On May 30 we celebrate Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad and Tobago. At the Tobago Policy Forum we welcome celebrations like these that reflect on people and their history and the significant contribution made to the Republic. We would like to extend sincere greetings to the national community as we celebrate Indian Arrival Day 2014.
Coming from one of the greatest civilizations in the world, the children of India arrived as indentured servants in Trinidad and Tobago in 1845. With the ending of slavery a labour gap became evident and the system of indentured servitude sought to fill this gap and East Indians continued to arrive until 1917. These East Indian labourers brought with them the totality of culture inclusive of religion, food, music, dance, language and the multitude of elements that make up culture. It is this culture and influence that over descending generations has contributed to our cosmopolitan national Trinbago culture.
In a nation like Trinidad and Tobago that evolved out of the forging of the interest of European nations as they sought to colonize the world, a mass global movement and displacement of people began. First, was the displacement of the indigenous people of the Americas by powerful European property owning interests who replaced the First Peoples with African slaves as a labour source. While the concept of indentured servitude was not new, it existed before 17th century, the ancestors of those today who claim East Indians heritage were seeking ways and means out of poverty and indentured servitude became an option, many of whom thought they would return, but often never did.
Little did these indentured servants know the impact that their future generations would have on an emerging post-colonial order that also affected India from which they came where independence of many former colonies were granted after World War II. Nevertheless we do not have to look to far to see the influence and impact that East Indians have in our society without diminishing the impact of other ethnic groups but in recognizing this we see a nation that continues to become integrated while bringing out of the best in every citizen.
At times with a media that appears to be based on sensationalism dominating the national conversation, hovering about our heads is a political culture that simply distracts us from real issues of national development and importance of working together. Indian Arrival Day in 2014 should have a new meaning for all right thinking citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, it is about celebrating the contributions, but too often for average citizens holidays likes these lose their focus to the big beach or river lime rather than reflecting on the true meaning and how it affects our lives today and our nation tomorrow.
Trinidad and Tobago is on a development trajectory. More development is expected, but economic development of a nation is not only hinged on its financial, natural resources and building buildings but inclusive of its human resource and capacity. The interaction of people of all ethnic groups and cultures is a natural part of this process. It is here where holidays and national celebrations like these should taking on a new meaning and focus on educating, informing and engaging. It is on this level that we can take a step back and find avenue to engage others and get over the hype that our nation is bad and on a path towards destruction and racial division.
Together we must navigate this space where we believe in the principle of an equal place. In light of recent national events of a negative nature, Indian Arrival Day gives us an opportunity to reflect and turn a page. When we don’t know it is easy to assume and make stereotypes often based on misinformation, but it is our obligation to learn.