She said the historic act of proclaiming August 1, 1838 as Emancipation Day destroyed the moral and legal basis of a system, which allowed human beings to be classified as “chattel and denied the most basic human rights”.
Persad-Bissessar said emancipation set new terms for others coming into society where individuals could no longer be defined as “property”.
“No longer could there be a denial of human rights. Emancipation set in motion a chain of events which would eventually lead to self-determination, independence and the building of an egalitarian society,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She said while Emancipation Day held special significance for the descendants of the enslaved Africans who were brought to the shores of Trinidad and Tobago, there was still much to learn. “Emancipation presents an opportunity to celebrate triumph over oppression. It salutes the indomitable spirit to persevere in the face of tragedy,” the PM said.
She said as the people of TT were blessed with a diverse heritage of ancestors who made sacrifices in the name of freedom, so they should continue to use the observance of Emancipation Day to honour their memory.
“Let us remember to tell their stories to every generation, so that they do not forget the origins of their parents and their fellow countrymen. Let us celebrate our history and use it as a beacon into our future,” Persad-Bissessar said.
She urged citizens to embrace their hard won freedom bequeathed to them by their forefathers, adding that there was no room for divisiveness. “The prosperity and development of our beloved country depends on our capacity to look beyond our differences and build a common destiny as one united nation.”