Georgetown, Guyana – (March 2, 2018) President David Granger, today, called on the nation to embrace the values and practice the camaraderie and unity displayed during the Phagwah festival and take it into their every day lives, as he participated in the annual celebrations hosted by the Indian High Commission in Guyana, on the lawns of the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC), Bel Air, Georgetown.

The President noted that while Phagwah or Holi festival has its origins in the Hindu religion, it has become a Guyanese celebration, which persons from every religion and race enjoy. To this end, he underscored that this togetherness must extend beyond the day of celebration and must become a way of life.

“Whether you are a devotee; whether you are a believer in religion or not, this is an important secular and spiritual festival but for Guyana. As you can see, this festival is a great equaliser. When I come here I am no longer President. I am just an object of abeer and abrack. We are all the same today. This is a good day for national cohesion. I don’t think I have ever been greeted by so many members of the Opposition in such a friendly manner. We must have more Phagwahs. We feel in Guyana that this is a unifying festival for us and going around the country, I can only wish and hope that the ICC and the High Commissioner can consider that now that we have regional radio stations, we can have broadcast of these events and the music in all parts of Guyana. I think it will help to bring us closer together, to build respect and understand one another,” he said.

Noting that this year the country will commemorate the 180th anniversary of the arrival of East Indians in Guyana, President Granger said that Guyana is proud that Indo-Guyanese have been able to maintain their traditions. He said that as Guyanese from all walks of life celebrate today, displaying respect for multi-culturalism, it is his hope that the celebration will also ensure that barriers are broken down and the common destiny is realised.

“We are multicultural society and will always be. When you mix, you are mixed forever and we appreciate the differences of the people in this country and we appreciate that it brings unity rather than disunity. I urge other parts of the country, whether Christian or Hindu or living in other parts of the country, that we can embrace Phagwah; embrace Holi, embrace the values, enjoy the joy and vitality we are celebrating here today. A festival like this helps to break down barriers, it helps us to understand that we Guyanese have come from different backgrounds but we have one destiny,” he said.

The President’s comments were echoed by Mr. Ventakachalam Mahalingam, Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, who noted that during Phagwah, the differences in terms of class, caste, gender and age are put aside and all the people come together to celebrate the festival. “Phagwah is known as the festival of colours. Though it was just a festival in the northern part of India, it has become a national festival these days. Phagwah, which is celebrated in March/April, coinciding with Spring, can be equated to the western of Valentine’s day and so it is also called the festival of love. As President Granger said, Phagwah truly helps to foster social cohesion among our people by respecting and understanding the culture of others,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Minister of Education, Ms. Priya Manickchand, who offered brief remarks on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, noted that the story of Phagwah should be the notion and message by which all Guyanese live their lives as it is a form of equaliser, taking no consideration or race, age or any other difference.

Guyanese from all walks of life were present at the celebration. Among the guests was Justice Donald Trotman. Covered from head to toe in colours, Justice Trotman, in an invited comment, said that the celebration of Phagwah has a deeper message, which all Guyanese should take note of.

“I had to be here to celebrate this festival. Holi means joy and happiness and goodness and putting aside all evil and negative thoughts and be positive. It means harmony among everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnic or other things that tend to divide us and I hope that the spirit of Holi pervades and permeates the whole country, throughout our lives and generations to come. Let us celebrate with joy in this spirit of joy and happiness,” he said.

Ms. Laxmi, also in an invited comment, said that this is her favourite festival as it is not only bright and colourful but it’s message is also significant. “Holi is always a beautiful festival. I love this festival. The message of Holi is always good over evil and it is always choosing to see the good in everyone and I want everyone to use this as to live in love and unity,” she noted. Mr. Neil McFloyd, an overseas-based Guyanese, said that while it has been years since he partook in the festivities, he is happy to be home to experience the warmth and love, which is associated with the celebration.

“This crystallises what the Ministry of Social Cohesion is all about, bringing all the people together. You can feel the joy and the love that is in the place every time we play Phagwah. I am excited about this. I want to say to Guyanese, don’t let this be a one-day event. It is a spirit that should resonate with us even after today. The diversity of Guyana’s colours is almost represented in the colours of Holi that is enjoyed,” he said.

The programme included a rich mixture of cultural presentations, including a tabla percussion, Indian songs and dances, steel pan renditions and performances by the National Dance Company, among others. It was also attended by acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carl Greenidge, former Presidents Mr. Donald Ramotar and Mr. Samuel Hinds, former Prime Minister, Mr. Hamilton Greene and other Ministers of Government, Members of Parliament and Members of the Diplomatic Corps.

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