Indians have a better case for reparations than blacks
Photo : Ramdath Jagessar
Vasant Ramracha has asked in his column `Is Demand for Reparation by blacks going to be dropped with Meghan now part of the British Royal Family?`
I hope he is just being provocative. The blacks may as well drop demand for reparations because of slavery, because it never had a chance.
Reparations for black people for oppression during slavery will be a nightmare in practice.
This is a legal matter, remember.
First question is, who will Quashie 14 the slave descendant sue for damages to his ancestor Quashie 1?
He will try to sue the British government for harm done to Quashie 1 two hundred years ago. The British government will say we didn't send people to Ghana to capture Quashie 1, our navy didn't transport him to Barbados, we didn't own the sugar estate that worked him as a slave all his life.
That was done by private organizations. Arab slavers or African tribesmen captured Quashie 1 and sold him to slave ships owned by private business people and so on to sugar estates owned by private companies that don't exist any more. Sue them people for reparations!
Pretty much impossible to sue the heirs of those Arabs, Africans, slave ship companies, and sugar estates, I would say.
But let's say Quashie 14 manages to find somebody with money to pay reparations, and gets his day in court to prove his case..
The lawyers for the person or company sued will say, OK Quashie 14, where is the evidence that Quashie 1 was your ancestor? Produce proof that Quashie 1 was taken from Ghana, transported to Providence Estate in Barbados and there enslaved for life.
They will say produce proof that Quashie 1 was the person whose name was changed to William Smith who lived and died on Providence Estate.
Produce proof that Georgie Smith was the son of Quashie 1 or William Smith, and that said Georgie Smith is your ancestor 12 times over.
They didn't have birth certificates for slave children in those days as far as I know. Slaves were sold to other estates and there would be no paper trail after 150 years. At this point Quashie 14's lawyer will tell him, boy you shiite a brick, you will never collect a cent.
As I said, financial reparations are a legal matter, and must be handled as such. Quashie 14 and others may get an apology from the British government of today for bad treatment of slaves under the British crown of 200 years ago. But that apology is a political thing that will not come with admission of financial liability.
Quashie 14 will jump up and say look how the American and Canadian governments are apologizing to natives for bad treatment in the past and paying out millions to Indians and Inuit tribes!
The lawyers will say yes, but the American and Canadian governments have legal treaties with those native tribes, treaties that they broke, and must pay out.
Nobody had any contract or agreement with Quashie 1! He wasn't even considered to be a person, but was property just like the mules on the estate. Property can't sue, descendants of property can`t sue, people can sue!
Quashie 14 may have a moral case for reparations, but a legal case he does not have.
Indians in the Caribbean have a much stronger case for reparations, not for indentureship, but in the matter of the British government causing financial loss to their ancestors.
You see, many Indians in the colonial period acquired property or kept savings in the penny bank, but when they died their heirs could not inherit such property or money. The British government and its agent the colonial government did not recognize Hindu or Muslim marriages for a long time, so the spouse and children of the Indian who died were not legal spouse and children in the eyes of the law. They couldn't apply for probate or letters of administration for the dead man's property, and in many cases such property was turned over to the crown.
Thus the crown actively conspired to deprive the heirs of provable assets. There will be land deeds and records of money saved in the penny bank, and being relatively recent, the descendant of the said Indian could prove his relationship to the great grandfather.
He can sue the British crown or its successor government which acquired the assets AND liabilities of the crown. Krishna Persad therefore may have a good case to recover the assets stolen from his great grandfather 70 years ago WITH 70 years of interest!
He has a legal claim for a specific asset stolen from a proven ancestor, unlike poor Quashie 14 who has nothing, nada and nahi.