Trinidad marks Indians’ arrival with muliculture ministry

Port-of-Spain, May 31 (IANS) Various social, cultural and religious functions Sunday marked the 165th Indian Arrival Day, the day when 238 people first came here from India to work on the plantations, with Trinidad and Tobago’s new Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar calling it a journey that has taken ‘us all centuries to arrive at’.

She said that observance of the Indian Arrival Day must be an active reaffirmation of the government’s commitment to ensure that every creed and race found an equal place. To mark the occasion, she has renamed the Ministry of Arts and Culture as the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.

Talking about the time when over 148,000 Indians were brought from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 to 1917 to work on sugar plantations, Persad-Bissessar, said: ‘It’s a journey that has taken us all centuries to arrive at, and still the journey continues as we steadily improve the means by which we travel to the destination of our nationhood.’

Some 44 percent of the population of 1.3 million people in the country are of Indian stock.

There was a flurry of functions throughout the country to mark the 165th Indian Arrival Day. In several communities, there was a re-enactment of the arrival of the indentured labourers.

Trinidad and Tobago President George Maxwell Richards, in his message to mark the occasion which has become a national holiday since 1994, said: ‘Their stake in this country is undeniable and, while the circumstances of their progenitor’s arrival were less than noble, history has not stood in the way of progress.’

Winston Dookeran, MP for Tunapuna and finance minister in the new government, said that Indian Arrival Day is a statement that ‘this nation is the home of people from all parts of the world’.

‘T&T is the micrcosm of the wider world. And all of us must work to protect each other’s cultural and religious capacities. The new government aims to enrich the social and cultural stock of all the people, which in turn could be the unifying force, a model nation, an open society,’ Dookeran said.

‘Indian Arrival Day like Emancipation Day (Aug 1) must become the new opportunity and new challenge to build our new society,’ Dookeran added.

The Caparo Hindu Organisation continued to host its annual Indian Arrival Day celebrations with a religious service, cultural performance and awards ceremony.

Indian High Commissioner Malay Mishra pointed out that several Indo-Trinidadian families have discovered their umbilical links amidst numerous villages across the length and breadth of India. ‘The high commission of India encourages reinforcement of such links as they lead to mutual understanding and friendly ties between the people of India and T&T. They also build bridges of emotional and economic partnership,’ he said.

(Paras Ramoutar can be contacted at [email protected])