As Jamaica Right now prepares to submit a demand to the Queen of England for reparations for the harm done by slavery from 1707 onwards by the British – a claim for 7 billion pounds sterling – the Mauritian State should, in LALIT’s opinion, also prepare a similar claim.
This move of the Jamaican Government comes in the wake of a world-wide movement to improve history teaching on colonization and slavery, to demote statues put up to the glory of colonization and slavery, and to end systemic racism – where there is a movement even in sports, in the arts and literally in all walks of life.
The timing is ideal.
The Mauritian Government needs to prepare a carefully-researched case and submit it. This is important right now, especially in the context of the continued military occupation of Chagos including Diego Garcia, even after Britain and the USA’s humiliating defeats at the ICJ and in the UN General Assembly. It is also important when France continues its occupation of Tromelin, even after Mitterrand won his Presidential campaign on a program that included decolonizing Tromelin.
Timing is important.
And, LALIT would like to remind readers, and inform younger readers, that as long ago as in 1994, we circulated a huge international petition on precisely the issue of the Mauritian State claiming reparations from the three colonial powers that used slave labour to enrich their private Companies over the course of colonization. These companies have “descendants” that must be taxed to foot the bill.
The petition, which is carefully crafted, can be read below. It was signed by the quasi-totality of trade unions and other workers’ organizations in Mauritius, as well as by Village and Municipal Councillors, Parent-Teachers’ Associations, and women’s and other peoples’ organizations, as well as by hundreds of organizations from all over the world – parties, unions, women’s organizations from countries as diverse as India, Sweden, Senegal, the USA, Brazil, Britain and Zimbabwe, Greece and Namibia, Nigeria, Japan and Tanzania, the UK and South Africa.
Our demand was, and still is, to the Mauritian State to, in turn, submit a demand to the three States responsible for the harm done to the people and the land of Mauritius during colonization through the use of the legal framework of slave labour. The petitions was also sent to the Heads of State of the Netherlands, France and Britain. So, in all we sent it to the Heads of State of four countries, our own and the three serial colonizers.
The petition was popular world-wide and commended for it precise wording. It outlines a collective form of reparations for the suffering of slavery, reparations made in ways that contain dynamics for progress in the working class, the class which has suffered the legacy of this cruel and inhuman form of labour law for extracting profit that was then turned into Capital and which launched the world capitalist system into a position of political power.
Submitted in 1995, we have campaigned again and again over the years, for example in 2003 when MP Armance proposed a Resolution in the National Assembly on Reparations for Slavery, and when Mr. Doudou Dienne of UNESCO visited Mauritius and spoke on reparations, and on the occasion of each annual commemoration of the end of slavery on the 1 February public holiday.
As the issue of the legacy of slavery is again on the agenda today, the time is ripe. Given the precision of the drafting, which was based on years of thinking and discussing collectively, here is LALIT’s original petition, which has stood the test of time, as you will see, if you read it carefully:
Petition addressed to the Head of State of Mauritius,
copies to Governments of Netherlands, France & Great Britain, the three States which colonized Mauritius,
Bearing in mind the immense scale of the human suffering caused by slavery and the vast scale of the social destructivity of this system, and given the universal denunciation of slavery, and
Bearing in mind the fact that there are some nation states whose owning classes benefitted directly in the form of capital accumulation from slavery, and still stand advantaged by the initial riches made through slavery,
Bearing in mind that there are some nation states whose working classes suffered directly from the confiscation of their means of subsistence and the annihilation of their social economy as a result of the ravages of slavery, and suffered directly from the humiliation and degradation of this system.
Bearing in mind that the only compensation that has hitherto been paid by States responsible for upholding and allowing slavery, is that compensation paid to slave owners in respect of their so-called "property rights" having been infringed, we, the undersigned
Knowing that the quasi-totality of Mauritian working class organizations have signed this petition, sent to President of Mauritius & three heads of state,
Knowing that the petition has been widely signed by peoples’ organizations from countries all over the world and already sent to the President & three heads of state,
Call on States whose peoples suffered the direct effects of slavery, to put in claims to those States responsible for slavery, for material and moral damages, and we, the undersigned,
Call on those States responsible for slavery to pay the damages claimed, and to pay these damages not from the usual government revenue, which includes working peoples' direct and indirect taxes, but from a special "anti-slavery levy" to be levied on the propertied classes and their companies and corporations, and we
Call on the States claiming damages to create a special "post-slavery fund" to be used for health and housing programmes in poor and working class neighbourhood and areas, and for the educational advancement, in its broadest sense, of all poor and working class neighbourhoods and areas, but without any recall to the perpetuation of race or ethnic classification of individuals, and we, the undersigned,
By our signature, I/we endorse this petition being circulated by LALIT demanding that the government of the Republic of Mauritius, in the spirit of the above arguments, prepare and submit a claim for compensation for the material and moral damage suffered by the working people of Mauritius through the slavery system from 1568 to 1835 and in the decades following the liberation of slaves and until today.
As you will notice, the petition is based on reason. And there is no reason why these reparations should not be sought and won. The process itself, the exposure of the truth of the ancestors of present-day capitalists world-wide, would be a liberating process. And once the truth is clear, justice can be done by reparations. And then we can move on.