Commonwealth countries are demanding a formal apology for the legacy of Britain’s “genocide and colonisation” from King Charles just days before his coronation.
A letter signed by leaders and politicians of 12 Commonwealth countries to the King calls for reparations and the return of stolen artifacts and the human remains of indigenous people.
The statement asks the King to act on the royal family’s recent expressions of sorrow and begin the process towards a formal apology and reparatory justice.
The letter to Charles states: “Our collective Indigenous Rights Organisations among other organisations who are working to help our communities recover from centuries of racism, oppression, colonialism and slavery, now rightly recognized by the United Nations as ‘Crimes Against Humanity,’ also call for a formal apology and for a process of reparatory justice to commence.”
British Tory MPs have criticised the timing of the statement which comes just days before the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday (May 6).
“The King is well known for his engagement with indigenous populations and so for these groups to be this critical just ahead of the Coronation represents timing more notable for its headline-seizing potential than its appropriateness,” said Andrew Lewer, Conservative MP for Northampton South.
His Tory colleague and MP for South Thanet Craig Mackinlay commented: “It’s this classic story of looking at the past through modern eyes, and I always struggle with that because the Romans and the Vikings would be found wanting,”
“I think that the best thing for everybody to do is to accept history, turn the page and celebrate that we now have a very different world.”
However, Australian senator Lidia Thorpe, a signatory to the letter from Commonwealth leaders, said the “horrific impacts” of British colonisation are very much a part of today’s world.
“The British monarchy oversaw the oppression of First Nations peoples in British colonies all over the world. The horrific impacts of British colonisation, including the genocide of our people, theft of our land and denigration of our culture, are still felt today.
“The genocidal project that commenced in 1788 still continues, and neither the British Crown nor the Australian Government have been held to account for the crimes they have committed.
“This joint statement, from First Nations and human rights advocates across the Commonwealth, calls on King Charles III to make a formal apology and begin a process of repairing the damage of colonisation, including returning the stolen wealth that has been taken from our people.”
Signatories to the letter come from Antigua and Barbuda, Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Prime minister of Belize Johnny Briceno said it is “quite likely” the central America country will be the next to become a republic by holding a referendum to remove the British monarch as head of state.
Jamaica said it could hold the same referendum as early as 2024. Barbados ditched the monarchy in 2021 after its referendum.
Briceno criticised UK prime minister Rishi Sunak for refusing to apologise for Britain’s role in the slave trade, saying Sunak – who is of Indian heritage – “should have a better appreciation of it because of his ancestry”.
Sunak refused to apologise for Britain’s slavery past and ruled our reparations just over a week ago, saying that trying to “unpick our history is not the right way forward”.