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HomeNewsArchivesGovernor Asks for End to Reparations Protest

Governor Asks for End to Reparations Protest

Aug. 27, 2008 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. sent a hand-delivered letter to reparations advocate Shelley Moorhead Wednesday morning suggesting that for health and other reasons it might be time for Moorhead to abandon his position on the steps of St. Croix Government House, where he has been camped out since Aug. 12.
But Moorhead said Wednesday night he's not moving until three of the requests made by the African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance (ACRRA), the organization Moorhead founded in 2005, are met.
Moorhead and ACRRA want the governor to make Danish reparations a priority issue on his agenda when he goes to Denmark — a trip yet to be scheduled. Moorhead has asked for a written reparations position paper from the V.I. government, and he wants to discuss the policy in a series of meetings before deJongh goes to Denmark.
The governor told Moorhead he believes he made his position clear in a meeting between himself and Moorhead June 26, and that he doesn't think "the length of your demonstration will materially affect … the priority of the items that I will be discussing with the Danish government whenever my trip to Denmark is scheduled."
The governor's three-page letter also said the demonstration would not impact the government's ability to give ACRRA $35,000 to make a trip to Denmark under the government's current economic constraints.
But in a phone interview Wednesday night, Moorhead said he had already withdrawn the request for $35,000 that was appropriated by the Legislature and approved by the governor last fall to fund ACRRA's travel to various reparations meetings in the Caribbean, as well as Denmark..
"If $35,000 … puts an additional strain on the V.I. treasury, I don't want to be part of the burden," Moorhead said. He withdrew the request last Friday by notification to the Office of Management and Budget, but did not notify the Source or other print media, he said.
As far as his position on reparations, the governor's letter said that though he and Moorhead share a full understanding of the "horrors and injustice" of slavery, they differ on "how to face the future and how and what to seek from a future relationship with Denmark."
"I believe it would be impossible to place a monetary value and determine proper compensation for the past of suffering, lost opportunity and destruction to the moral and social fabric of enslaved Africans and their descendants caused by slavery," deJongh wrote, adding he wouldn't even know how to determine the "chain of responsibility."
"Does it rest with the Danish people, or with the then Danish monarch; do we attach it to the merchants and captains of the seas, or the kings of certain tribes in certain countries in Africa?"
The governor said he asked Moorhead in the June meeting to lay out his reparations policy "to see if a synergy existed in our viewpoints in order to travel the same road."
Moorhead told him it would be premature to release his stance, deJongh said.
But Moorhead said Wednesday night that he had sent a letter to deJongh, which he later forwarded to the Source, that laid out his position.
The letter mostly addressed his disappointment in the lack of funding and absence of a position paper from deJongh, while remarking on several missed opportunities resulting from a lack of funding
In a second email to the Source Wednesday night, Moorhead sent along what he said was ACRRA's consistent position paper. The paper, a memorandum of understanding between ACRRA and the Danish Institute for Human Rights from 2005, mostly outlines the terms for continued dialogue and agreement for the need for discussion.
DeJongh encouraged ACRRA to seek money through fund raising and assured Moorhead that he supported a more comprehensive understanding of the territory's shared history with Denmark.
"Whether or not your goal of reparations is ever satisfied in a material sense I cannot predict, but I am confident that the goal of a better relationship and better understanding can and will be achieved," the governor wrote.
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