GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 5, 2015)—St. Maarten Prime Minister, Hon. Marcel Gumbs, has made what might be the first direct statement here on Reparations by a leader of government on either part of the island, at the recent Emancipation Day Lecture.
“The movement for reparatory justice is gaining momentum and greater focus than ever before in the Caribbean region,” said Prime Minister Gumbs at the University of St. Martin on June 27, 2015. The statement was part of his “Word of Welcome” to an audience of over 200 people, said lecture coordinator Dr. Rhoda Arrindell.
“The Government and People of St. Maarten would be out of step with the history and progress of this dynamic region, if we do not pay close attention to the historical, socio-economic, political, and legal discussions and proposals about Reparations – as it relates to the sovereign countries and the territories in the Caribbean, and the European countries concerned, including the Netherlands,” said Prime Minister Gumbs.
The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, delivered the Emancipation Day Lecture, organized by the Independence for St. Martin Foundation.
Prime Minister Gumbs said that the Emancipation Day Lecture bridged “the yearning for freedom, justice, human dignity, and democratic development – from the first runaway from Slavery in the Caribbean, to the Diamond Estate 26 in Cole Bay, and the demonstrations by the enslaved people that forced the ‘process verbal’ Emancipation on ‘the Netherlands Part’ of St. Martin, which then placed it in step with Emancipation in the North or the Frenchside of our island – all in 1848.”
Prime Minister Gumbs said the lecture was also about “enhancing the awareness in St. Maarten about the various positions on Reparations.” He called Prime Minister Gonsalves “a learned, courageous, and steadfast frontline advocate of Reparations in the Caribbean region.”
The Emancipation Day Lecture became part of the island’s “Emancipation season,” as author Lasana M. Sekou and cultural activist Shujah Reiph call the period from May 27 to July 1, said Arrindell. The official Emancipation observation in Marigot and Philipsburg is linked respectively to the French and Dutch proclamations of May 1848 and July 1863, though the enslaved people on both parts of the island realized their Freedom from Slavery in 1848, said Arrindell.
The “Emancipation season” 2015 was marked by an unprecedented string of some 10 official and unofficial activities stretching from the Agrement Lady Liberty roundabout to the Emancipation roundabout at the entrance to Sucker Garden, said Arrindell.
Caption: Audience at the Emancipation Day Lecture, which was delivered by the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves (at podium), St. Martin, USM. (CLF photo)