August 3, 2012
PM presents 43-page paper to House

A paper, prepared by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves on the occasion of the 179th anniversary since an ‘Act for the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire’ was passed in the British Parliament, was laid in the House of Assembly in Kingstown on Tuesday.{{more}}

The paper, entitled ‘The End of Slavery in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Our Commemoration in 2012,’ looks at the effect of colonial settlement here and the lingering negative economic and political impact of slavery, apprenticeship and the genocide of the indigenous people.

“I have taken the time over the weekend to prepare a paper of 43 pages which I would lay in this Honourable House as a statement without reading it,” Gonsalves said.

The paper begins with a look at demographics and land ownership in St Vincent in the 18th century, showing how these changed after Britain assumed suzerainty over this country in 1763. Some time is spent dealing with the apprenticeship period from 1834 to 1838.

Gonsalves notes that compensation of 592,509 pounds sterling was paid to slave owners for the 22,997 persons freed under the Act. He contends that an “unanswerable case” exists for Britain to pay St Vincent and the Grenadines, and other Caribbean countries, appropriate and sufficient reparations as compensation for slavery.

“Reparations, too, are in order for the genocide committed against the thousands of the Callinago and Garifuna people, the forced deportation of 5,080 of them to Rattan Island, off the coast of Honduras, and the confiscation of their lands. A vigorous and coordinated campaign is required globally for reparations,” he said.

The paper also goes into detail about the reasons why slavery was brought to an end, including violent resistance by the enslaved people themselves.

The Prime Minister is of the view that under-development in this country has its roots in what took place here almost 200 years ago.

“Substantially, the root of the under-development of St Vincent and the Grenadines can be traced to the genocide committed against the Callinago/Garifuna, the establishment of slavery and its post-emancipation debilitations, the colonial-imperial project of governance and the consequential warped shaping of our people’s socio-political consciousness,” he wrote.

Looking specifically at the indigenous people, Gonsalves says when the genocidal wars against the Callinago/ Garifuna are considered, “Is there any wonder that they are among the poorest today in St Vincent and the Grenadines despite enormous efforts by successive national administrations since the 1950s … to improve their lot?”

The final section of the paper presents an analysis of the progress the country has made since emancipation. The perennial politician, Gonsalves could not resist the urge in this final section to include a plug for his Unity Labour Party (ULP), which he says is the country’s best hope for the future. In closing, he called on Vincentians to redouble their efforts for further individual and collective liberation and development.

“Let this period in commemoration of Emancipation Day, August 01, 2012, be a time for reflection, love and caring, and commitment to do good today, much better than yesterday and even better yet tomorrow. We come from yesterday with our burdens and weaknesses; we go forward tomorrow with our strengths and possibilities,” he wrote.

A copy of the paper was presented to Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, along with a CD which Gonsalves said Eustace could use to make copies to be distributed to the other members of the Opposition.

The full text of the paper may be read on page 19 or on Searchlight’s Facebook page: