Georgetown, Guyana (May 5, 2019) President David Granger, this morning, said Guyana’s national tapestry is stronger because of the preservation of its “precious multicultural heritage” achieved through togetherness and respect.
The President was at the time addressing residents of East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six) during the unveiling ceremony for the Indian Arrival Monument, located at Palmyra, East Berbice-Corentyne.
He reminded that Arrival Day, a national holiday, which is celebrated annually on May 5 commemorates the combination and culmination of events which led to the creation of Guyana. “It is the face of the population and the foundation of society,” he said.
“This national holiday coincides with the observance of Indian Arrival Day. The inauguration of the Indian Immigration Monument in the East Berbice – Corentyne Region and the observance of these arrivals are three reasons for jubilation.”
The Head of State reminded that Arrival Day celebrates the contributions of all of Guyana’s peoples – Amerindians, Africans, Asians and Europeans. “Our nation was established on the foundation of their sacrifices and achievements,” he said while noting that Arrival Day recognises the nation’s diversity and signifies the creation of a conglomeration of cultures.
He said multiculturalism has overcome historic challenges adding that all ethnic groups, particularly after the emancipation of the enslaved Africans in 1838, were brought together in a common geographic space.
“Little attention was paid by those who brought us together, to how these various groups with different cultures would coexist cohesively. It is the challenge of the present generation to overcome those differences and to continue to construct a cohesive country.
The nation cannot develop to its full capacity unless it harnesses the potential of the entire population,” President Granger said.
“It is for this reason that we are pursuing the realisation of a cohesive state in which all of our people will be recognised and respected. A cohesive state is vital to ensuring a sustainable, safe and secure environment, one in which present and future generations can be happy. It is essential to protecting the legacy of past generations,” he continued.
Region Six’s population is cosmopolitan with large African, Amerindian and East Indian communities along with persons of Chinese and European descent and reflective of Guyana’s main ethnic groups.
“The Region is the location where Indian indentured immigrants first set foot on Guyanese soil – at Plantation Highbury. It was in this Region many immigrants, after the end of their contracts of indenture, chose to live alongside other ethnic groups,” the President said.
Indian indentured immigrants first arrived in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region 181 years ago on 5th May 1838 in search of a good life. It was through the abolition of Indian indentured immigration intensified migrants’ efforts to integrate more fully into Guyana’s multi-ethnic society.
“Indians already shared a common space with other ethnic groups with whom they had sought and enjoyed respectful relations,” said the President who noted that harmonious relations were aided by the religious and cultural conventions and practices of tolerance among our ethnic groups.
“These conventions allowed Indians and non-Indians to mingle, to mix and to make the most of this country’s economic opportunities,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Head of State noted that India’s continued concern for its diaspora is reflected in its decision to support the construction of “this magnificent memorial”, the Indian Immigration Monument.
“Indian Arrival Day is commemorated today with the unveiling of this grand monument dedicated to the memory of Indian indentured immigrants whose exertions contributed to building this nation of Guyana. We are richer for their arrival and for their remaining here,” said President Granger as he thanked the Government of Indian for its contribution and collaboration on the project, and the donation of the sculptures.
He said the Indian Immigration Monument symbolises the ties of blood and history between Guyana and India. “This monument site is a shrine to Indian immigration and to the migrants’ adoption and adaptation to their new homeland,” the President said adding, “This Monument not only casts an eye backwards to our past and but can also help to advance towards a common future, a future for all of our peoples.”
The President noted that the Indian Arrival Monument recalls the Indian indentured experience, celebrates the migrants’ resistance, resilience and resourcefulness and attests to the immigrants’ sacrifices, struggle and the pursuit of a good life.
“Indians have made indelible contributions to the nation’s cultural, economic, political and social development. These contributions have ensured the community’s progress and has advanced the nation’s development,” the President stated.
The Head of State noted too that the resourcefulness of Indians also contributed to the diversification of the rural economy through the development of cattle-rearing, cash crop and coconut cultivation, paddy-growing, rice-milling and fishing.
Village economies and settlements – and their skills as bakers, boatmen, charcoal-burners, chemists, fishermen, goldsmiths, hucksters, milk and sweetmeat vendors, shopkeepers and tailors, skills they brought from India – helped to reshape the Guyanese rural, economic and social landscape, he said.
“The descendants of Indian immigrants distinguished themselves in every field of human endeavour,” said President Granger who noted the contributions of academics, Clem Seecharan and Rupert Roopnaraine; attorneys, Edward Alfred Luckhoo and Stanley Hardyal; businessmen, Sattaur Gafoor and Lyla Kissoon; diplomats, Sir Sridath Ramphal and Sir Lionel Luckhoo; doctors, Balwant Singh and Deborah Persaud; trade unionists Ayube Edun and Joseph Latchmansingh; public servants, Eshwar Persaud and Lloyd Searwar; religious leaders Reepu Daman Persaud, Faizal Ferouz and Benedict Singh, cultural champions, Rajkumarie Singh and Lakshmi Kallicharran and sportsmen Rohan Kanhai and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
“Indians are integral to our multicultural state. They, together with other ethnic groups, have generated the cultural, economic and social diversity we recognise today as the Guyanese nation. They have contributed to a common culture of tolerance and mutual respect which has laid the basis, today, for the creation of a more cohesive and inclusive state,” the President stated while adding that Indians are integral to Guyana’s inclusive future and always will be. Development, he said, will be retarded unless every citizen feels a sense of belonging and enjoys equality of opportunity.
“Guyana’s future must be one in which our children and grandchildren could live in a cohesive state, one in which they could enjoy a good life which our forefathers sought,” he concluded.
Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingam said he is pleased that the Indian Arrival Monument was unveiled on Indian Arrival Day. “India is proud of the Indo-Guyanese achievements and the role in the development of Guyana. It is India’s endeavour to continuously strengthen its engagement with the Indian Diaspora,” he said.
Meanwhile, Director General of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Shri Akhilesh who is on his maiden visit to Guyana said the erecting of the Indian Arrival Monument “is the finest example of working together”. He said the moment is a symbol of deep ties, love and affection as he reminded that Guyana and India have always shared “deep, intimate ties.”
The unveiling ceremony was also attended by First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, Prime Minister Mr. Moses Nagamootoo, his wife, Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo; Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan and his wife Sita Ramjattan; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Karen Cummings, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mr. Basil Williams, SC.; Minister of Social Protection, Ms. Amna Ally; Minister of Social Cohesion, Dr. George Norton and Minister of Public Infrastructure, Mr. David Patterson along with other ministers of Government, Members of Parliament, members of the Diplomatic Corps and regional officials.