Message from Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar on the occasion of Indian Arrival Day 2018
One hundred and seventy-three years ago the first group of immigrants arrived on our shores, and began a period of indentureship, in the hope of providing a better future for themselves and their children.
It is a vision which they lived, and laboured to ensure that it became a reality.
Today, their children and grandchildren occupy positions and have successfully pursued careers which have contributed in no small manner to the building of the nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
It is remarkable that though many of them could not read nor write, they knew the importance of education as a pathway out of poverty and for success.
On that first journey in 1845, more than 200 Indian women, men and children came, and in the years following, tens of thousands more arrived. They didn’t know the hardships they would have to endure; the inhumane working conditions on the plantations of Trinidad.
The question often arises as to why this event should be celebrated, but it is the indomitable will and enduring spirit of those who came out of India and their descendants – which are indeed admirable.
We celebrate their courage, and it is a most important reminder to us of the value of gratitude, as a society which does not have gratitude toward their ancestry will certainly be poorer as a nation.
Many died in the harsh conditions, but those who survived used every means they had to survive. It is difficult to really grasp the horrific conditions in which they existed and managed to eke out a living, but perhaps the one redeeming factor was the ability to keep their culture – their dress, their languages, their religions.
Their most precious institution was the family and they made education the cornerstone of family life, so their children could escape the drudgery that characterised their lives.
They stayed in Trinidad because they saw an opportunity – a chance to own land, grow crops, practice their religion, educate their children and in many ways recreate the homes they left behind.
They created a community characterised by sharing and togetherness, based on respect for one another. It was a place where they nurtured generations of responsible women and men.
When we look at the legacy of our forefathers who lived through the struggle of indentureship and took the decision to make this land their home, we must certainly celebrate.
We celebrate the incorporation of the customs and traditions of their ancestral home into their new home, Trinidad and Tobago, in which they created a community that has blossomed into the greatness we have today. We take pride in what, as a community, we have been able to achieve and our special contribution to nation-building.
We celebrate the contributions of all those persons who came from other countries, and honour the sacrifices they made to build their communities, and in turn build the vibrant, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society that is Trinidad and Tobago.
Let not our differences divide us, let our differences unite us, and let us take delight in our differences.
As we celebrate this occasion, we must continue to work together to build a stronger, more prosperous future for our country; to return Trinidad and Tobago once more to growth and prosperity, and into a united nation which we can all be proud to call our home.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition
May 30th, 2018