By Kebba Ansu Manneh
Hassoum Ceesay, Director General of the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC), has argued that the British Monarchy bought the Island of Georgetown from the King of Karantaba for one hundred and forty pounds sterling (£140) on 23rd April 1823, leading to the return of formerly enslaved people to the Island settlement.
He made this disclosure in an exclusive interview with TAT at the sideline of the Bicentenary Commemoration of Janjanbureh, which will undoubtedly help the Gambia to analyze the issue of reparations, instill historical knowledge, and promote culture and tourism in the country.
According to the renowned historian, the British Monarchy bought the Island of Georgetown through an agent called Captain Grant during the time of Queen Victoria, adding that the rationale for the purchase of the Island was to strategically give advantage to the British against their rival French and Portuguese colonial masters.
“What we are celebrating is the purchase of the Island of Georgetown by Captain Grant, an agent of the British on behalf of the Monarchy during the time of Queen Victoria. He bought the Island on 23rd April 1823, with the view to settling the returned enslaved people in the Island,” NCAC Director disclosed.
He added: “The first attempt to buy the Island from the King of Karantata was in 1788, to be used as a penal colony to which inmates in British custody can be transferred. However, this idea was condemned by the right movements at the time, and subsequently, the British House of Commons rejected the bill based on concerns raised by the activists.”
He recalled that the cancellation of the purchasing of Georgetown Island in 1788 led to the buying of Australia by the British Monarchy to be used as a penal colony, noting that 40years later, the British Monarchy finally decided to buy the Island for the returned enslaved people at the tune of £140 from the King of Karnataka.
Dilating on the significance of the Bicentenary Commemoration of Janjanbureh, the National Center for Arts and Culture Director observed that the celebration will help analyze the issues on reparations, rekindle historical knowledge, promote culture and tourism, adding that the event will benefit the country by pushing forward the issues of reparations that the colonial masters have not yet settled.
NCAC Director further disclosed that the commemoration will avail both local and international visitors to learn about the cultures and traditions of the country, adding that the event will also add value to the tourism industry of rural Gambia while attracting income for the accommodation and service providers doing business in Janjanbureh and the satellite villages.
According to him, the National Center for Arts and Culture, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, will endeavor to rehabilitate the many heritage and colonial relics dotted in the Island community, noting that NCAC is also partnering with international organizations like UNESCO to ensuring that these historical sites are restored and rehabilitated as soon as possible.