My fellow citizens.
Today marks a national occasion that reminds us of the indomitable strength of the human spirit, especially in times of challenges and adversity.
The commemoration of 170 years since the first arrival of East Indians in Trinidad & Tobago is a special one for all citizens.
For people of East Indian heritage, it is a moment when we reflect on the long path through history where people summoned the fortitude to let go of their land of origin, to embrace a new mother country.
For people of other origins, it is an opportunity to understand the things that built the foundations of a people arriving in a new land, facing a future of uncertainty.
And for all of us, as people of Trinidad & Tobago, it is a day we recognise one of the pillars of the model nation we have become.
The harmony that the world admires was certainly hard-won, and over time has become one of our most jealously guarded qualities as a people.
For descendants of East Indians, as with people of other origins, the walk through history was one with many challenges.
Victory came not by summoning the things that defined our ethnicity, but rather the things that defined our humanity.
As new generations came, there were moments when the joy of progress was tempered by the sadness of still recent departure.
Though the emotional connection to India remained strong, Trinidad & Tobago was the new home to which we pledged our hearts and passions.
And one of the very important components of progress came by understanding that education was the best opportunity to make the future a better place.
Education is in fact one of the cornerstones upon which the unity of our people and nation is built.
It is when the children of labourers attended schools, overcoming language and cultural barriers, meeting other children of different origins for the first time, that commitment to a common destiny truly emerged.
Today, elders look on with great pride as their descendants, children of a new land, excel in many disciplines such as the arts, medicine, law, engineering, education, business and entrepreneurship, politics, sport, and many other areas of human endeavour.
These are the things we must reflect on, because these are the things upon which our unity is built.
Of even greater purpose, however, is the need to ensure that we never allow that unity to falter, or divisions to emerge.
Of all the growing pains we have experienced in building a modern Trinidad & Tobago together, one in particular has endured – that of advancing our political system to one where parties, representatives and Governments can be formed purely on the principle of one nation, one people.
As Prime Minister, I have considered it an honour and privilege to have the influence over our political system, strongly guided by that very principle.
As an advocate for an end to discrimination, I have tried to use my time to ensure that at every step of the way we are increasingly defined by the things that unite us.
And it remains my mission to continue my work to deliver a political system where merit and ideas are fully, driving forces of our politics.
As citizens, you are important to that mission, because you are the ones who must resist attempts to divide us, and make clear that there is no space left for division.
If we are to achieve such a political system, it requires us to stand together, work together, excel together and celebrate together.
Throughout history, we have proudly stood as one people in religious and cultural celebrations, in sports, in education and in our communities.
We must therefore set ourselves the target of completing this unity foundation, by letting go of the politics that divide us, and embracing the politics of harmony.
Let us not say ‘one day we will get there…’
Let us say instead ‘we will make the change now’.
Yes, we must never forget the sacrifices our ancestors made to hold on to their religions, culture and traditions.
We do have a responsibility to protect the customs and the traditions that defined our progress.
But we owe a larger responsibility to the things that will form the future of Trinidad & Tobago.
As a people we have faced many challenges together, and we will no doubt face many more.
Let us, however, never allow ourselves to forget that when the worst challenges came, we triumphed not by focusing on the things that made us different, but by standing together as one people, and one nation.
We are all familiar with the profound words of Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
What this demands of us is to take charge of the future we want, not by assigning hope to coming generations, but by taking up the task of ensuring that positive change is our legacy.
As a nation, even with great accomplishments already, I am convinced that the best is still ahead of us.
We have the experience of history and we have the conviction of the present.
The future therefore will come by our commitment to ensuring that we finally put an end to the things that divide us, and fully embrace the things that unites us.
On Indian Arrival Day 2015, this is my greeting and my wish for Trinidad & Tobago, that we build a legacy of harmony and peace.
The Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
On the Occasion of Indian Arrival Day May 30 2015