Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Cost of Slavery Now

Barbados has erected a plaque this week to the memory of the 2 million slaves brought to that island during the British Trans – Atlantic Slave Trade.

So what does that have to do with us 200 years later?

In fact, some Channel Islanders participated in the slave trade over many years and on a big scale but, of course, the historical record tends to gloss over such parts of the inglorious past that don’t suit the current purpose.

Just a few months ago we were being told how it is necessary to re-write our Occupation history to emphasise that we helped escaped Russian slaves rather than laboured to build German fortifications. That is how history is manipulated. Yesterday’s heroes become today’s victims or villains and vice-versa. There is always a political purpose behind the words on the plaque.

The Le Mesurier family of Guernsey and Alderney owned a plantation on Barbados in the 18th century and kept and traded slaves. They also commanded and owned privateers and smuggled over centuries. But should we sanitize their role and the exploits of thousands of others from the version of history that is taught in Channel Islands schools? Or should we be at least as proud of their activities as we are of those who plundered and killed their way around the world wearing official uniforms and waving the flag for King or Queen and Country?

Of course, when there was talk of pay-outs to those who suffered as a result of Nazi or Japanese oppressions during the 2nd world war, some Channel Islanders hoped to be able to benefit. Without much doubt, they were seen as victims and there have been some substantial payments to Holocaust survivors from German industries. But there were howls of horror when ex African groups started talking compensation for their dreadful inherited slavery experience. Is there really a difference?

Today we are stuck with a Finance Industry that exploits many people in the third world just as our ancestors did 200 years ago. Today we make the same defence that our own economic survival depends upon this business and that there is no other that will provide us with an adequate standard of living.

We all know that millions of people around the world live and die in desperate poverty and that wealth generated by them is siphoned off through tax and regulation havens like Jersey and Guernsey. It is of course just another form of slavery. We also know that traditional slavery still exists so that we can enjoy cheap clothes, food, flowers, coal, timber and endless gadgets whilst those who actually produce the goods or extract the raw materials live and die in squalor.

When Thomas Clarkson the abolitionist toured the slaving centres of Britain in 1786 he found that slave ship owners and their crews would not willingly speak with him. Local officials too denied him assistance and he had to crawl around slave ships at night with his measuring tape trying to obtain the evidence that eventually ended the disgraceful business.

But it is precisely the same problem that prevails in Jersey and other finance centres today. Secrecy or omerta is the official line but it is the concealment of the facts that will eventually hasten the collapse. Just as the investigators in the Turks and Caicos Islands found that the local inhabitants – many of them descendants of slaves –were afraid to speak with them, so it is here.

Of course, in Liechtenstein it took just one aggrieved whistle-blower and a few hundred thousands Euros as a reward to cause that little feudal territory to re-write its PR script.

We now have the opportunity to express our views about this Island to the UK Department of Justice and as many as possible should grab at the chance.
Our ancestors in the 18th century did not have a similar chance to complain or to expose the unfairnesses of the slave trade, the privateering or the smuggling. Go for it!!!

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Remember, Remember! the 7th November

There is nothing quite like a martyr for raising the revolutionary dreamer’s enthusiasm for the battle – especially if it’s somebody else’s head that rolls.

Jeremiah Brandreth lost his head on the block in Nottinghamshire in 1817 along with Isaac Ludlam and William Turner and about 14 of their protesting comrades were transported to Australia.

Of course they are not known or celebrated in Jersey where even local social reformers and activists are largely unrecorded and forgotten – but they are known as the “The Pentrich Martyrs” around their home towns in England. Little details too are recalled there – like Brandreth’s pregnant wife walking the 10 miles to see him executed and then the 10 miles walk back home again as his widow.

It’s all part of that jolly but usually boring thing called history – or heritage if you are in the tourism business. And the strange thing is that old and seemingly long forgotten “historic” disputes and grievances have a habit of rising from the dead to haunt us.

So it is with the Caribbean where the grievances of ancient colonial exploitation are still unresolved but have been sleeping under cover of a very lightweight duvet of transient wealth and denial for many years.

The Turks and Caicos Islands group is just the first basket case. Others will follow. All around the Caribbean the tax-haven economies are in crisis and tourism bubbles are bursting too with staff lay-offs and unfinished and unrealistic building developments halted or left half-finished. Corruption and government incompetence is commonplace.

Huge financial collapses are reported daily too whilst the little Island governments rush to sign up TIEs in order to achieve “white list” status with the OECD as though it mattered anymore. But who has even heard about the Caymans court decision to freeze $9 billions of assets of the Saad (Saudi) Group or of the UK Serious Crime Squad investigations into BVI funds?

Of course, the Antiguan pirate Stanford has been sunk with losses of $7 billions and that may just be bad news for cricket fans in some parts – but in the Eastern Caribbean the economy for the whole region has been hit by this financial hurricane. Yet the Madoff madness is having an even greater impact as the American law enforcers seek to reclaim the missing monies – like $1.73 billions in a Virgin Islands fund or the $1 billion in a Cayman fund or the $578 millions through Cayman to HSBC in London or the $235 millions through BVI to Santander Banking in Spain.

It’s not just the little old colonies – it’s the old colonial masters that are being hit too because we are all just a computer disc apart these days. There is no need even to ship the human problem from Sierra Leone to Barbados – but the real social havoc and misery follows just the same.
There are visible human problems emerging. In Barbados recent immigrants from Guyana must now be deported since the work has dried up and somebody has to be blamed for rising crime and poverty. And Barbados is looking to China for new tourism business plus a $120 millions bond from bankers “to boost the Island’s international reserves and finance its capital works programme.” And the EU has chipped in $28 millions to modernise its Financial Services Sector.

Other Islands too are rushing to borrow cash to bail them out but Anguilla’s plan was thwarted in London when the British Government refused to relax the rules. So if that little community wants to rebuild its tourism or finance sectors it will have to find another sponsor besides the EU which has so far stumped up $24 millions. Meanwhile little St Lucia hopes for more EU funding to save its fragile banana cropping and also seeks further help from the IMF along with Dominica and the Grenadines.

Bermuda of course received a hefty concealed payment from the USA for taking 4 ex Guantanamo “Chinese” prisoners and they are now working on the tiny Atlantic Island Golf Course as replacements for the 4 Filipinos who suddenly “left at short notice.” But this little defiance of the UK Government rules will hardly protect the Bermudian economy from USA demands for the return of $3.5 billions of Madoff’s buried booty.

The strange thing about Jeremiah Brandreth and his few hundred supporters was that he was a double victim. Not only was he exploited by rotten working conditions and poor pay and industrialisation for profit but he was recruited by a government secret agent called William Oliver whose job it was to incite just such an uprising against Lord Liverpool’s uncaring government.
It was a bit like lancing the boil – to take the pressure off and to reduce the aggravation.

Now of course the British Government is confronted by potential social discontent in little British outposts around the world (besides the immense problems at home) and somebody will have to pick up the tab when those communities fall apart. Globally, as already indicated, other governments and organisations like the IMF and the EU are also likely to be called upon to fund or support failing economies – but the money does not grow on trees as they say. And the British government is not at all keen to be held liable – in spite of Lord Wallace’s assertions that independence is not a UK priority for little territories like the CIs and IOM.

The millions of Africans and others who are the unrecorded heroes of the Caribbean struggle will never be remembered or known by name - but as with Brandreth, the historical legacy is still there waiting to be properly addressed and their grievances and those of their descendants, answered.

Now there are many discontented people once again in Nottinghamshire just as there are in the Caribbean or the Channel Islands and our precarious and flawed way of life should be a common cause for protest. Except that it won’t be – anymore than our ancestors tried to stop the slave trade until its demise was inevitable – we know that our flawed economic order based upon Finance and the pursuit of profit will struggle on to the bitter end.

Unfortunately, the job of achieving change is not best left to others and there is no likelihood of a martyr passing this way soon. It’s not a case for forging 12 feet long pikes and marching on the centres of government or commerce either - but something substantial is necessary.

The economies of Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man will not survive a collapse of the magnitude of the failures that are occurring in the Caribbean. The Icelandic Banking collapses in Guernsey and the IOM already threaten to bring substantial and long term harm if investors pursue claims through the courts for compensation. Even the Woolworth’s pay-outs shook the tree.
The social consequences of substantial economic failures could not be addressed by our Island governments. Outside intervention will be necessary – just as it has already proved necessary in the Turks and Caicos Group.

So once again, why don’t we take this opportunity to open a dialogue with the UK government about our constitutional, political and economic relationships both with the peoples and countries of Britain and the EU? Are there any political leaders in this Island who are prepared to step out of line and make the necessary overtures?

We have recently had Michael Foot whizzing around the British territories looking at financial institutions and as always he has met only the “officials”. His reports are due to be published soon but will they contain anything except more adulation of the bankers?

The UK Justice Department has just announced that it is calling for evidence from the general public on the relationships of the Crown Dependencies – the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man – with the UK. This is the perfect opportunity for our elected representatives to show some initiative and to organise preparatory discussions with a view to making reasoned and considered submissions. Look at; As Darwin said; it’s heads or tails. Use them or lose them.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Maurice Kirk - Hungry for Justice.

Back in the 1960's Barrie Cooper in Jersey was locked up in the old Marie Louise
psychiatric ward under a "lettre de cachet" issued by the then Constable of St Helier.

Barrie had dared to complain about an injustice done to him by the Jersey Establishment and so he was mad and had to be locked away.

In fact he was soon released and eventually managed to petition the Quenn who ordered that financial compensation should be paid to him.

Yet he continued to complain about the injustice and so they locked him up again - this time at La Moye Prison - and injected him with Largactyl (the liquid cosh) to keep him quiet.

Once again he fought in the courts and was represented by a much younger and inexperienced Advocate Ian Le Marquand on legal aid but the establishment dared not admit to illegal detention again. So they cooked up a judgement that exonerated both Barrie and the establishment.

But he still continues with his fight for justice to this day and his so called elected "representatives" are still nowhere to be seen. Out of sight and out of mind. Ignore him and he will go away. But do you care?

So it is with Maurice Kirk. Now on his third week of hunger strike in Cardiff and just sectioned under the UK Mental Health Act.

He too has been fighting injustices (and some stupidities too) since the 1970's and needs all the support he can get. If you aren't supporting him now perhaps it's time you looked at You can contact him there, it will cost you nothing and he will appreciate your interest.

Submitted by Thomas Wellard.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


Is life passing you by?

Living in Jersey you might sometimes think so. The entire world – wide banking system was near to collapse a few months ago but not apparently here in Jersey. And politicians in the UK are up to their necks in sleaze – or call girls in Italy – but in Jersey, free lunchtime sandwiches are all we hear about (and they were exposed by a Deputy – not the “accredited” press).

And, when the UK media went after the bankers and hedge fund whizz kids and exposed their excessive bonus schemes and salaries – not a critical word was said here in Jersey about our own local big earners.

And when all that stuff about moats and duck houses and 1st and 2nd homes was filling our minds day and night – our local press played the “exempt” card – so unless we read it in Private Eye, we are always unlikely to learn about the financial dealings of our Chief Minister and his colleagues.

So it was no surprise after the UK bankers and politicians had been rubbished by the UK media that there would be a backlash and the journalists and broadcasters have been in the firing line for their own dubious practices and salaries. But, of course their exposure is all the more difficult because they control the press and other media and are less enthusiastic about revealing their own failings.

Not a great surprise then that the media in Jersey has not had to face a backlash because they don’t ever attack the important people in this island but concentrate instead on the evils of juvenile vandals and druggies or other “working class” deviants. No surprise either that BBC Jersey is not being pressed to reveal local salaries and expenses or spending budgets because nobody is asking any questions.

Yet since we all pay the same levels of licence fee into the BBC pot you might think that somebody here would want to suggest that Alan Yentob is not worth £325,000 per annum with a pension pot of £6 millions (according to the Sunday Times). And who in Jersey has even heard of Mark Byford and who cares if he has a pension pot of £7.7 millions paid for with our licence fees too?

Of course we have all heard about the astronomical payments to mediocre personalities such as Jonathan Ross - £18 millions over 3 years plus perks – but there is a whole army of lesser beings milking the BBC revenues and, for the most part we don’t even know their names. We most certainly don’t know how they behave.

It’s not just the top dogs either because it is claimed that the BBC sent more than 300 staff to cover a Kinross-shire 3 day music festival in July. Was that a good use of your money? More than 400 covered the Glastonbury Festival – almost as many as were sent to China for the Olympics. Did you watch or hear anything from Glastonbury?

So then what happens at a local Channel Islands level? Are you confident that Roger and Hamish are paid appropriate salaries for the job that they do and that Denzil sends appropriate teams to cover the most important or relevant events? Indeed, does the local BBC receive enough funding out of the central BBC Pot to provide the broadcasting service that is appropriate here. After all, Jersey has its own government, system of law, institutions and culture and even its own language – but does the service provided adequately represent this?

Of course, there won’t be a discussion about BBC Jersey or the other “accredited” media anymore than there is a critical discussion about bankers or politicians in the Channel Islands. At least, such discussions won’t take place within the constraints of the BBC, CTV, JEP, 103 cosy relationships – BUT the INTERNET does offer the opportunity for all of us to initiate our own discussions on any issues. Don’t let government here restrict “Free blogging” anymore than a “Free Press”. It’s all about the same free expression of ideas.
Proposition 112 must be scrapped.
Submitted by Thomas Wellard