His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali today reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to gaining international reparations for the crime of African enslavement and said that those reparations must go beyond an apology.
The Guyanese President made the reaffirmation at a high-level meeting to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action that was held under the theme “Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent”.
The Head of State told the meeting that “Guyana is committed to gaining international reparations for the crime of African enslavement. Reparative justice must not only include a full and unconditional apology from those responsible and/or who benefitted from the transatlantic trade in captive Africans and their consequent enslavement, but must go beyond apology.”
The President said that it is in this regard that Guyana will continue to support efforts being made within the Caribbean Community to press for the convening of an international summit to demand reparative justice for the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, African enslavement, and its enduring effects.
DURBAN DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION
The Head of State also reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and said that the country was pleased to join in adopting the Declaration.
President Ali said that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is a comprehensive, action-oriented, document that proposes concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.
He also emphasised that equality and non-discrimination are not only fundamental principles of international human rights and international humanitarian laws but are at the root of political, social, and economic development.
He said that as the global leaders collectively strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), they must be conscious that the overarching objectives of poverty eradication, protecting our planet, and building a peaceful world cannot be achieved without addressing all forms of inequality.
“Despite advances made over decades of struggle, racism and racial discrimination continue to be sources of conflicts and inequalities among people in all regions of the world. I am proud to belong to a country that honours and celebrates its ethnic diversity. Our people seamlessly participate in each other’s religious and cultural festivals and traditions. In many ways, we can be a wonderful example to the world.”
However, President Ali noted that too often in the political arena ethnic insecurities, real or perceived, and race are used opportunistically to manipulate issues in a manner that promotes tension and racial feelings.
“Social media, whilst a powerful tool to inform people, has also been much misused. The Government of Guyana will continue to work assiduously to eradicate all forms of racism and racial discrimination and to ensure inclusive development with equal access and sharing in Guyana’s wealth.”
President Ali underscored that the abolition of slavery in Guyana was a defining moment in the country’s history. He explained that every Emancipation Day on August 1, Guyanese recall the heroic courage and sacrifices of Guyana’s African ancestors in their struggle for freedom and human dignity.
“Freedom, however, was not accompanied by recompense for the atrocities committed against those enslaved.”
President Ali was joined by Vice President, the Honourable Dr Bharrat Jagdeo; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Honourable Hugh Todd, and Permanent Resident and Ambassador to the United Nations, Mrs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett.