Prime Minister’s Remarks at the Ceremony to Unveil the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Photo: JIS Photographer Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (second right), and Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-Moon (right), listen as Mr. Rodney Leon (right), explains the concept behind his winning design, ‘The Ark of Return’, to be erected as a Permanent Memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York, at the unveiling at the UN on September 23. Also listening at second left is Miss Andrea Wilson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

Story Highlights

  • There can be no greater or fitting tribute than a memorial to honour our African ancestors.
  • They paid the price for our freedom with their lives.
  • The design will undoubtedly serve to inspire the many persons who view the Memorial.

His Excellency Mr. John Ashe, President of the General Assembly

His Excellency Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Her Excellency Madame Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO

Distinguished Colleagues

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon…..

I am pleased to be here this afternoon to represent the Government and people of Jamaica on this special occasion – the unveiling of the model for the Permanent Memorial.

There can be no greater or fitting tribute than a memorial to honour our African ancestors who were forcibly removed from their homeland and taken to foreign lands of the Caribbean and the Americas.

They were beaten;

They were whipped;

They were raped;

Thousands of them paid the ultimate price.

Their blood, sweat and tears watered the sugar plantations across our region.

Some led rebellions and were tortured and hanged. They paid the price for our freedom with their lives.

We their posterity, stand today as free and proud people as we honour their memory:

 For their courage

 For their strength

 For their determination

In keeping with this, and in collaboration with our CARICOM family and our fraternal sisters and brothers in the African Union, Jamaica has been pleased to lead the initiative started in 2007, to erect a Permanent Memorial here at the United Nations to honour the memory of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans.

On behalf of the Government and people of Jamaica, I commend all those whose work has allowed for this initiative to reach this stage.

I make special mention of the UN Secretary General and his staff; Jamaica’s former Permanent Representative, Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, who worked tirelessly to make this project a reality; our current Permanent Representative – Ambassador Courtenay Rattray; the Permanent Memorial Committee; UNESCO and the UN Office for Partnerships which assisted with the international design competition.

Let me express appreciation to those who have made generous contributions to the Permanent Memorial Fund and remind that sustained voluntary contributions are critical to the success of the project.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate and commend the artist and winner of the design competition for the design of the memorial.

The design will undoubtedly serve to inspire the many persons who view the Memorial and remind us to never allow such crimes against humanity every again.

The fight against slavery and the enactment of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which ended slavery throughout the British colonies including Jamaica, speaks to the need to combat injustice, protect and promote human rights, and strive for a more inclusive and responsible society which respects the equal rights of all.

These are among the fundamental principles of the United Nations.

It is therefore quite fitting that the Permanent Memorial be erected at the UN Headquarters.

Ladies and gentlemen: we must continue to “acknowledge the tragedy and consider the legacy, lest we forget…..”.

May God continue to bless the souls of our ancestors.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.

JIS Social