UK Minister David Rutley Addresses Reparations Call in Belize
Reparations – it was another topic brought up to British Minister Rutley. Since the Queen’s passing, the Commonwealth has collectively called for the British monarch to provide monetary reparations for its role in the decades of slavery. But is Mother Britain willing to pay up, and will the descendants of the victims of slavery be given justice? That’s what the press asked the UK’s Minister for the Americas and the Caribbean, MP David Rutley. Here is how he responded.
David Rutley, UK Minister – Americas and the Caribbean: “For us, absolutely slavery and abhorrent practice and we’re very sad about that history. Our focus is several fold. One is to make sure that we work with the Belizean government and with other affected countries to make sure that this episode is never forgotten and people learn the lessons from that terrible practice and also to make sure that we work to tackle racism in any form. And what’s encouraging to see is the open society that you have here in Belize, and we need to make sure that we always can tackle any form of racism or discrimination. But the other thing, and this fits in with some of the other subjects we’ve already talked about, is making sure that we work with Belize and other impacted countries to deliver on their priorities today, whether it’s on development infrastructure like we’ve done and it’s not just one road there are two roads and five hospitals that we’ve been involved with as well and particularly around climate change. This is a directly relevant issue that we need to help impacted countries from slavery tackle. And I’m proud of the work that we’re doing jointly here but across the Caribbean now to tackle climate change but also to make sure that we get better access to climate financing. So the SIDS agenda that was mentioned earlier on is absolutely critical. There’s a vitally important conference next year, UN Summit on SIDS, and we’re working absolutely closely with CARACOM and with other key interlocutors such as Prime Minister Motley to take forward the key elements of the Bridgetown agenda, which is vital across the Caribbean and across SIDS to help deliver. So that is our absolute focus.”
Rutley further explained that he was unable to state whether Belize would be receiving financial compensation for the decades of slavery it suffered. He did note, however, that the UK is working with governments in this region to promote development and climate resiliency.
David Rutley, UK Minister – Americas and the Caribbean: “I know it’s an active debate. As I said previously in answer to the other question, our focus is multifaceted. The key issue I think facing the Caribbean now is how we tackle climate change and make sure that we get the finance in place to do it. It’s a huge agenda and that’s where we’re giving our focus. I think that the best response that we can give to what happened in that past is to look now positively to the future. And we want to play our part, not just in terms of this visit, which has been hugely important for me and for our relationship, but what we can do for a long-standing agenda going forward. This isn’t about just the next few months, this is about the decades ahead. On this visit, I’ve seen the strength of our relationship, not just from a climate perspective and shared values, but also about what’s going on at BATSUB that’s a strategically important site where we’re working very closely together on security and defense matters and that’s the sort of relationship we want but in terms of how we move forward now we need a long term plan. I think we’re delivering as we’ve said on infrastructure and elsewhere but the big issue now is about what we can do extra on climate and that’s our focus. I think there’s, as I’ve said a wide debate, lots of different audiences talking about reparations but our focus is more on what we can do going forward in partnership to tackle the common challenges of today. So that’s the way we’re tackling these issues and how we can support countries that have been impacted by slavery in the past and are good friends.”
This was MP Rutley’s first visit to Belize. Later on in this newscast, we’ll tell you of his visit to the recently upgraded Coastal Plane Highway.