By Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – One hundred and seventy-five years ago, a ship docked in Port of Spain and off-loaded a cargo of more than 200 Indian women, men, and children. They came in the hope of a better future for their children and grandchildren, not knowing what was in store for them.
The tens of thousands who came to our shores to undergo indentureship faced harsh and inhumane working conditions on the plantations and poor living conditions in barracks. But, they endured, clinging to the hope in their hearts of a brighter future.
Indian Arrival Day honours those who journeyed to Trinidad and Tobago in 1845 and celebrates the accomplishments of the East Indian community. We remember the sacrifices our ancestors made, we learn from them and we continue to work towards addressing the challenges facing us today.
Together, our forefathers helped build a uniquely diverse, multicultural, multi-religious nation. Those who came from India, China, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and other regions – their hard work, courage, and strength of spirit continue to inspire us today.
History would show us that we all came on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now. This is true today, as our current circumstances warrant that we unite to ensure that we move our beloved Trinidad and Tobago forward.
We must also recognize and pay tribute to the originators of our country, our First Peoples. Throughout the centuries, our First Peoples endured tremendous adversities, but have successfully sustained their culture and traditions.
Our forefathers believed, and I also believe, that by working together, we can build a stronger, more prosperous Trinidad and Tobago, and overcome the challenges that currently face our country. They believed in building a better society and a better nation for their children just as we do today.
That is why the party I lead, the United National Congress (UNC) remains committed to working to improve the lives of all citizens, and we have a plan to get our country working again. It is up to each of us to ensure that we leave Trinidad and Tobago a better place for future generations.
As we join hands and honour each other – all creeds, all races, all religions, and all cultures on this day and celebrate the contributions and accomplishments that have been made by each group that arrived on our shores, let us seek to pass on the qualities of nation-building and unity to the younger generation.
The mammoth hurdles faced by all groups in establishing themselves in our twin-island Republic must be commended, for it was no easy task. We are today all descendants strong, brave people who were not only able to survive but also thrive and we should take pride in that.
Our strength has always been and continues to be in our unity as a people and for that, we must be wary of those who may seek to divide us for their own gain.
Together we will continue to build a nation proud of its diversity, with respect and love for all.
On behalf of the UNC and on my own behalf, I wish all a happy Indian Arrival Day.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Political Leader of the United National Congress (UNC), and Leader of the Opposition, Trinidad and Tobago.