“For us, this is a most telling year and time in our history,” he said in an address to commemorate the 165th anniversary of the arrival of the first indentured labourers from India to local shores. “In our celebration of Indian Arrival Day 2010, there is the added dimension of great significance that, for the first time in our history, a woman has been chosen as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and that woman, a daughter of this soil, is of East Indian heritage. We must recognise this milestone, in all its dimensions and congratulate ourselves.”
Following is the full text of the message from His Excellency Professor George Maxwell Richards, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, on the Occasion of Indian Arrival Day, 2010:
“This year, we celebrate, in Trinidad and Tobago, the 165th Anniversary of the arrival of the first indentured labourers from India.
While we all celebrate as a nation, special greetings go to our citizens of East Indian origin.
For us, this is a most telling year and time in our history. In our celebration of Indian Arrival Day 2010, there is the added dimension of great significance that, for the first time in our history, a woman has been chosen as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and that woman, a daughter of this soil, is of East Indian heritage. We must recognise this milestone, in all its dimensions and congratulate ourselves.
Much has happened, during the last several months, which has impacted our course as a young nation. By and large, in the process of maturing, we continue to acknowledge our strengths, confront our weaknesses and cope with uncertainties where there has been no blueprint, particularly given the nature of our diversity.
While diversity is not peculiar to Trinidad and Tobago, in some ways, we do not fit the mold of other countries that boast of diversity. Within the structures of our diversity, there are certain elements that attest to the conclusion that some things can only happen here and whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, they redound to our credit.
Not departing from a serious note, but rather recognising the insightfulness of our artistes, I recall that one of our bards put it well when he sang “How we vote is not how we party”. But this is only one aspect, ladies and gentlemen, which softens the rigidity that manifests so negatively in other countries. Sadly, for these countries, ethnic diversity has resulted in what has become known as ethnic cleansing, a shameful stain in human history.
Today, our nation is recognising formally, on this public holiday, the considerable contribution of a significant sector of our population. This contribution is not newly emergent, but goes back to the onset of their migration from India.
Today, while customs of the forefathers’ country of origin have, to a great extent, been preserved, the Trinidad and Tobago brand, if you will, is clearly recognisable in the persons of East Indian origin who belong to this country.
The current generation’s links with the Republic of India are sustained, understandably, with room for nostalgia, but moreso with the knowledge of the rights of people whose home is Trinidad and Tobago and who share its patrimony. Their stake in this country is undeniable and, while the circumstances of their progenitors’ arrival were less than noble, history has not stood in the way of progress.
So today, let us all join in celebration of Indian Arrival Day 2010, as we contemplate and appreciate the significance of 1845 in the history of our beloved Trinidad and Tobago. I wish you all a happy Indian Arrival Day and may God bless our nation.”