BRIDGETOWN, Barbados –The deputy chairperson of the National Task Force on Reparations, (NTFR) David Comissiong, has criticized what he described as a ”campaign of deceptive and misleading British “yellow journalism” regarding the issue of reparation in Barbados and the wider Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
In a statement, Comissiong, an attorney, who is also Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, said it is clear to him that Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper “has commenced upon a mission to concoct its own narrative about Barbados’ Reparations Campaign
“Indeed, the Daily Telegraph’s modus operandi seems to be to interview Barbadian parties associated with the Reparations Campaign and then to quote answers out of context, thereby effectively putting words in one’s mouth,” Comissiong said.
He said that a good example of the technique is the Daily Telegraph journalist asking him if Barbados intends to pursue a reparations claim against the family of someone named Benedict Cumberbatch.
But he said “when one answers that one does not know who Benedict Cumberbatch is, nor anything about his family’s supposed involvement in slavery in Barbados, that answer is reported as my having asserted that Barbados has not ruled out pursuing a Reparations claim against Mr Cumberbatch and his family”.
Comissiong said that “suddenly there is a big international news story about Barbados pursuing a Reparations claim against the said Benedict Cumberbatch”.
He said in light of this “campaign of deceptive and misleading British “yellow journalism,” it was important for him to “set the record clear about Barbados’ and CARICOM’s Reparatory Justice campaign”.
Comissiong said that in 2016, CARICOM, and by extension Barbados, advanced a reparations claim against six Western European governments, inclusive of the government of the United Kingdom, for reparations for the damage that the region experienced during the centuries of European orchestrated native genocide and African enslavement.
Comissiong said that the claim was advanced against the national government because it constitutes the institutional linkage between the European nation’s present and its past.
“In the following years, CARICOM and by extension Barbados, extended the Reparations claim to currently existing European companies and institutions that were either directly implicated in the crimes committed during those centuries of genocide and enslavement or that benefitted financially from the said crimes.
“To date, neither CARICOM nor Barbados has officially levelled a Reparations claim against a European family,” Comissiong said, adding “clearly, the reason is that it is much easier to establish a Reparations claim against a legal entity such as a national Government or a company than it is against a family.
“A family, after all, may be subject to all types of discontinuities and admixtures over an extensive period of time.”
Comissiong said that however, where Barbados is concerned, the National Task Force on Reparations has examined the case of the Drax family in Britain.
According to Comissiong, the NTFR has determined that this particular family presents the “unique case of a family that arrived in Barbados in 1627, at the very beginning of the English settlement of the island, and that has had a near 400-year uninterrupted presence in Barbados as owners and operators of the Drax plantations, inclusive of the famous Drax Hall Plantation.
“The Barbados National Task Force on Reparations therefore believes that the historical facts pertaining to the Drax family are more than clear to support a Reparations claim,” Comissiong said, adding “it is against this background that the issue of a possible Reparations claim against the current owner of the Drax Hall Plantation and leading representative of the Drax Family has been referred by the Task Force to higher governmental authorities.
“This is where the matter currently stands,” he added.
British media reports noted that Sir James Drax, was one of the first Englishmen to colonize Barbados in the early 17th century. He part owned at least two slave ships, the Samuel and the Hope.
The Drax family also owned a plantation in Jamaica, which they sold in the 19th century.
According to the British media reports, when slavery was abolished across the British empire in 1933, the family received nearly five million pounds “a very large sum in 1836 in compensation for freeing 189 enslaved people”.