“Seh Yuh Sorry!” Jamaica Welcomes British Royals With Anti-Colonial Protests

Image by Paul Townley on Flickr

By Aida El-Hajjar, age 13

Jamaica, a country that, like so many others, was pillaged by British colonialism and subject to years of slavery, is demanding an apology. In late March, Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton arrived in Jamaica for a week-long Caribbean tour and were met with anti-colonial protests.

Advocates Network Jamaica argued in an open letter that reparations from the British monarchy are needed to help repair the generational damage of slavery. The letter, which was signed by 100 Jamaican leaders, said they saw “no reason to celebrate” the queen’s recent jubilee, commemorating 70 years since she became queen, “because her leadership, and that of her predecessors, [has] perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of humankind.”

Many activists believe that reparations are an appropriate apology given the mass profiting of slave owners in the Western economy. According to Jamaican lawmaker Mike Henry, proper reparations from Britain should amount to £7.6 billion ($10 billion). He explans that this number is derived from the £20 million given to slave owners by the British government in 1837 as compensation for “lost property” after slavery was abolished in 1833.

In addition to the queen’s jubilee, the royal couple’s visit coincided with Jamaica’s 60th anniversary of independence. Hours before Prince William’s visit, Jamaica declared that the country would be transitioning into a republic. Currently, Jamaica is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. A Jamaican republic would strip her of this title. Many suspect the trip was meant to persuade Jamaica not to follow Barbados which transitioned to a republic last November. 

Upon arrival, Prince William expressed his “profound sorrow” over the slave trade and said that “it never should have happened,” but he did not give the apology that the activists demanded. “There was no responsibility taken!” said the Advocates Network in a statement.

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