A Church of England charity has offered £7 million in slavery reparations, prompting Barbados to criticise the “unilateral” decision of how much compensation should be paid.
Earlier this month the United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG) committed £7 million as a “reparations project” for its ownership of the Codrington Estate, once the site of one of Barbados’ largest sugar plantations.
The Anglican mission agency, then known as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, profited from slave labour on the Codrington Estate between 1710 and 1838, while operating as the Church of England’s primary mission agency in North and Central America.
The announcement of the £7 million fund – worth 18 million Barbadian dollars – to be spent in Barbados over the next 10 to 15 years was hailed as by the USPG as making amends for “its disgraceful links to the slave trade”.
The fund aims to work with descendants of people who were enslaved in community development, historical research, memorialisation and family research.
However, representatives from the Barbadian government’s national task force on reparations have criticised the payments on the grounds that the USPG did not negotiate the terms nor the amount with them.
The move comes after The Telegraph revealed earlier this month that Caribbean nations are to formally demand slavery reparations from the Royal Family, Lloyds of London and the Church of England for their role in the slave trade and plantation system.
The Most Rev Justin Welby, in his role as Archbishop of Canterbury, serves as the president of the USPG, which is UK-based and retains funding and governance links with the Church of England.
Responding to the USPG’s £7 million fund, David Comissiong, deputy chairman of the national task force on reparations, said that compensation should not be determined by the same organisations who benefited from slavery.
He said: “We need to point out to the Church of England and all similar institutions that reparations are not about them unilaterally determining what compensation they are prepared to make. Reparations do not work like that.”
Trevor Prescod, a Barbados MP and special envoy to the prime minister on reparations, also criticised the donation, saying: “The Church believes that it can do whatever it wants to do, without any respect to the agencies that the government has set up.”
Mr Prescod, who also leads the national task force and is part of the Caricom reparations commission, added: “They did not pass money into the hands of any state agency. We have no authority to see if they will execute the project.
“They can’t exclude the government from the planning… We have to protect the interests of our people.”
USPG ‘ashamed’ of links to slavery
Meanwhile, Duncan Dormor, the general secretary of USPG, has said: “USPG is deeply ashamed of our past links to slavery.
“We recognise that it is not simply enough to repent in thought and word, but we must take action, action, working in partnership with Codrington where the descendants of enslaved persons are still deeply impacted by the generational trauma that came from the Codrington plantations.”
A spokesman for the USPG said: “The project has been developed in close partnership with the Codrington Trust in Barbados, who own and manage the estates. Indeed, the programme proposals have come entirely from the Codrington Trust.
“As an organisation, we are seeking to take responsibility for our actions in the past through this programme of reparative activity. We will continue to be guided by our partnership with the Codrington Trust around the approach to reparations in Barbados.”
Barbados has emerged as a leader in the Caribbean’s pursuit of compensation for crimes committed during the colonial era.
The capital city, Bridgetown, was host to a meeting of African union and Caribbean community nations in July, at which an “intercontinental campaign” was launched to demand compensation for slavery from European former colonial powers.
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