David Cameron will arrive in Jamaica on Tuesday for his first official visit to face calls for Britain to pay billions of pounds in reparations for slavery.
Sir Hilary Beckles, chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission, wrote to the prime minister in the Jamaica Observer, leading calls for amends for slavery.
He referenced Cameron's ancestral links to the slave trade (in the 1700s through his cousin six times removed General Sir James Duff), before writing:
We ask not for handouts or any such acts of indecent submission. We merely ask that you acknowledge responsibility for your share of this situation and move to contribute in a joint programme of rehabilitation and renewal. The continuing suffering of our people, Sir, is as much your nation’s duty to alleviate as it is ours to resolve in steadfast acts of self-responsibility.
The Jamaican parliament has approved a motion for the country to seek reparations from Britain, and in 2013, Jamaica’s prime minister Portia Simpson Miller called for non-confrontational discussions at the UN.
An official from Number 10 told the Guardian that the purpose of the visit was to reinvigorate trade with the UK:
This is a longstanding concern of theirs and there is a longstanding UK position, true of successive governments in the UK, that we don’t think reparations are the right approach.
[The prime minister] wants to look at the future and how can the UK play a part now in stronger growing economies in the Caribbean.