We cannot forget the ruthless system of trafficking in human beings: Jamaica

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Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, Jamaica

Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, Jamaica

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, Chairman of the permanent Memorial Committee Ambassador Raymond Wolfe of Jamaica noted that five years ago the Member States of CARICOM embarked on a journey that has brought them to where we are today. He said they have worked to ensure an appropriate annual UN international day of remembrance of the victims of slavery and transatlantic slave, in tandem with an initiative to erect, in their honour, a memorial here at the United Nations as a permanent and lasting tribute to their memory.

TAPE: It is interesting that the question continues to be asked as to why we remind the world about this tragic past when there is a need to look to the future and to address contemporary forms of slavery. However, as the noted Jamaican singer Bob Marley said: "in this great future, we can't forget the past." We cannot forget the ills of the past because they shape our current realities and will impact on our future. We cannot forget the legacies of racism, racial discrimination, bigotry and hatred that continue to manifest themselves in many parts of the world today, as a direct result of the lot of our ancestors, who were forced to live, suffer and die under the system of slavery which lasted for more than 400 years. We cannot forget the horrors of that pernicious system which resulted in the forceful removal and widespread exportation and dispersion of our people now fragmented across what we call the Diaspora.

NARRATOR: According to Ambassador Wolfe, we cannot forget the ruthless system of trafficking in human beings that molded and shaped the resilience of our forefathers and of successive generations today against abuse, rejection and discrimination on the basis of the colour of our skin.

TAPE: Some gravest historical wrongs against human kind have been addressed but others have not. We submit that slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, one of the gravest crimes against humanity, has not yet met the threshold of acknowledgement and redemption. While we recognize that other great tragedies of history were equally horrendous, we make a special case for slavery. Others were not brought here in chains; their children never sold; their women never bred like cattle for commercial purposes; their men never broken by such levels of dehumanization; their families never torn; the history, traditions and culture of their race never collectively jaundiced, as was done under slavery. The life of the black man, and by extension persons of African descent, represents the quintessential case in point, and this is our rationale for continued action at the United Nations; and for our efforts to ensure that a lasting symbol in tribute to our forefathers be erected on the grounds of the UN.

NARRATOR:Ambassador Wolfe concluded that as stated in the theme for the permanent memorial initiative, we are: "acknowledging the tragedy, considering the legacy, lest we forget…"

NARRATOR: The permanent memorial, first called for in a General Assembly resolution, was slated to be completed by the end of 2012, and would be erected in a place of prominence at United Nations Headquarters in New York. An international competition to select its design was launched in September, and a Trust Fund was established to support its construction. Numerous delegations today stressed the importance of contributing to that Fund, which to date had raised over $1 million of the estimated $4.5 million needed to complete the project.

This is Donn Bobb reporting.

Duration: 3’38″

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