On March 28th, 2022, regional advocacy groups convened a joint press conference, hailing from Belize, Bahamas and Jamaica. The advocate representatives shared their response to the Royal Charm Offense of the recent royals’ visit to these Caribbean countries.
Throughout her contribution, Ms Christina Coc, Maya Leaders Alliance co-spokesperson in Southern Belize, emphasized that “Exploitation, plunder and racism is not a thing of the past, as they would have us believe”. Ms Coc highlighted the ongoing tensions to combat disregard for Maya Indigenous land. International conservation group Flora and Fauna [FFI] purchased land claimed as part of the Maya community. Ms Coc revealed that Prince William is a patron of FFI. During the royal couple’s visit, there was an unauthorized landing on the property, which fuelled further protests.
Throughout the Maya community’s resistance, “We saw how FFI was put before the rights of the indigenous people, to facilitate the ongoing dispossession of indigenous lands. We also saw how the police were taking their role to subjugate and silence indigenous resistance”. Ms Coc is resolute that “Before they ask us to heal, they must right the wrong they have done to indigenous people and the people of African descent and heritage. Our lands are not crown lands.”
Joint Resistance Upheld Throughout Joint Conference
Prof Rosalee Hamilton, Coordinator of Advocates Network in Jamaica framed her response on Jamaica’s history of resistance to oppression and colonial domination. She said, “The colonial legacies that are perpetuated in policies, laws and institutional arrangements that encourage conformity to norms and practices, are ill-suited for the modern world”.
As such, their advocacy stands on the history of past injustices along with modern reminders of the inhumane treatment of the African diaspora. Since publishing the first 100 signatories to the open letter, Prof Hamilton announced that there are now 532 signatories. “It is time to dismantle the last vestiges of our colonial institution, and the ideological underpinning of racism, discrimination and inequality that persist in the world today,” she said. “And we must do so by severing ties with the Queen as our head of state as well as the Privy Council. Also, root out all forms of colonial trappings that have held us back”. The Network members will continue to fight for good governance that represents all the people of Jamaica.
Chair of the Bahamas Reparation Committee, Dr Niambi Hall Campbell-Dean reported they also wrote an open letter. “Why are we being made to pay again?” She spoke about the hardship and high inflation rate experienced among Bahamians. Dr Campbell-Dean said there are cracks in their everyday systems, such as education. Their committee wrote this letter signalling that they “do not owe this royal family and the regime they represent”. As a free and sovereign nation, they believe it’s time to change their narrative to reflect this. The royals’ visit to the Bahamas fell on the 15th anniversary of the United Nations International Day of Remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Their group wants to demonstrate that they have not forgotten.
Head of State Embarrassment
Professor Hilary Beckles said it is an “embarrassment to have a Head of State which does not live among us, nor understand the lives, pain and suffering of the people who are her subjects”. This embarrassment is furthered because we have a head of state who must delegate her role to a Governor-General. Prof Beckles shared that the British Royal family began the corporate organization of the slave trade in 1862. The UWI Vice-Chancellor believes the royal family must set an example. They should declare they were the financial beneficiaries, legal and commercial organizers of the slave trade, and pay reparations.
Prof Verene Shepherd, Director of the Centre for Reparation Research, asserts that reparative justice is a right and not a privilege. “There is an inter-generational transfer of wealth, and those who benefitted from the trauma of our ancestors have a responsibility”, she said. Therefore, the royal family has a responsibility to acknowledge their role and take reparative actions.
Unity is Strength
Ms Coc read a unified statement rejecting the “Charm Offensive Tour”. The statement indicated each country’s unity in maintaining their posture in the call for reparative justice. It also focused on redress while celebrating the accomplishments of the Caribbean people.
Former Executive Director of Jamaicans for Justice, Kay Osbourne skilfully moderated the questions and responses. Members from the international media and other interested groups attended the conference.