Slavery, reparations talk to usher in Emancipation Day | THE DAILY HERALD

POND ISLAND–The St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform and the University of St. Martin (USM) will hold a public meeting on slavery, reparations and development on Thursday, June 27, in an attempt to stimulate a national dialogue on economic justice within the Caribbean region and in the Dutch kingdom particularly.

The session will be held at USM starting at 6:30pm.

The panel is planned in the run up to Emancipation Day, which is commemorated annually on July 1. Panelists will include historian Daniella Jeffry, legal expert Gilbert de Windt and USM President Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez.

“If the European Parliament calls for reparations, denouncing structural racism and discrimination against people of African descent, why shouldn’t we as citizens of Europe living in the Caribbean hold our governments accountable?” said sociologist Raymond Jessurun of the St. Maarten Anti-Poverty Platform in reference to a watershed resolution passed by an overwhelming majority of the European legislative body last March.

“Histories of injustices against Africans and people of African descent including enslavement, forced labour, racial apartheid, massacre, and genocides in the context of European colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade – remain largely unrecognised and unaccounted for at an institutional level in EU member states,” the resolution states.

Since 2014, Countries of the Caribbean Community CARICOM have promoted the idea of reparatory justice for the “enduring suffering inflicted by the Atlantic slave trade” upon the peoples of African descent in the Caribbean and throughout the Americas.

The 10-point plan adopted by the CARICOM Reparations Commission includes statements alluding to the need of a formal apology by European states, debt cancellation, institutional support for memory and education, and technology transfer for greater access to science and culture. However, in Sint Maarten, scant attention to the topic of reparations has been brought forward.

According to Dr. Carmona Báez, discussing the legacy of colonialism and slavery gives us an opportunity to think about how society is structured and why historical inequalities remain. “If you look at the inequalities within the Dutch kingdom, the continued subordination of Caribbean people and how basic needs like education, health and housing are not guaranteed for the descendants of enslaved Africans, you can understand that there is a discussion to be held.

“The University of the West Indies (UWI), among others in our region, is in dialogue with British institutions to negotiate reparations. Our purpose at USM next week is to initiate the debate here on St. Maarten together with our brothers and sisters of the North side of the island. Hopefully we can link the need to reconcile with our past to eradicating poverty on Soualiga,” Dr. Carmona Báez said.

“We hope to see community activists and labour leaders from North and South [St. Martin – Ed.], as well representatives of both governments at the university on Thursday, June 27,” said Jessurun.

Source: The Daily Herald