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BVI Governor offends Virgin Islanders with slavery talk

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in the British Virgin Islands, Governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert, is being severely rebuked by the online community in the Territory for comments that are being seen as insensitive, disrespectful and bordering on racist and white supremacist.

Residents and Virgin Islanders have taken to the various online blogs to air their views on the Governor’s controversial remarks, which were made in an interview on 284 Media, with a large number calling for Jaspert to be replaced as Governor and for citizens to rise up in protest against him.

Jaspert’s statements were in response to questions from interviewer Jovan Wilson on the topic of slavery and reparations during the programme on Monday, September 7, 2020, which was broadcast live on Facebook. 

Many Virgin Islands residents have since concluded that Jaspert’s responses are reflective of the UK’s official policy on slavery, which is that the Crown does not intend to compensate people of African descent for the terror and injustices suffered as a result of chattel slavery practised by the UK. This is even though the Crown ensured that those who profited from the slave trade were compensated up until as recent as 2015.

Slavery continued in the BVI until 1834 and Wilson asked Jaspert whether he thought an apology was warranted and whether descendants of African slaves should be compensated.

Jaspert said, “In terms of reparations, that’s not a position the United Kingdom has taken. That’s not something that here [VI], that’s is in the position, but I think it is always worth ensuring that we learn lessons from the past and we reflect on what a horrific period in history that was.”

Asked about whether places and landmarks that are named in honour of slave owners, slavers, pirates and murderers who inflicted decades of harm and suffering on the ancestors of Virgin Islanders and other Caribbean people should be renamed, Jaspert said, “I think it’s really important that people are taught the history and taught to understand… a specific name change maybe takes it away, rather actually explaining and making sure that people understand what these various different symbols, names and places meant and understand the full history around them.”

The remarks have prompted a tidal wave of criticism against the Governor and the UK from online bloggers on the online newspaper websites in the BVI.

Dancing in the Sunshine, a regular blogger, posted the following comment: “The statement by the Governor is a reflection of the white Colonial Master mentality. I am not surprised by the Governor’s remarks since they have benefited tremendously from exploitation of the slaves who they had considered as properties of the plantation owner. The Monarchy as well as the churches have benefited from the slave’s labour to enrich the British Empire. From India to Africa and the West Indies the came as savior to bring investments to develop the colonies and exploited everywhere to build the British Empire.

“As if slavery wasn’t bad enough, when slavery was abolished, the slave owners were paid compensation for the loss of labour (properties) on the plantations. No wonder we noticed the aggression of the British to re-colonize the territory. 

“The Governor has the audacity to make such a statement in the territory. In other countries he would have been asked to leave. I hope the Foreign and Commonwealth office is taking note of the statement.”

Another popular blogger, E. Leonard, stated: “Even in death, slaves are continued to be dehumanized, brutalized, dissed, disrespected and pi**ed on. The UK was a leader in the Atlantic Slave Trade with it and Portugal being the most successful, accounting for approximately 70% of the slaves transported across the Atlantic under horrible conditions. Thousands had a watery grave across the Atlantic.

“The blood, sweat and tears of Slave labour built the UK’s economy. Though the UK abolished Slave Trade in 1807, Slavery was not abolished until 01 August 1834. It is important to note that though Slavery was abolished in 1834, Slaves had to work an additional 4 years to buy their freedom.

“Moreover, to pay for the 1833 Abolition Act, the UK borrowed £20M to compensate slave owners for loss of their property. The £20M equated to 40% of the UK budget at the time. By the way, the loan was paid off in 2015. Some approx 3,000 slave-owning families were compensated, including the families of some prominent Britons. Everyone but Slaves and their descendants benefited from Slavery. Neither Slaves nor their descendants have yet to received even a “hapeny.”

Leonard added, “Slave trade, Slavery and Slave labour built the UK economy. In addition to building the economy, Slavery also created a special privilege for White Britons. They have benefited and continue to benefit from Slavery. They enjoyed special privileges in education, healthcare, land purchase, housing, jobs, employment, nutrition……….etc.”

An anonymous commentator wrote: “100 years of slavery where the slave masters were paid and the slaves got nothing. To say that we should leave up Sir Francis Drake Channel a slave master speaks volume as to what kind of Governor he is. He needs to be fired and recalled. “His statement are big time ra**st and a manifestation of whi*e supre**cy and privilege.”

A blogger, under the pseudonym Ghost, stated, “what this Gov. is saying is what him and the crown believes.. The US, the same thing..all this talk about reparations they Are not going to do ANYHING!! You think that these countries don’t know what they did was wrong?”

Lost Lemon added, “I must agree with most of the bloggers his comments are insensitive and could be racist. It does not mean that he is a racist but very very bad attitude.”

FromAFarsaid, “This is so sad , why are we not marching against this? From a child I never believed the UK was treating us right. Now as an adult I see clearly the abuse and discrimination has come full circle. I said it before and I will say it again, lets break ties with the UK they are no real benefit to us. There is a hidden agenda for these islands we have to fend for ourselves for everything and if they do help they want to be reimbursed millions , what are we waiting for?”

And Truth wrote: “We must keep the name of the slave owners, yet we get nothing in return from the UK for what the slave owners did to us! LOOK, history taught us that the UK raped us,(both figuratively and literally) benefited from our resources and became rich. Now, we should not expect any reparation. In fact, we not getting any? If you broke into someone’s house and steal the valuables that are inside that house, then you went about and profited from those valuables. You were then caught by the authorities, wouldn’t you be made to pay back the value of what was stolen , plus a fine?”

According to a regular commentator who goes by the sobriquet “One Eye”, “This man [Jaspert] telling you all black lives does not matter.”

 “So after three years of Augustus Jaspert the chickens have come home!!! You wonder why he was behaving the way he was against the elected government, now you have it. He is wolf in sheep’s clothing. His beliefs are anti-black and anti-enslavement of a people. He has shown us his hands, he has showed us his cards, he has showed us his heart…its dark and cold and he has no regards for blacks NONE I have lost all respect for Augustus!!!!” blogger Parent concluded.

“If he had said this anywhere else he would have had to resign already. As a black man I am very insulted,” blogger CNN wrote.

Several other posters expressed the view that Virgin Islanders should protest in front of Government House for Jaspert to be recalled by the UK.

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