St. Kitts and Nevis- Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas says that for people from the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America and the United States of America, the abolition of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade two hundred years ago signalled the end of the barbaric and horrendous practice of the legal trafficking in human cargo.
"Millions perished during the trade, and millions more were subjected to lives of despair, brutality, rape and humiliation. The continents of Africa, North America, South America, and Europe were inextricably linked by this appalling practice. It had a global effect on countries and peoples throughout the world in one form or another," Dr. Douglas told a Special General Assembly of the United Nations on Monday.
Speaking on behalf of the CARICOM Community, Prime Minister Douglas said it was not only the CARICOM region where this inhumane practice occurred and was eventually abolished. He said Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Venezuela, the entire Latin American region, the United States, Mauritius and Seychelles are all linked with Africa through the slave trade and its abolition.
He said that the trans-Atlantic slave trade created economic growth for only some countries and coupled with the institution of slavery, ushered in and heightened the notion of racism throughout those countries affected by Slavery and the Trade.
"The Slave Trade was much more than an economic practice. It violated the basic moral laws of human interaction," said Dr.
Douglas, who pointed out that for the Caribbean Community today, memories of the slave trade touch the very core of its societies.
"Many of us are the descendants of those unfortunate people who survived the journey of the Middle Passage. It was a crime against the humanity of our forefathers, and a violation of their human rights. We feel very strongly that their suffering should never be forgotten, and we are indeed heartened by the strong show of support demonstrated by the International Community during the unanimous adoption of resolution 61/19 last November and for today's commemoration," he said.
He described as commendable that leaders of some of the former colonial powers have expressed "deep sorrow" on several occasions over the role their countries played in the despicable slave trade and hoped that leaders of other nations that supported and profited from the inhumane activity will come forward in like manner.
"However, it is important that leaders of such nations offer to the descendants of African slaves, who were brought to the Caribbean and the Americas, a complete and unequivocal apology," demanded Prime Minister Douglas.
He said it was undisputed that such nations were developed on the blood, sweat and tears of the region's enslaved forefathers, and it is only right, and the decent thing to do, to make amends and extend their apologies into the realm of atonement for the legal and economic support and for the atrocities that were the norm of the slave trade and slavery.
"Countries that were engaged in the Slave Trade and Slavery have a moral obligation to make right those crimes against humanity," stressed Dr. Douglas. ~~adz:Right~~
He said that it is being argued, no country that was engaged in the Slave Trade and Slavery could justifiably claim support for human rights without first offering an official apology and atonement in the form of reparation and it is further believed that only under such circumstances that the descendants of slaves can truly forgive and move forward in the world.
"From the perspective of the people of the Caribbean, the descendants of slaves, these two matters will remain crucial to us for the indignity, suffering and the haunting legacies we live with as a result of the Slave Trade and Slavery," said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.
Dr. Douglas noted that following the abolition of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the Caribbean region underwent a variety of changes.
With the abolition of Slavery, twenty-seven years later, there was no longer a steady supply of African labour via the slave trade and it ushered in a period of a new form of migration to the region in the form of indentured labour. The region evolved into the diversified society that it is today, with Africans, Europeans, Indians, Asians, and Arabs descendents.
"As societies of the Caribbean region evolved following decades of migration, decolonization, and development, the region remained cognizant of the fact that many of the stereotypes, misconceptions and prejudices that exist today are remnants of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade," said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said that as the world commemorate this two-hundredth anniversary today, "we must remain steadfast in our efforts to fully eradicate the scourges that continue to plague our world. I speak of the scourges of human rights violations of migrants; of racism; of human trafficking; and of underdevelopment."
Dr. Douglas said: "Just as we were all linked through the slave trade and its abolition, we must now all work together to resolve and defeat these plights. And we all need to recall our linkages and work together to correct the ills that remain from that legacy, as well as the many ills that exist today."
"Let us not forget the sacrifice made by those who fought so valiantly for the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The successful Haitian Revolution of 1804, the countless revolts of the slaves including the Maroons, the humanitarian intervention of William Wilberforce and others; the changing attitudes of the populations as a whole; these all brought about the movement and the eventual abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade," he added.
Prime Minister Douglas made special mention of the support that the Caribbean Community received from our many friends around the world and thanked the United Nations, the Shomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture and UNESCO for their support and for the launch of the exhibition "Lest we Forget" which opened on 1 March at the United Nations.
"We have come a long way but more remains to be done to overcome the lasting effects of this crime against humanity," said Dr. Douglas, who expressed confidence that with the same fervour that was exhibited over two hundred years ago, and with the same dedication "we witness here today, we can right the ship of compassion, overcome the storms of discrimination, prejudice, intolerance and indifference, and sail into a bright future promoting and protecting human rights and human dignity for all."