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Trinidad observing Emancipation Day with call for reparation


Trinidad observing Emancipation Day with call for reparation

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PORT OF SPAIN – Trinidad and Tobago is observing Emancipation Day Tuesday with a call for the oil-rich twin island republic to join in the Caribbean effort to get Europe to pay reparation to the descendants of African slaves.

President Antony Carmona in a message to mark the occasion said that Trinidad and Tobago should support the efforts of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments in seeking reparation for the Atlantic slave trade.

In his message he quoted the chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles, who noted that the governments of Great Britain and Europe “were the beneficiaries of enrichment from the enslavement of African people, the genocide of the indigenous communities and the deceptive breach of contract and trust in respect of East Indians and other Asians brought to the plantations under indenture, have a case to answer in respect of reparatory justice.”

“As a former judge and a firm believer in reparatory justice, I am of the view that as we celebrate Emancipation Day 2017, we must examine affirmatively the case for reparations as adopted by CARICOM Governments and advocated by Sir Hilary and other spokespersons.

“We in Trinidad and Tobago must view the call for reparations in the context of the duty we owe to our forefathers who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose contribution to our present well-being must be recognized in a world which now accepts that compensation and reparation are prerequisites in the dispensation of justice,” Carmona said.

He recalled that the United Nations in 2007, declared March 25 as the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

“I wish to call on all citizens to take time out during the Emancipation Holiday to focus on their life’s journey: from whence they started, where they consider themselves to have reached and what is to be their life’s achievement.

“Emancipation Day must therefore, be a moment of regeneration, to renew in our lives a purposefulness to lead a life of quality, of sustainable ambition, independence, personal self-worth and vision,” he added.

Meanwhile, both Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar issued separate statements to mark the occasion, which is being observed here Tuesday as a public holiday. 

In his message Rowley said that citizens should never underestimate or forget the sacrifices and hard-won freedom of the enslaved African ancestors. 

“While it may be argued that the scars of slavery are still evident in the economic underdevelopment of Caribbean territories and the psychological trauma experienced by descendants of the former slaves, it also cannot be denied that persons of African descent have achieved success in all areas of human endeavour despite the scourge of slavery.” 

“Today we commemorate the struggle for emancipation and equality made by our African ancestors who knew that the road to freedom and dignity demanded persistently, and unyielding focus and clarity of purpose. We acknowledge the accomplishments and impact of persons of African descent on the continued development of our nation,” he said. 

Persad Bissessar said in her message that individual freedom is under threat by the criminals.

“Today, we are faced with threats to our own individual freedoms, as criminals have become emboldened, with those in authority seemingly incapable of bringing about a resolution to this crippling problem,” she said in her statement. (CMC)