While Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips welcomes the apology by the descendants of John Gladstone, a former British plantation owner, he is also calling for an apology and reparations from both the Dutch and British Governments, since various ethnic groups, specifically Africans, have suffered by the hands of these colonisers.
The Prime Minister met with family members of Gladstone – Charlie, Caroline, Felix, Xanthe and Rob – at his Camp Street Office on Saturday. The Gladstone heirs are in Guyana to extend a formal apology for the integral role their ancestor played in both slavery and indentureship in Guyana.
“We demand an apology from the British Government just like how the Dutch Government would have apologised publicly. We suffered the same cruelty and crime against humanity in terms of slavery, which was started by the Dutch,” PM Phillips stressed.
He said Guyana should be included in whatever apology and reparative mechanisms were being offered by the Dutch since the country was not included in the initial sentiment.
“We are campaigning for them to include Guyana in that apology, we are campaigning for them to include Guyana in whatever reparative justice mechanisms they intend to put in place,” the Prime Minister asserted.He also expressed the same for the British Government, noting that he would like them to sit with Guyana and properly look at what the country is offering.
Additionally, the Prime Minister said the reparation that Guyana is looking for is outlined in the Caribbean Community’s (Caricom’s) Ten Point Plan. That plan consists of an apology, the establishment of a repatriation programme, and the development of cultural institutions for enslaved stories to be told, among other things.
PM Phillips underscored that the British Government and its monarchy should take steps to immediately adopt and implement the Caricom plan.
According to him, research is being commissioned by King Charles III and he expects an apology from the British Government after the report is issued.The apology was read by Charles Gladstone during a ceremony at the University of Guyana, Turkeyen Campus, on Friday.
UG and the Guyana Reparations Committee had invited members of the Gladstone family to participate in the launch of its International Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies.In his remarks, Charles recognised the dire impacts of slavery that continue to permeate society even today.
“We wish to offer his sincerest apologies for his actions in holding your ancestors in slavery in Guyana… Slavery was a crime against humanity, and its damaging impact continues to be felt across the world today. It is with deep shame and regret that we acknowledge our ancestor’s involvement in this crime, and with heartfelt sincerity we apologise to the descendants of the enslaved in Guyana. In so doing, we recognise slavery’s continuing impact on the daily lives of many,” the Gladstone heir stated.
He also called on other descendants of slave owners to open discussions on their ancestors’ contributions to what is considered crimes against humanity, and discuss ways in which they can offer contributions.
“We understand that we cannot change history, but we believe that we can have an impact on the world in which we live. In apologising for the actions of our ancestors, we hope to work towards a better future,” he stated.
Charles also voiced support for Caricom’s 10-Point Agenda for Reparatory Justice, which speaks to repatriation, an Indigenous people’s development programme, the establishment of cultural institutions, eradication of illiteracy, development of an African knowledge programme, debt cancellation, among other things. He further used the opportunity to urge the British Government to meaningfully engage Caricom on the matter.
The Gladstone family will be creating a financial fund to assist various projects in Guyana in creating long-term relationships. The family also recognised John Gladstone’s role as one of the architects of bringing indentured immigrants to Guyana after the slave trade was abolished.
Chair of the Guyana Reparations Committee, Eric Phillips accepted the signed apology from the Gladstone family. Simultaneously, a silent protest was organised at the George Walcott Lecture Theatre as the apology was being handed over.
One day prior to Friday’s apology, President Dr Irfaan Ali had called for that apology to include compensation and reparative justice.President Ali welcomed the Gladstone heirs’ apology, which he said was the first step in the process of reparative justice. He said it is an acknowledgement of the cruel nature of African enslavement and indentureship in Guyana, as well as an act of contrition that paves the way for justice.
“The apology offered by the descendants of John Gladstone underscores their willingness to confront their family’s dark past, and to acknowledge the immense pain, suffering and indignities inflicted upon innocent persons through their family’s actions… I therefore propose that the intended apology include issues of compensation, reparative justice, and those involved to be posthumously charged for crimes against humanity,” the Head of State had said.