Caribbean Observes 186th Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery

The “Bussa” Statue, in Barbados, created to commemorate the nation’s slave rebellion in 1816.

GEORGETOWN-Guyana -The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will observe the 186th anniversary of the abolition of slavery on Saturday, with the chairman of the regional integration movement, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves saying that this year’s observance is taking on a greater international significance.

Gonsalves said that all, all but two of the CARICOM countries commemorate and celebrate Emancipation Day on August 1st ‘.

“The overwhelming majority of the population of CARICOM member-countries are of African descent. Joyously, people of all ethnicities in CARICOM join in commemorating and celebrating Emancipation Day; all rightfully claim this historic day as their own.”

Gonsalves said the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement has gone global “in a massive way consequent upon the popular resistance in the United States of America to racism, racial inequality, racial injustice and oppression and the uplifting fight for liberty, justice, and equality in every material respect.

He said the world is half-way through the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015- 2024), which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in a Resolution (68/237), adopted on December 23, 2013; and focused on the theme ‘People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice, and Development.”

“The gathering pace of the international movement for “Reparations for Native Genocide and the Enslavement of Africans” in the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America, to provide appropriate recompense for the legacy of under-development consequent upon native genocide and “

The joinder of the struggle for reparations with the quest for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, and designed as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030,” he said.

He said the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has adversely affected, disproportionately, poor communities and countries, especially those already ravaged by developmental inequities and distortions, traced substantially to the legacy of under-development to native genocide and the enslavement of Africans.

Gonsalves said he was urging all in CARICOM to focus on reparations for the enslavement of Africans on Emancipation Day.

“In our region, and elsewhere, we need to have a more thorough-going public education programme on the meaning and significance of reparatory justice for the Caribbean. Further, our governments must ramp up the political, diplomatic, and international legal struggle for reparations. All hands are required on deck as a matter of urgency”.

He said CARICOM has established a Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Reparatory Justice headed by the Prime Minister of Barbados. CARICOM has set up, too, a CARICOM Reparations Commission, chaired by Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies.

Gonsalves said the Commission has advanced a 10-point CARlCOM Reparations Agenda which has been adopted by the CARICOM leaders and that in each country, a National Reparations Commission has been established with broad-based representation.

“Solid ground work has been done thus far, but we must not lose any momentum or be side-tracked. The circumstances are now propitious for escalating a coordinated push for reparatory justice. And CARICOM must engage the African Union fully on this.”

He said recently, several CARICOM member-states have been strengthening their links with Africa in profound ways; so, too, CARICOM and the African Union.

“Much more is required to be done, and urgently, too. At the United Nations Security Council, a new institutional linkage of much consequence has been forged known as the A3 Plus One (the African 3: Niger, South Africa, and Tunisia, Plus St. Vincent and the Grenadines) ; this represents a collaboration between the regions of continental Africa and a representative country (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) of the sixth region of the African Union, namely the African diaspora.”

Gonsalves said that a high quality of abundant research has been done and published, on Reparations for Native Genocide and the Enslavement of Africans.

“More is still required to be done, but there is more than enough for us to proceed upon in our many-sided struggle. So, let us highlight reparatory justice on Emancipation Day, 2020, even as the individual countries in CARICOM engage in commemorative and celebratory activities of a cultural, social, political, and religious nature,” he added.

He also urged the Caribbean to remember that June 13, this year was the 40th anniversary of the assassination of the Guyanese-born academic, Walter Rodney.

“No one has yet been brought to court for the killing of Walter. The next government of Guyana must address this matter fully; it is a gaping wound in our collective consciousness which must be healed,” Gonsalves said.

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