The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s recent tour was in “sharp opposition to the needs and aspirations of the Caribbean people”, a human rights alliance from the region has said.
The British monarchy’s historic role in the slave trade continues to damage the Caribbean’s society and economy, Jamaica’s Advocates Network said in an open letter published jointly with representatives from Belize and the Bahamas.
Repeating the call for reparations to be paid by the UK government, the alliance said: “We stand united in rejecting this so-called charm offensive tour of the Caribbean undertaken by William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which is in sharp opposition to the needs and aspirations of indigenous peoples and people of African descent in the Caribbean.
“We stand united in condemning Britain’s savagery in enslaving our ancestors, the coarse indecency of colonial exploitation, the brutality of its enforcers and the enduring legacies of impoverishment and colonial-era ideologies that have damaged and continue to damage our people, our society and our economy.”
It was a trip intended to repair relations between the monarchy and the Caribbean people, but Prince William and his wife faced fierce protests in Belize over a land dispute involving a charity of which the Duke is a patron.
The opposition came as the Jamaican prime minister said his country would be “moving on” to become a republic, while a government committee in the Bahamas called on the royals to issue “a full and formal apology for their crimes against humanity”.
William issued a statement after the trip – understood to have not been discussed with the Queen and Prince Charles first – in which he said the visit “had brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future”.
But Cristina Coc, leader of the Maya community in southern Belize, criticised the duke and duchess for not going beyond saying sorry.
“Before they ask us to heal, they must right the wrongs they have caused indigenous people and people of African heritage,” she said. “The powers and systems that continue to foster imperialism must acknowledge the harm done, not merely by an apology but by a true recognition of our inalienable human rights, land rights and true reparative justice.
“We will not continue to remain silent in the face of continued threats to our identity, dignity and agency while privileged royals travel around in desperation to maintain the legacy of colonies.”
Niambi Hall-Campbell, of the University of the Bahamas, lambasted the cost to taxpayers in the country to fund the royal tour.
She said: “Why are we being made to pay again? Why are we footing the bills for the benefit of a regime whose rise to greatness was fuelled by the enslavement, colonisation and degradation of the people of this land, when we should be the ones receiving payments?
“Several hundred thousand dollars in public resources and manpower were dedicated to accommodating the royal visit at a time when thousands of Bahamians are struggling to make ends meet amid high inflation.”
The duke is understood to have also raised questions about whether it would be appropriate for him to be head of the Commonwealth, since the role is not hereditary. In 2018, Commonwealth leaders formally announced that Charles would become the next head after the Queen.
Meanwhile, Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies and chair of the Caricom Reparation Committee, said it was an “embarrassment” that the Queen continues as head of state to a number of Caribbean countries.
He said: “It is now today, at this time to us, an embarrassment, that we should have a head of state who does not live among us, who does not understand the lives and the pain and suffering of the people who are her subjects, who cannot perform any role or functions among the people over who she presides and has to hire someone to do her work … because either she is too busy or unwilling, unable, cannot perform her duty as head of state and delegates that duty to someone else.
“These are part of the embarrassments of colonialism that we can no longer take.”