A model of the Fatel Razack on display at the Rotunda Art Gallery, Red House as part of an exhibition for Indian Arrival Day. – ROGER JACOB
The Prime Minister has called on the nation to join with the East Indian community as it celebrates the arrival of the first indentured immigrants to TT on May 30, 1845.
He said the community, while reflecting on its past, may also contemplate its further contributions to TT.
In a release, Dr Rowley said history professor Dr Brinsley Samaroo documents the abhorrence of both the Indian and African experiences under British colonial rule.
He said the thousands of immigrants who left India for various reasons would have felt fearful, but anticipated a better life. He said however they would have been confronted with many tricks and trials.
“The first may have been the three-month crossing of the “Kala-pani”, considered as “the black waters”, between India and “Chinitat”, then to be greeted, sadly, in a land that said they were a people that had “no religion, no education, and in their present state, no wants beyond eating, drinking and sleeping.”
“Although there was the option of returning to India, after five years on the sugar plantation, they endured the prolonged experience of suffering and sacrifice. They were managed under a system of criminal laws, designed to keep them under control.”
Rowley said the immigrants responded with strategies of solidarity and maintained their connection to their religion and their ancestral culture.
“Today, this community can boast of its contribution to our nation-state. The peasant, agricultural skills of the early immigrants were passed on to succeeding generations.
“The community’s contributions to the creation of modern TT could be identified visibly in medicine, law, the sciences, engineering, literature, arts, manufacturing, in the successful family businesses in the services sector, and in the highest levels of public service.”
Rowley said he saw no contradiction between a person recognizing his or her ancestral heritage, on one hand, and pledging unwavering support to the nation-state of TT, on the other. He said all citizens need to mobilise and focus on their collective efforts and hopes for a better TT.
“To do otherwise is to be haunted by “ethnic ghosts,” and to perpetuate the agendas of those among us who refused to see hope, but instead only fear, racial divisiveness, hatred, bitterness, unrest, and dissension.
“Fellow Citizens, let us all recognise that we are all first and foremost Trinidadians and Tobagonians, a melting pot of varying characteristics, attitudes and mannerisms – with a mentality and temperament that are all, in the main, cheerful, fun-loving and positive, which make us a mighty people of unlimited talents and endless potential.
“Our identity may have been fashioned by two distinct elements of history but today we strive together, day by day, towards a brighter future – a people reaching for their national watch-words of Discipline, Production and Tolerance.”
Rowley wished everyone an enjoyable Indian Arrival Day on behalf of the government, his family, and himself.