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Deputy Chairman of the National Task Force on Reparations in Barbados, Ambassador David Commissiong, has denied a report in the United Kingdom (UK) Daily Telegraph newspaper that Barbados has not ruled out pursuing a reparations claim against Benedict Cumberbatch and his family.
Cumberbatch is a British actor. In the Daily Telegraph story of December 30, 2022 it was reported Barbados has turned its sights on Cumberbatch’s slave-owning families as part of its reparation claim.
However, in a statement issued New Year’s day the Deputy Chairman not only lambasted the paper for engaging in “yellow journalism” but stated he does not know who Cumberbatch was, nor did he know anything about the family’s supposed involvement in slavery in Barbados.
According to Commissiong the policy of the Barbados Reparations Committee is “to establish a Reparations claim against a legal entity such as a national Government or a company than it is against a family. A family, after all, may be subject to all types of discontinuities and admixtures over an extensive period of time.”
To this effect Commissiong issued a statement setting the record clear about Barbados and CARICOM’s Reparatory Justice campaign.
The full text follows: –
Statement by Amb David Commissiong , National Task Force on Reparations
It is clear to me that Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper has commenced upon a mission to concoct its own narrative about Barbados’ Reparations Campaign
Indeed, the Daily Telegraph’s modus operandi seems to be to interview Barbadian parties associated with the Reparations Campaign and then to quote answers out of context, thereby effectively putting words in one’s mouth.
A good example of the technique is the Daily Telegraph journalist asking me if Barbados intends to pursue a Reparations claim against the family of someone named Benedict Cumberbatch, and when one answers that one does not know who Benedict Cumberbatch is nor anything about his family’s supposed involvement in slavery in Barbados, that answer is reported as my having asserted that Barbados has not ruled out pursuing a Reparations claim against Mr Cumberbatch and his family!
And then suddenly there is a big international news story about Barbados pursuing a Reparations claim against the said Benedict Cumberbatch!
In light of this Campaign of deceptive and misleading British “yellow journalism”, please permit me to set the record clear about Barbados’ and CARICOM’s Reparatory Justice campaign.
In the year 2016, CARICOM, and by extension Barbados, advanced a Reparations claim against six Western European governments– inclusive of the government of the United Kingdom– for Reparations for the damage that Barbados and the other CARICOM nations experienced during the centuries of European orchestrated Native genocide and African enslavement.
And the claim was advanced against the national Government because it constitutes the institutional linkage between the European nation’s present and its past.
In the following years, CARICOM and by extension Barbados, extended the Reparations claim to currently existing European companies and institutions that were either directly implicated in the crimes committed during those centuries of genocide and enslavement or that benefitted financially from the said crimes.
To date, neither CARICOM nor Barbados has officially leveled a Reparations claim against a European family.
And, clearly, the reason is that it is much easier to establish a Reparations claim against a legal entity such as a national Government or a company than it is against a family. A family, after all, may be subject to all types of discontinuities and admixtures over an extensive period of time.
However, where Barbados is concerned, our National Task Force on Reparations has examined the case of the Drax family, and has determined that this particular family presents the unique case of a family that arrived in Barbados in 1627 — at the very beginning of the English settlement of the island– and that has had a near 400 year uninterrupted presence in Barbados as owners and operators of the Drax plantations, inclusive of the famous Drax Hall Plantation.
The Barbados National Task Force on Reparations therefore believes that the historical facts pertaining to the Drax family are more than clear enough to support a Reparations claim.
It is against this background that the issue of a possible Reparations claim against the current owner of the Drax Hall Plantation and leading representative of the Drax Family has been referred by the Task Force to higher governmental authorities.
This is where the matter currently stands.
Deputy Chairperson, National Task Force on Reparations