Fellow citizens, today, as a nation, we commemorate the 176th Anniversary of Emancipation in Trinidad and Tobago. As you are aware, on August 1, 1985, Trinidad and Tobago became the first country in the world to declare a national holiday to commemorate the abolition of slavery.
Since that day, Emancipation celebrations have grown into a major national commemoration, where tens of thousands of people participate in various activities – primarily hosted by the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad & Tobago in collaboration with other stakeholders including the Government.
Within recent times, Emancipation celebrations have attracted an increasing number of foreign visitors from across the African diaspora.
Trinidad & Tobago is now dubbed the Emancipation Capital of the world and the celebrations form one of the world’s foremost African festivals.
Emancipation is as much a time of celebration, as it is a time of remembrance of the terror that swept across the new world by the enslavement of human beings. We must never lose sight of the fact that many of our African ancestors experienced the most inhumane conditions and were forced to endure cruelty in some of its most horrific forms.
In all that we celebrate therefore, Emancipation, must be held at the forefront of our minds as a triumph of the human spirit over evil and atrocity.
It is a time for us to recognize the tremendous sacrifices made in the name of freedom, and, in so doing, honour the memory of those who stood at the forefront of the battle for liberty, many of them giving their lives for the freedom we enjoy today.
Their fight taught the world of the true indomitable depth of the human spirit, and continues to inspire all of us to work for the eradication of all forms of oppression in our country and in our world.
As a citizen of Trinidad & Tobago, privileged to hold the position of Prime Minister, it is a source of pride for me and indeed for all of us that we have been able to use our diversity as strength.
The people of Trinidad and Tobago can have confidence that I will always do everything within my power to protect and defend your right to liberty by fighting against oppression, discrimination and any behavior that puts these rights at risk.
Our country stands as a model to the world because of our history of peace and unity and it is a reputation we all have a responsibility to uphold.
As we commemorate Emancipation Day 2014, I renew my appeal for all of us to join hands in solidarity, and unity of purpose, to protect the freedom we inherited and defend it for the generations still to come.
On behalf of the government I wish you all a happy Emancipation Day.
The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago