H.E. RAYMOND WOLFE
AMBASSADOR/PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF JAMAICA TO THE UNITED NATIONS
ON BEHALF OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)
AT THE SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
FOR THE 2011 INTERNATIONAL DAY OF
REMEMBRANCE OF THE VICTIMS OF SLAVERY AND THE TRANSATLANTIC SLAVE TRADE
DURING THE 65TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
25th MARCH, 2011
I have the honour to address the Assembly on behalf of the fourteen Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We are deeply honoured to once again participate in this solemn commemorative session of the General Assembly to remember the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
This year we commemorate this event under the theme: The Transatlantic Slave Trade: The living legacy of 30 million untold stories. The theme begs for poignant reflection on a vast reservoir of voices that were silenced, from a people whose expressions were muted or suppressed over generations under a brutal system of trading in persons from Africa and of African descent.
There are those who say that slavery is an issue that is past, and we don’t need to re-hash a debate on the topic. This idea is one which we do not support since the legacies of that pernicious system lingers on in many parts of the world today – a legacy of hatred, prejudice, and racial discrimination. Such is the legacy that we seek to counter by inculcating new values and attitudes in the children and young people of today’s generation and for future generations to come. The proponents of such a viewpoint would wish to silence the debate on slavery, but we feel that the stories need to be told because the lessons from our past, informs the present, and will most certainly influence the future.
This is a time to remember the struggles of our ancestors and the freedom they secured, quite often through blood, sweat and tears. We recognize that it is a freedom that comes with responsibility… a freedom that is never to be taken lightly and is to be protected at all cost.
We are proud of the history of the Caribbean and cherish it dearly. We represent the region from which spawned the first country to shed the vestiges of the system of slavery – and here I refer to Haiti. From a revolution in Haiti emerged the first society to abolish the enslavement of African peoples, and this was a turning point in world history.
Not only do we celebrate independence but we also take time out to celebrate the emancipation of our peoples from the terrible slave trade. Having lost the brutal system of slavery, we attach great importance to our struggle for nationhood, and the subsequent acquisition of emancipation and independence. This in turn granted our respective countries sovereignty and sovereign rights – rights that .
As we commemorate the 2011 International Remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, we pay tribute to our African ancestors. We pay tribute to their strength of character and their resilience. We celebrate the things they've left behind, their customs, their food, their music and their religious beliefs.
All CARICOM countries are former slave societies, which today are proud democracies built on a culture of freedom, bourne out of the struggle for emancipation, liberation, and of self-determination.