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Big bash to mark abolition of slavery

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There’s going to be a quarter-million-dollar bash next year as St Vincent and the Grenadines commemorate the bicentennial of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves announced that $250,000 has been budgeted for the celebrations which will start March 25, 2007. He will also discuss a regional commemoration with his colleagues at the February 12 CARICOM Heads of Government Intersessional Meeting here.{{more}}

He told reporters at a news conference Monday that the form in which the 200th anniversary will be marked is to be decided by a planning committee but he expected it would cover a wide spectrum that will range from the near genocide of the Garifuna to the indentureship programme to slavery.

Funds would also be available for the publication of a history of St Vincent and the Grenadines to coincide with the celebrations. The kind of work he had in mind was a “reliable and thorough” history that could be used in schools and not necessarily an exhaustive study. Gonsalves said there were many writers out there, one of whom is Dr Cleve Scott of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, who has researched and written on the politics of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Gonsalves administration was among those which agreed to the United Nations Resolution A/61/L.28 at the 61st section of the UN General Assembly last week to set aside March 25, 2007 as the International Day for the Commemoration of the Two-hundredth Anniversary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

The prime minister lauded Britain as a co-sponsor of the resolution though there was initially some concern about whether they would seek a change to the wording but to everyone’s satisfaction, the Tony Blair administration accepted it as drafted.

The resolution “requests” the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its sixty-second session a special report on initiatives taken by states to counter the legacy of slavery and contribute to the “restoration of the dignity” of the victims of slavery and the slave trade.

The resolution referred specifically to paragraphs 101 and 102 of the Durban Declaration of 2001 in which the UN urged that the memory of the victims of slavery be honoured as a means to bring reconciliation and healing.

“We further note that some have taken the initiative of regretting or expressing remorse or presenting apologies, and call on all those who have not yet contributed to restoring the dignity of the victims to find appropriate ways to do so and, to this end, appreciate those countries that have done so,” the Durban Declaration stated, adding that “we are aware of the moral obligation on the part of all concerned States and call upon these States to take appropriate and effective measures to halt and reverse the lasting consequences of those practices.”

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