Dr Keith Rowley’s Indian Arrival Day 2021 message:
On behalf of the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, my own family, and myself as prime minister, I extend sincere greetings to members of the East Indian community on the occasion of Indian Arrival Day—2021.
Today, as we celebrate the 176th anniversary of the arrival of the first indentured, East Indian labourers in this country, we cannot lose sight of their historical circumstance, their lengthy, hazardous journey across what they called the Kala-pani, the so-called taboo waters, between their homes, and the eventual docking of the Fatel Razack in May 1845.
Many reasons have been advanced for their individual contractual decisions for journeying from the massive sub-continent to the little-known Caribbean colony, but collectively they held a dream for themselves and their descendants in a place they called, “Chinitat.”
Unlike some other groups, their arrival here was encouraged and induced, yet survival was difficult. They, too, faced some of the tyranny of the colonial administration, injustice, abuse, and violence, including unjust laws, specifically enacted to ensure they stayed on the sugar estates.
Today, their descendants have gone on, alongside the other groups, which all stand proudly in our cosmopolitan state, making our individual contributions towards the building of an independent nation, at the same time holding to their centuries-old customs and values, including entrepreneurship and thrift.
Every year, within recent times, this day is widely celebrated with fanfare and re-enactments of the arrival of the Fatel Razack—but this year, like so many other festivals, celebrations are limited, because of the COVID-19 protocols.
However, this should not stop every citizen from acknowledging, on this day, the contributions of the East Indian community, and, in fact, the impact all other immigrant groups are making to the development of our twin-island State.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended societies, worldwide, and opened us to the challenges of a whole new world. It is acknowledged that people choose the direction of their lives, and also how and when to push their worlds and their societies.
It is now all a matter of individual responsibility, and if we look beyond, we may see the opportunities for change, first, in our individual lives, and the possibilities for wider national socio-economic reform.
Our future then lies in every immigrant group committing to the shaping of a new Trinidad and Tobago in the post-COVID world.
No one should retreat inwardly at this moment, but, instead, go beyond the narrow-mindedness of individual self-interest and identity politics.
At this point, this state cannot constitute a divided society, for there is a common enemy out there. The mindset of every citizen, without surrendering ancestral strengths, should be:
I reject partisanship and accept, above all, my personal responsibilities to my nation.
To do otherwise is to perpetuate victimhood and finger-pointing, causing us all to become protagonists and antagonists in our nation’s unfolding tragedy.
It is now all a matter of Trinidad and Tobago’s survival.
Fellow citizens, let us all, from all corners of this land, share in an enjoyable Indian Arrival Day.