Wednesday 2 December, 2020

PM talks removal of colonial statues in Emancipation Day message

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says citizens of African descent ought to remember the history of their ancestors without commemorating their oppressors.

Dr Rowley made the comment in his Emancipation Day message on Friday though he stopped short of pledging to be directly involved in the process.

“Of significance now is the recent welcome re-assertion of the African personhood across the globe. This has sparked calls for the removal of statues and monuments which were built in honour of colonial and other oppressive figures. This is an ongoing matter, and I believe that such decisions require a deeper look at our history and must be followed by educational programmes and the necessary course corrections. The aim must be to know our history so as not to be victims of ignorance nor are we to glorify the oppressors of our lineage.”

The Prime Minister noted that this year, Emancipation Day comes on the heels of two global crises namely the fall in international energy prices and the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his Government has proven itself in the handling of both global challenges.

“Fortunately, my Government has been able to provide millions in grants and reliefs to the thousands, who are disadvantaged and those whose jobs are affected.”

Dr Rowley said slavery, which is the darkest period in human history, saw great atrocities. He said Emancipation Day is an opportunity for all nationals to celebrate and reflect on the existence of a common Caribbean history in addition to the region’s contribution to world civilization.

Furthermore, he quoted former Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams who said African slavery was established for economic reasons with accompanying assumptions about race, colour and perceived African inferiority.

Dr Rowley also recalled that the late Professor Walter Rodney explained that Western Europe’s vital sectors in finance, shipping, mining, insurance, agriculture, manufacturing and technology were developed from the slave trade and slavery with millions of Africans being reduced to beasts of burden and stripped of their overall identity.

However, he said it’s time that this perception changes.

“Let us all prepare coming generations, so that people of African descent will no longer be profiled, as ‘others’, referred to, in the footnote of derogatory tones, as ‘black’, ‘ugly’ ‘lazy’, ‘malingerers’, ‘gang leaders’ and ‘prison statistics’. The entire population of this country must understand that people of African descent are no less than any other race. They stand equal to every other ethnic descendants as disciplined, productive and tolerant citizens in our multicultural society.”

“Remind everyone that, in spite of slavery, persons of African descent have shown integrity, and proven their intellectual capacity, fortitude and acumen, through local and international achievements and accomplishments.”

Dr Rowley ended by acknowledging that the 21st century is the age of the digital economy with the evolution of artificial intelligence, biotechnology, advanced materials, quantum computing and more.

He urged young people to be mindful that they are caught in the march of the fourth industrial revolution and promised that no one would be left behind.

“Find your place, in these technological advancements, as Trinidad and Tobago moves to develop a New Society. Research your past, because it influences your present, and will allow you to embrace your future, proudly, confidently and with boundless faith in your destiny as proud citizens of this blessed nation of Trinidad and Tobago.”

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