Prime Minister Wescot Williams Highlights Freedom and Modern Day Slavery in Emancipation Day Address

"We should measure how we use our inheritance to move our Sweet St. Maarten Land forward"

The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams highlighted the freedom St. Maarten Ancestors fought for and the common yolk of modern day slavery during her Emancipation Day Address at the Freedom Fighters Roundabout on Monday, July 1st Emancipation Day.


"It must have been an exhilarating moment those 150 years ago when those in bondage were given their freedom. By this time the Transatlantic Slave Trade had existed for close to four centuries and we must use this reality to answer how free are we now as citizens of this land. We need to distinguish the context of the freedom we want to address. Is it from slavery? The definition of slavery basically comes down to the possession of and the control over other human beings against their will. Person forced to work without compensation and being violated and exploited with all of the consequences for his or her dignity as a human being. The respite of the organization Free the Slaves says that there are 27 million people in slavery today. People that are forced to work without pay under threats of violence and being unable to walk away. You can find them in brothels, factories, mines, farm fields, restaurants, construction sites and private homes. Many slaves have been tricked by traffickers who lure vulnerable people with false promises of good jobs and education and some are marched to work at gunpoint and others are trapped by false debts by unscrupulous moneylenders. Slavery is illegal everywhere but it happens nearly everywhere and we must jointly recognize this as we celebrate our freedom.

"Today we celebrate the official abolition of slavery in the Dutch territories and of course it is important to stand still by that moment in our History. It must have been a relief to not only those on the Dutch Side, but also to those who fled to the French Side to know that they would be reunited with what have become their families and their communities through bonds and relationships that were formed as a result of their experience of being taken from their land on the West African Continent. We can therefore rightfully argue whether we should celebrate 150 years or 165 years of emancipation.

"If you look beyond the formal abolition and consider emancipation for what that represents we will get closer to the answer of how we are. Emancipation is not dated; it is a process to get from where we are to where we want to go or where we should be as a people. It is based on the premise of all men being equal and we must recognize the stark reality that that is not the case for every human being in the world today. How free are we? In the context of having the ability to chose for ourselves and to make our own choices let us be thankful that none of us take advantage of that freedom by taking away the freedom of others. Let me also remind you of the 27 million reportedly still in slavery today in the modern sense.

"As we celebrate the abolition of slavery today in our land let us also recognize that as a young country we have joined the International Community in guarding against practices of modern day slavery and human rights transgressions in all forms.

"We need to use the strength of our ancestral roots that were rooted up elsewhere and were planted involuntarily in this soil to ensure that we continuously are free from the yolk of oppression and domination.

"What have we done with our freedom, freedom for those who have fought before us? Are we faithful to the legacy they have let behind? All that we are today is because of all those who fought, perished and triumphed for our freedom. We are free enough to decide what we will do with the legacy given to us and to chart our course as a country. Free to appreciate that our freedom must be guarded and cherished.

"We should be proud of who we are and who we have become. Proud of our Nation St. Maarten and we should appreciate more the turns and twists of our world and of our island St. Maarten that shape us, unites us and strengthen us. We are the present of that reality and every year we should measure how we can use that inheritance to move our Sweet St. Maarten Land in the words of our national logo Semper Pro Gradiens: Always Forward. God Bless St. Maarten and God Bless the People that call it home," concluded the Prime Minister.