these people were exploited on plantations and were subjected to violences and strong discrimination. The entire Jamaican economy was built on slavery and turned this nation into one of the richest colonies. Slavery was only abolished in 1834 after many demonstrations and revolts.