Georgetown, Guyana – (January 12, 2017) Guyanese through the length and breadth of the country join today to celebrate the 164th anniversary of the arrival of the Chinese- a day so significant that His Excellency President David Granger saw it fit that it be designated as Chinese Arrival day.
As we observe this day for the first time in our country, I wish to offer a few words as the Minister of Social Cohesion and by extension, one who is a part of a Government, which fosters and promotes National Unity.
The Chinese have made substantial contributions to our beautiful country since their arrival on January 12, 1853 and it is vital that we acknowledge these contributions and ensure that as we foster a unified country, we preserve the Chinese Culture.
For the entire period of 1853 to 1879, a total of 13,541 Chinese landed in Guyana. These persons were diverse in their own right, since they came from various regions, spoke different languages and had varying religious beliefs. They came as the smallest group of indentured labourers and were distributed to the sugar plantations in the three counties of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo. Fortunately, families were kept together in the distribution.
Engrained neatly in the fabric of the Guyanese Society are contributions by Chinese that include the tasty cuisine that continues to be popular in Guyana and which is talked about in many other countries, folklore and the language which continues to be spoken by natives and is even taught here at the Confucius Institute.
The Chinese were astute business men, who operated grocery stores and were druggists, butchers, hucksters, cart and boat cab owners, barbers, laundrymen among other things. Their contribution to commerce can still be seen today with various businesses across the country.
We must also not forget that the Chinese were able to contribute to the development of sport in Guyana as well. Some might remember the Chinese Sports Club, which is now known as the Guyana Motor Racing and Sports Club. Among the sporting disciplines of the club were cricket, tennis, hockey and basketball. The club, however, shone at hockey and in 1961, eight of its members were selected to tour with the national hockey team which won the first and only Quadrangular Hockey Tournament among British Guiana, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados. The club went on to have the leading hockey team in Guyana, winning all the hockey tournaments in 1974.
Chinese have been fully integrated into the Guyanese society and have been able to excel in virtually every area, including in academia, the legal and medical fields.
Some notable Guyanese Chinese are: the first President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the late Arthur Chung; former Chief Justice, Ian Chang, entrepreneur Stanley Ming, general surgeon, Mr. Wallace Lee and Mathematician, Claude Lee.
Chinese, like all other ethnic groups in Guyana, must be recognised for their sterling contributions and must be integrally involved in every aspect of building our beautiful country.
Guyana is commonly referred to as the land of six peoples, owing to our rich ethnic diversity, but we must remember that we are one people, in one nation, working towards one destiny. As we celebrate the arrival of Chinese in Guyana, let us use this time to reflect on our rich diversity and pledge to work together to foster and promote Social Cohesion.
The vision of the Ministry of Social Cohesion is a unified Guyana where diversities are embraced, conflicts are resolved, networks and collaboration with stakeholders strengthened and decision making processes result in equal opportunities and benefits to all.
We continue to work towards creating enabling environments to forge and reinforce strong family, community, national values and relationships, in order to enhance and sustain socio-economic, cultural and spiritual well-being as well as enriched livelihoods for all.
While I may have only recently assumed office as the Minister of Social Cohesion, I wish to take this opportunity to assure all Guyanese that I will ensure that the Ministry fulfils its mandate and that we build a socially cohesive society.
However, we cannot do this alone, and we have engaged and will continue to engage Guyanese in order to foster and promote social cohesion. Persons must be cognisant that this is a continuous process and social cohesion will not be attained overnight.
Let us all continue to work together to ensure that we build a Guyana where all Guyanese, regardless of age, gender, religious beliefs, geographic location, cultural beliefs, ability or socio-economic backgrounds have the best life possible.
Happy Chinese Arrival Day to all of Guyana!