NEW YORK, USA – While the United Nations this year pays tribute to anti-slavery fighters, there must also be an apology and reparation for the Atlantic Slave Trade, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ (SVG) Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said on Saturday.
The U.N. has declared 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent and Gonsalves told the General Debate he was grateful that the U.N. has hosted events to raise awareness of the challenges facing people of African descent and foster discussions on potential solutions to tackle these challenges.
“The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have a long and proud history of resistance to slavery, bigotry and genocide, dating back to the heroic resistance of the Garifuna peoples against British aggression in the late 1700s,” Gonsalves said of his multi-island Caribbean nation.
“While we celebrate the noble heroism of the famous and the faceless who resisted racist colonial hegemony, we must continue to confront the legacy of this barbarism and continuing injustice. The wounds of this era are deep, the crimes against humanity are clear, and the necessity for apology and reparations are undeniable,” said Gonsalves, who is of Portuguese descent.
He told world leader that racial discrimination was justified and became itself the justification for a brutal, exploitative and dehumanising system of production that was perfected during the transatlantic slave trade and ingrained over the course of colonial domination.
The structure of the modern world is still “firmly rooted in a past of slavers and colonialist exploitation,” he further said.
“Today, every single country of the world with a population of majority African descent is still trapped in the periphery of our global economic and developmental systems,” Gonsalves noted.
He said that the peoples of African descent “remain disadvantaged, individually and systemically, by this entrenched and unyielding cycle of discrimination.
“Indeed, many of the wars that the UN struggles mightily to quell or avoid
are rooted in the ignorant and avaricious cartography of European colonisers,” he further said.
Gonsalves told the U.N. that in the remaining months of this year “we must ramp-up efforts to confront the challenges facing the people of African descent, seek justice for historical and modern wrongs, and celebrate the rich and diverse African culture, in all of its glorious manifestations”.
He further said that discussion about peoples of African Descent this year couldn’t take place without highlighting “the enormous humanitarian challenges facing the peoples of the Horn of Africa and Haiti.
“The East African famine and its attendant refugee and security problems require urgent attention and massive response,” Gonsalves argued.
“We are not a civilized global society if we cannot address and banish the extreme poverty and starvation faced by the people of this region. Similarly, the situation faced by the citizens of our sister state of Haiti remains precarious. Now is the time for the international community to redouble, rather than reduce, the support and assistance given to the government and people of Haiti,” Gonsalves said.