During a meal with Jamaican officials on March 23, Prince William decried slavery, but advocates who demanded an apology and reparations from the royal family and the British government for years of servitude and colonization argued it wasn’t enough.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid a visit to the country island as part of a week-long tour to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation 70 years ago. Protests and a letter requesting that the prince apologize and recompense Jamaica’s African diaspora disrupted the prince’s visit to Jamaica on March 22. The Advocates Network’s letter was accompanied by a list of 60 reasons why restitution and an apology are necessary.
During a luncheon held by Jamaica’s governor-general, William said, “I firmly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the horrific horror of slavery eternally stains our history.” “I’d like to communicate my deep grief.” Slavery was heinous and should never have existed.”
According to accounts, around 600,000 Africans were enslaved in Jamaica during the British colonial period. Prince Charles, William’s father, delivered the formal apology during a speech marking the smaller Caribbean island’s transition to a republic in November. According to research, around 300,000 Africans were slaves in Barbados.
The Advocates Network, which has over a hundred members, wanted William to apologize for slavery in Jamaica and its long-term impact on enslaved people and the diaspora. The prince’s statements, according to the group, were tone-deaf. He was not remorseful or apologetic, and repeating his father’s statements was easy for him, according to the group. The largest setback, according to the activists, was the absence of any reference to restitution.
Those demanding compensations say that free labor and the suffering of enslaved Africans benefited Britain and the royal family financially. When slavery was abolished, Britain borrowed £20 million to compensate slaveowners for the loss of “human property.” The loan was not paid off until 2015 by British taxpayers, including descendants of enslaved Africans. According to historian David Olusoga, it is worth £17 billion or $18.7 billion in today’s money.
“The statement made by Prince William is not an apology!” The expression of “profound sorrow” is unacceptable, according to the group. “It’s just an admission that slavery was horrible.” This is a negative idea that all rational people would detest. There was no acceptance of responsibility! There is no cry to end centuries of violent British invasion and plunder. There is no outcry against dehumanization and exploitation.”
William’s reaction to the Advocates Network’s requests has bolstered the group’s push for Jamaica to break its links with the British monarchy, according to the group.
“This must be done on terms that will return power to the Jamaican people and complete the decolonization process,” the organization stated.
Jamaica declared independence from the United Kingdom in August 1962 and is a constitutional monarchy, meaning it creates its own laws and has elections. Its parliamentary and legal systems are similar to those of the United Kingdom, and the queen serves as the country’s head of state. The governor-general of the country is her representative on the island.
The queen’s executive authority is removed when the country becomes a republic. According to political experts, Jamaica would most likely elect a president as its head of state and abolish the governor-general.
According to Jamaican-American social critic Richard Blackford, the island has been debating the change since the 1970s, when it was at its peak of “awareness.”
“Through Michael Manley, we had a quasi-Democratic socialist government that seemed to be on the verge of abolishing the monarchy,” Blackford added. At the time, the idea envisioned establishing a “Caribbean Court” to replace the existing legal system.
According to Blackford, being a subject of the British monarchy delivers few benefits to Jamaicans and is unnecessary.
“When you declare independence as a country, you’re telling your people that we’re responsible for ourselves,” Blackford explained. “We’re subjected to the same folks who oppressed us and profited from our misery. You pretend you’re an independent country for no reason, but your political system still reports to that system.”
Prior to the formal dinner, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced the country’s decision to become a republic to William. The process will be overseen by a former attorney general, according to Holness. The National Council on Reparation in Jamaica is also developing a strategy. According to the prime minister’s office, there is a dispute among political leaders about the function of the president in a republic.
“Jamaica is a very free and liberal country, with a very expressive population. “And I’m sure you would have witnessed the range of expression yesterday,” Holness remarked. “There are issues here that are unresolved, as you are aware, but your presence allows us to put those concerns in context, bring them to the forefront, and address them as best we can.”
He said, “We’re moving on.” “We aspire to achieve our development goals in a timely manner and to realize our genuine ambitions and destiny as an autonomous, developed, and rich country.”
The move would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Jamaican Parliament to be approved.