President David Granger: Thank you; please be seated. Honourable Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo and Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo, Vice Presidents Carl Greenidge and Khemraj Ramjattan and Mrs. Ramjattan, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland; former President, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Chinese community:
I would like to thank the Chinese Association of Guyana and the Chinese community for their kind invitation to this traditional dinner on the occasion of the Year of the Fire Rooster. I am particularly grateful for the privilege of addressing you on the occasion of this happy festival because I myself was born in the year of the rooster, the wood rooster, not the fire rooster. [Applause.]
I’ll tell you about the difference later.
Ladies and gentlemen, this festival is observed not only in your motherland, the People’s Republic of China, but also among the millions of persons of Chinese origin all around the world in the diaspora and of course, right here in Guyana. The fire rooster in Chinese astrology is characterized as confident, intelligent, resilient, energetic and honest. Now you know why I was born in the year of the rooster. [Laughter.]
The rooster welcomes each new day. It wakes us up in the morning so that we can start our work. The year of the fire rooster therefore, is an opportunity for everyone to commit to hard work in order to bring increased prosperity to our families and to our country.
Our two countries, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the People’s Republic of China are 15,000 kilometres apart. Despite this distance and despite the disparities of demography and geography we have been united by bonds of blood, by bonds of history and by bonds of friendship. Let us strengthen those bonds and deepen that friendship for the mutual benefit of our peoples and for posterity.
The first 647 Chinese immigrants arrived as indentured labourers a 164 years ago on the 12th of January, 1853. In all, 15,720 Chinese immigrants came here in the following 60 years. These Chinese Guyanese have made an important contribution to this country and I must congratulate the Chinese Association for honouring those hardworking Chinese this evening, including two Chan-A-Sue’s.
The Chinese Guyanese have contributed in many ways. They are represented in the professions of academia in accountancy, in agriculture, in aviation, in business, engineering, in finance, law, medicine, sports, tourism. As you know, the first President of Guyana Mr. Arthur Chung was a descendant of Chinese immigrants; the first president of the British Guyana Trades Union Congress Mr. Theophilus Lee was also of Chinese immigrant parentage. An Attorney of Chinese origin, Mr. Charles Fung-A-Fat was appointed Chief Parliamentary Counsel and elevated to the dignity of Senior Council, only this month January.
Ladies and gentlemen, Chinese are still arriving today, not as labourers, but as investors; as visitors; as workers; as entrepreneurs, they are welcome again as they were welcomed in 1853. [Applause.]
As you heard, I issued what in modern parlance may be called an executive order designating the 12th January each year as Chinese Arrival Day. Guyana will continue to observe the 12th January as Chinese Arrival Day to commemorate the contribution of our Chinese community to the enrichment of our culture and to the development of our nation. Chinese enterprise in Guyana today has prospered and has been fostered by over four decades of friendly diplomatic relations of mutual cooperation and of resourceful commercial connections. Guyanese welcome the Chinese who want to continue to contribute to transforming the cultural and economic landscape of this country.
It is my honour therefore, on behalf of the government and people of Guyana to extend best wishes for a productive new year to the members and families of the Chinese Association of Guyana on the occasion of the Chinese New Year- the year of the Fire Rooster.
Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to rise and join me in a toast to the Chinese New Year and Spring Festival 2017.
Happy New Year!