One hundred and sixty-eight (168) years ago, a ship from a distant country landed on these shores with a cargo of people tired and hungry from a long journey and grateful that they had, at long last, reached their destination. This ship brought not only a new labour force to assist in the economic development of our twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, but also a new people with a new culture.
These were our East Indian ancestors – men, women, and children – many of whom eventually made this new land, called Trinidad and Tobago, their home.
Our beloved Nation is a veritable melting pot of peoples and cultures and this is what makes us unique – our unity in diversity. That we are able to live side by side in harmony and peace as one united people in the midst of the troubling disquiet of the world scenario speaks volumes of our collective character as a people and as a Nation.
In particular, today we are reminded that the East Indian observances of Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Phagwa and Hosay have, over the years, become part of the cultural fabric of Trinidad and Tobago. East Indian dishes are now enjoyed by a large cross section of the population and are part of the national cuisine. The very rhythm of our Nation often pulsates with the sounds of the cutter, fooley, dhol and jhanj – the tassa choir.
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), former Prime Minister of India, once said: “Culture is the widening of the mind and of the spirit”. Indeed, we have all embraced the spirit of the varied cultures and traditions of the many peoples who have come to our shores and have made our country the beautiful place that it is, despite the ever-present challenges that beset us as a growing democracy.
Together we have forged a strong, stable, and vibrant democracy with a respect for the rule of law, for our democratic traditions, workers’ rights, human rights, the environment, and ethical practices. Our mandate, as a united people, must be to improve on what we have already achieved.
As a people we have faced many challenges, and we will no doubt face many more, but, through resilience and strength of character, we shall persevere and overcome all of them.
More than ever today our Nation is recognized as an economic Leader within our Region. Though geographically small, our stature is elevated by our creativity, our capacity to attract new business and our gravitas for bringing to the forefront issues of global concern. Such passion, determination and acumen are representative of all of us as a Nation.
Today we honour the legacy and achievement of our East Indian brothers and sisters proud in the knowledge that their contribution, like that of the many others who now call Trinidad and Tobago home, is helping to distinguish our young Nation on the world stage.
As we celebrate Indian Arrival Day 2013, we are ever mindful of the many sacrifices that our East Indian ancestors have made and are eternally grateful for their contribution to the religious, cultural, and economic landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. As they were sustained by the values and traditions brought from a distant land; so too they have passed these traditions to the younger generations to enable us to build a great Nation that we can leave in the capable hands of our children – guided as they will be by the same core values, traditions, and principles that have shaped our own lives.
On this occasion of Indian Arrival Day 2013, let us then re-dedicate ourselves to justice, peace, harmony, respect, and good will among all citizens for a brighter and more prosperous Trinidad and Tobago.
Happy Indian Arrival Day to all citizens of our beloved Nation.