Hanna urges Britain to redefine image

OPPOSITION spokeswoman on foreign affairs Lisa Hanna has added her voice to the renewed call by former colonies for Britain acknowledge its brutal past and make reparation for slavery and its consequences.

Hanna was among a stream of politicians in the House of Representatives on Tuesday paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, who died last Thursday, while at the same time calling for Britain to face up to the atrocities of its colonial past.

“We would like to see Britain perhaps face up to the legacy of some of its participation in this reality, and to acknowledge its history and the consequences thereof and begin to take some concrete steps to rectify it. As the world watches keenly, King Charles and the new Prime Minister Truss take the reigns of the country. They have a unique opportunity to courageously redefine Britain’s image into action — not with what we call a bag of mouth with outdated platitudes intended to make people momentarily feel nice, but with real action,” Hanna stated.

She said Britain’s leaders must urgently recognise that the country’s approach to its past has been and continues to be misaligned with current expectations of their former colonies.

“Time moves faster today, much quicker than it did in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne. It is time to correct their historical wrongs by resetting their political, economic, and social systems for future generations — if not, we in Jamaica will only watch that country walk alone, backwards into the future, with its leaders eyes closed,” Hanna declared.

During a visit to Jamaica in September 2015, then British Prime Minister David Cameron, amidst clamours for Britain to apologise for its role in the transatlantic slave trade, indicated that there would be no reparation and urged Caribbean countries to “move on”.

Addressing the House of Representatives at a special sitting, Cameron said slavery was “abhorrent in all its forms”, but he hoped that “as friends who have gone through so much together since those darkest of times” the two countries could “move on from this painful legacy and continue to build for the future”.

That, however, did nothing to quiet reparation advocates and advocacy groups in Jamaica and across the region.

Four years later, on the eve of Jamaica’s 57th anniversary of Independence, Culture Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange again insisted that Britain should apologise for the atrocities of the transatlantic trade in Africans and the resultant socio-economic maladies which continue to plague the region and its people.

In a video statement at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between The University of the West Indies and Glasgow University for the setting up of the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research, Grange argued that: “Britain has a responsibility to apologise to the people of the Caribbean. It must repair the damage done to a region whose ancestors it brutalised in the trade in African people.”

On Tuesday, in his contribution to the tributes, St Catherine Southern Member of Parliament Fitz Jackson said there were some very uncomfortable truths that must be faced.

“We don’t like to talk about them but they are truths nonetheless; and if we close our eyes and ears to them, they don’t go away. Seventy years of The Queen’s reign, 60 of those were during our independence and 10 were during our colonial past. What has happened during that period by the State presided over by the governments of the time is a fact, not an opinion. We can’t pretend it never happened and sweep it under the carpet because it’s convenient so to do and it’s not so pleasant,” he said.

Jackson said the remnants of Britain’s past cannot be denied.

“The best way to deal with an unfortunate past is to face it, acknowledge it, and at the very least — if you sincerely believe it’s wrong — to make a humble apology for that wrong,” he stated.

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