Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago - Thursday 01 August 2019
Message by Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste Primus, Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development on the occasion of the Celebration of Emancipation Day 2019
My Fellow Citizens,
When on August 1st 1985 Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to declare a national holiday for the specific purpose of celebrating our treasured Emancipation Day, that day in 1834 when slavery was abolished in both Trinidad and Tobago, little did we foresee that other nations of the world, especially in the Caribbean and the Americas would have followed in our footsteps.
As we passionately engage in or witness the splendour of the annual remembrance parade and become enthusiastically involved in the well organised cultural and artistic events of the week, let us with equal vigour embrace the full meaning and significance of the momentous era in time.
In his introduction to the thesis of the Founding Father of our Nation, the late Dr. Eric Eustace Williams published in 1944, Professor Colin Alphonsous Palmer the Jamaican American historian and Professor of History and African American studies at Princeton University reminds us that:
“Few modern historical works have enjoyed the enduring intellectual impact and appeal of Eric Williams’s Capitalism and Slavery. This classic work by a West Indian scholar remains the most provocative contribution to the study of the complex relationship between the African slave trade, slavery, the rise of British capitalism, and the emancipation of the slave population in the West Indies”.
What a coincidence that Professor Palmer passed away in Jamaica on June 20th, 2019, one day after we in Trinidad and Tobago observed our just as uniquely celebrated Labour Day.
Let us not allow the passage of time to distract attention away from the fact that it was Dr. Eric Williams whose internationally revered thesis opened the eyes of the world to the fact that it was the steadily declining adverse economic reversals into which the slave traders and masters had descended and not the slightest iota of humanitarian considerations, as we had been lured to believe, which triggered the end to the slave trade in the West Indies.
So, as we observe the 34th Anniversary of our indelible leadership role in the celebration of Emancipation Day in so many manifestations, I call upon us all to devote a part of our day, as little as it may be, for a period of introspection and reflection: a moment in time to ponder upon where we have come from as a people and what we wish to become as a nation. In particular, I call upon our young citizens to enrich their spirit and further enlighten their fertile minds by themselves engaging in edifying conversation on the deep and abiding meaning and significance of this special occasion which regrettably in some quarters is so nonchalantly celebrated today.
I wish my fellow citizens a joyful, reflective and spiritually filled Emancipation Day.
Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste Primus
Minister of Labour and Small Enterprise Development
August 1st, 2019