Jamaica’s National Council on Reparations is considering whether to seek compensation from a wealthy Conservative United Kingdom Member of Parliament, Richard Drax, for his family’s historical role in slavery.
Richard Drax’s ancestors were pioneers of the sugar and slave trades in the Caribbean about 400 years ago. The MP is facing demands to pay Barbados for harm caused by slavery at an estate he inherited in that country.
The BBC is reporting that the council in Jamaica is also examining the case for pressing Drax for damages.
Drax said he did not wish to comment on the reparations claims.
The case came to the attention of the Jamaican council after reports in the British press suggested the government of Barbados was planning to demand reparations from Drax.
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, millions of Africans were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic by Europeans and Americans as a labour force to work, especially on plantations.
Members of the Drax family were among the earliest English colonists to establish sugar plantations built on slave labour in Barbados and Jamaica in the Caribbean. A member of the Drax family was awarded ?4,293 12s 6d — worth ?3m today — for 189 slaves when the slave trade was abolished by the British Parliament in 1833.
According to BBC News, a different branch of the Drax family founded a plantation in Jamaica in the 17th century. William Drax established the estate but it was later sold to different owners.
BBC quoted Professor Verene Shepherd, director of the Centre for Reparation Research at The University of the West Indies, as saying men and women “were brutalised in Jamaica” under the Drax name.
The professor of social history said families who can trace their inheritance to slavery should be held accountable, “whether they want to say they’re responsible or not”.
The council examines the past injustices suffered by victims of slavery and advises the Jamaican government on what form compensation should take.
Council chairwoman, Laleta Davis-Mattis, said she would convene a meeting to discuss the case for claiming reparations from Drax.
She said the council needed to review the link between Drax’s family and slavery in Jamaica to make a substantive judgement and recommendation”.
Martyn Day, the founder of the law firm Leigh Day, in 2012, won compensation for hundreds of Kenyans tortured by the British colonial government in the 1950s.
He said any serious case would have to establish that Drax had benefited from the assets and wealth his forefathers had gained in the slave trade.
Day said the most likely route to win compensation would be in a British court.