Jamaica pressed UK Prime Minister David Cameron for compensation from Britain for its past involvement in slavery, with campaigners seeking an apology from the premier for his ancestral links to the trade.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said she raised reparations in talks with Cameron in the capital Kingston on Tuesday. Jamaica is participating in a Caribbean-wide commission that is demanding compensation from European nations that traded slaves from Africa to the region.
“I brought to the prime minister’s attention the issue of reparations,” Simpson Miller told reporters after their meeting. Cameron didn’t respond in his remarks to the press following the talks, but said earlier that “the visit’s about the future,” when he was asked about the issue.
Slavery in the West Indies was abolished by the UK parliament in 1833. A project by University College London found that James Duff — a relative of Cameron’s — received 4,101 pounds and one pence, equivalent to about 3 million pounds ($4.5 million) today, in return for 202 slaves in Jamaica, according to compensation archives.
“David Cameron’s lineage has been traced — his forefathers were slave owners. He should atone and apologize personally and on behalf of his country,” Bert Samuels, a member of the Jamaican reparations commission, told Television Jamaica. “The planters lobbied the British parliament and they got compensation — we were left behind because of racism.”
Cameron was asked about reparations on his plane as he flew to Jamaica from New York, where he attended a United Nations meeting. He said he didn’t want to dwell on the past.
Cameron told Simpson Miller during the meeting that he understood reparations are “an issue for some people,” according to an e-mailed statement from his office.
“He noted that the government abhorred slavery and indeed had passed the Modern Slavery Act to tackle human trafficking today,” Cameron’s office said. “He reiterated the long-standing position of the United Kingdom that we do not believe reparations is the right approach.”