Digicel’s Chairman joins the reparations movement, will other private sector entities follow?
Digicel chairman Dennis O’Brien
November 4, 2022
Digicel’s Chairman joins the reparations movement, will other private sector entities follow?

It is very encouraging to note the positive position taken by Digicel chairman Dennis O’Brien (reported in the Midweek edition of this paper), with regard to the bold move by the Caribbean Reparations Committee (CRC) and regional governments to seek reparations for native genocide, slavery and colonial plunder.

O’Brien, reportedly one of Ireland’s richest men, and one of the leading billionaires in the world has publicly come out in support of the regional thrust, even as the Caribbean’s own private sector has been reluctant to do so.

He has boldly put forward a plan to assist in advancing advocacy on the issue with the aim of pressuring governments in Britain and Europe to establish a long-term fund for reparations.

O’Brien has openly voiced his support for the reparations movement.“The time has come to put a firm but reasonable reparations for development proposal to Europe”, he said.

Not only are Mr O’Brien’s statement and proposals most welcome but they also present a challenge to the regional private sector to adopt a more positive and supportive position vis a vis reparations. Very few prominent private sector organizations or business moguls have adopted a positive stance on the matter. Some have even been less than welcoming.

It is amazing that a leading Irish tycoon, whose people incidentally also suffered at the hands of British colonialism, including indentureship, has been so bold in seeking a solution.

Yet in the Caribbean there are many beneficiaries of colonial plunder, including descendants of the slave-owning class who owe their wealth to the odious systems of slavery and colonialism. Surely, they owe it to the people of the Caribbean to join hands in the reparations effort.

There are also descendants of the victims who have risen to wealth in the private sector. Is it not reasonable to expect them to be reparations-supportive?

Of course, one would expect reactions to the Digicel tycoon’s bold step. This will include nit-picking on this or that aspect of the proposal. Indeed, as we move along the reparations road there will be, must be variations in approaches. This will be necessarily part and parcel of the debate and must be taken on board.

What matters most now is to try to achieve broad popular acceptance and support for the reparations claim itself.

We can squabble over the ways and means later. The matter is too important to be ignored and too significant to be shunted aside.

A bold challenge is before the regional private sector. It must respond and do so positively.