Debunking claims by Kenneth Mohammed

By Earl Bousquet
I’VE never seen Reparations and China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) joined-together in one article, until one earlier this week entitled ‘Reparations to the Caribbean could break the cycle of corruption – and China’s grip’.

Written by Kenneth Mohammed – described as “a Caribbean analyst and senior adviser at Intelligent Sanctuary”, the article was published by the UK Guardian on January 25, 2022.

It started with a clear red-flag-warning of where Mohammed was heading, with the following introductory sub-heading: ‘The Belt and Road Initiative is ensnaring vulnerable countries in debt via corrupt infrastructure projects. Slavery Reparations from former colonial powers could help turn the tide…’

The writer drew on the recent knighthood of Guyana’s legendary West Indies cricket team captain, Clive Lloyd, to express his imagination.

Mohammed wrote: ‘A recent photo of Clive Lloyd, captain of history’s most successful West Indies cricket team and one of the most successful test captains of all time, being knighted drew mixed reactions. The sight of Lloyd bending the knee, not in support of Colin Kaepernick, but to receive an affirmation from the monarchy of Britain, the ex-colonial masters, ignited fresh debate about reparations.’

The writer’s basic argument (in the form of a question) is: “Could Reparations be the strategic tool for Europe to remove China’s hold on the Caribbean and for these islands to throw off the shackles of poor governance, underdevelopment and inequality once and for all?”

His vision is that Europe should move quickly to fill that wide development gap in its former West Indian colonies – lest China moves-in!
“It could be pure genius,” he claims.

He further explains: “In Britain, corruption has been on the minds of journalists, academics and practitioners alike… However, a massive brain drain has weakened Caribbean economies significantly over the past five decades…

“Resources continue to be drained by corrupt infrastructure projects, while expenditure in health and education, critical to nation building, remains insufficient. But as these sectors fall behind the rest of the world, a new player has emerged in the Caribbean.”

By Mohammed’s rear-view account: “In 2018, Trinidad and Tobago became the first Caribbean country to officially sign-up to China’s $4tn global Belt and Road development initiative. Suriname, Guyana, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and even the progressive leadership in Barbados followed… Jamaica was last in to bat and did not put up much of a resistance.”

Then he bowls a curved-ball argument: “One can argue that the Caribbean islands don’t have much choice – the pandemic has been merciless to their economies. Should they approach the International Monetary Fund, cap in hand, and be subjected to austerity measures that make governments unpopular with their people? Is there another option?”

I was a bit taken aback by this new and crude effort to make Britain’s centuries-old reparations debt to its former Caribbean colonies for slavery look like a mere favour.

I mean, to suggest that Clive Lloyd and Lewis Hamilton accepting knighthoods was in some way a betrayal of the Caribbean’s quest for reparations for slavery is just as bad as saying it should be paid quickly to keep China at bay in the Caribbean.

Fact is, China’s Caribbean ties long preceded the establishment of the CRC.
China also came to the assistance of its nine CARICOM allies with COVID assistance in 2021 through the Trinidad & Tobago-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).

Guyana and China will later this year jointly celebrate 50 years of bilateral ties that started even before CARICOM was established.

And China’s presence is felt today in the oil-and-gas industry with China’s National Oil Company (CNOC) having a 25 per cent share Stabroek Block, as well as other Chinese investments.

Another manifestation of China’s ongoing friendship with Guyana is in the recent announcement that the Chinese will spend between US $8 million and US $12 Million to fund the redevelopment of the Joe Viera Park as ‘A China-Guyana Friendship Monument’ that’ll include: amphitheater, picnic lawn, a stand canopy over a pond, twin pavilions and grounds for football, tennis and basketball, are among major attractions earmarked for the Joe Vieira Park on the West Bank of Demerara.

Mohammed’s interpretation of Lloyd “taking the knee” as a genuflection to colonialism or disrespectful of his people’s demand for reparations for the sins of Europe is nothing less than an academic insult to Lloyd’s own history as captain of the West Indies cricket teams that ‘whitewashed’ England at their own game.

According to a Department of Public information (DPI) press release following the signing of the Joe Vieira Park agreement, China’s Ambassador to Guyana, Guo Haiyan said: “The governments of both countries adhere to a people-centred philosophy of development. So, in the past 50 years, all the projects China assisted Guyana with reflected the principle of serving the people.”

She also reflected on the history of Chinese in Guyana, noting that they arrived as early as 1853 “and have been hardworking contributors to the country’s economic and social development.”

Ambassador Haiyan also expressed a desire “to see more fruitful cooperation in promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global transport infrastructure initiative, and Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.”

Obviously, Mohammed either ignored or simply did not know how long China has been engaging in bilateral cooperation with Caribbean nations, including Guyana and eight other CARICOM member-states.

However, the simple bottom-line question is: Did Clive Lloyd ‘bend his knees’ at Buckingham Palace against reparations?
Methinks not! (end)

(Earl Bousquet is Chairman of the Saint Lucia National Reparations Committee (SLNRC) and Chair of the Saint Lucia-China Friendship Association)

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