Governor, PM speak about yoke of modern-day slavery ~ “Emancipation has no expiration date” ~
Photo Daily Herald
(TDH) – By John van Kerkhof – PHILIPSBURG–Governor Eugene Holiday and Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams both referred to modern day slavery in their Emancipation Day addresses on Monday. Some 27 million people are enslaved today, the Prime Minister said in marking Emancipation Day 2013, which was observed under the theme “How free are we?”
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams highlighted the freedom St. Maarten’s ancestors fought for and the yoke of modern-day slavery during her Emancipation Day address.
The definition of slavery basically comes down to the possession of and the control over other human beings against their will. Organization Free the Slaves claims there are 27 million enslaved people today, the Prime Minister said.
“People that are forced to work without pay under threats of violence and being unable to walk away. You can find them in brothels, factories, mines, farm fields, restaurants, construction sites and private homes. Many slaves have been tricked by traffickers who lure vulnerable people with false promises of good jobs and education and some are marched to work at gunpoint and others are trapped by false debts by unscrupulous moneylenders. Slavery is illegal everywhere but it happens nearly everywhere and we must jointly recognize this as we celebrate our freedom,” Wescot-Williams said.
She said that emancipation is based on “the premise of all men being equal and we must recognize the stark reality that that is not the case for every human being in the world today.”
The Prime Minister said that Country St. Maarten has joined the International Community in guarding against practices of modern day slavery and human rights transgressions “in all forms.”
“We should be proud of who we are and who we have become. Proud of our nation St. Maarten and we should appreciate more the turns and twists of our world and of our island St. Maarten that shape us, unites us and strengthen us. We are the present of that reality and every year we should measure how we can use that inheritance to move our ‘Sweet St. Maarten Land’ in the words of our national logo Semper Pro Gradiens: Always Forward. God Bless St. Maarten and God Bless the People that call it home,” concluded the Prime Minister.
“Today, 150 years ago the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect abolishing slavery and declaring the affranchised population of St. Maarten free persons. With that proclamation an official end was brought to the slave system of forced labour, systematically and brutally imposed for over three centuries by white slave owners on black men and women, merely because of a difference in colour for economic gain,” Governor Holiday said in his Emancipation Day speech.
“As your Governor, and more so as a St. Maartener, I cannot adequately express my sentiments of pride, my sense of privilege and my conviction of purpose, as I stand here in celebration of and share with you in this 150th Emancipation Day anniversary.” Holiday continued.
In tribute to the “courageous St. Maarten men and women and to the perpetual sacrifices they made for our freedom,” Governor Holiday asked those present to observe a moment of silence in honour of these “freedom fighters.”
Governor Holiday said that the Emancipation Day victory embodied the promise of a free and better future for all St. Maarteners, including the promise of freedom and equality, the promise of opportunity and the obligation to fulfil the promise.
He said that great strides have been made to fulfil this promise. “For example, more of us have a tertiary-level education, own property, or have access to health and retirement benefits than any generation of St. Maarteners before us. As such we have good reason to celebrate.”
However, this is not to say that we can afford to be complacent, the Governor said. He mentioned exploitation and inequality on the work floor as areas which still require improvement.
Holiday also pointed at the challenges faced by the island’s youth. “While
St. Maarten is known for its enormous opportunities, many of our youth face challenges in education, on the labour market and on the housing market, limiting their chances of sharing in the promise of opportunity.” In this regard, the Governor recommended to keep the Constitution close and to study it regularly.
President of Parliament Gracita Arrindell commended former ministers Rhoda Arrindell and Silveria Jacobs for making Emancipation Day an official holiday, last year.
She urged current Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Patricia Lourens to make the history of Emancipation a mandatory element in the school curriculum.
The President of Parliament commended the discussions in the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber surrounding emancipation, slavery and reparations, as well as those in the Kingdom Council of Ministers on these subjects.
No expiration date
In declaring the cultural manifestation opened, Minister Lourens said emancipation does not have an expiration date. She stated that all boundaries of freedom need to be eliminated, including racism, corruption, economic disadvantage and poverty.
Monday’s Emancipation Day commemoration, the second in Country St. Maarten’s history, combined remembrance and reflection during the first half of the day, and culminated in a festive cultural show at Salt Pickers’ monument in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Dutch Kingdom.
All three monuments referring to St. Maarten’s slavery past featured prominently in the day’s programme of events, which was opened with an ecumenical service at Philipsburg Methodist Church, followed by the laying of wreaths at One Tete Lokhay and Freedom Fighter monuments.
Preceded by an Emancipation Day parade from Cyrus Wathey Square to Salt Pickers monument, Emancipation Day was concluded by a cultural show, presented by Rolando “Young man” Brison.
The manifestation featured a broad range of artistes and bands, including Percy Rankin and the Bonfire Band, Dance Theatre of St. Maarten, Freedom fighters featuring Sister Marlene Seagan and Ku-J, poets Rene Violenus and Peter Lake, All Stars Band featuring Lil’ Blossom and many others.