Kamla: Build Trinidad and Tobago into place of peace, unity for all

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. – File photo

Using the story of her own great grandmother, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar called on Trinidad and Tobago citizens to use the memories and legacies of their ancestors to continue to build Trinidad and Tobago into a “place of peace, unity, tolerance, happiness, and progress” for all citizens.

She made the statements while addressing the audience at the SWAHA International Indian Arrival Celebrations 2024 held at Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Cultural Co-operation, Mt Hope on May 30.

She also acknowledged the SWAHA awardees: Rupatee Singh, Kamlawatee Ramsubeik, SEWA TT and the late SWAHA vice president Ramjattan Maharaj.

In her address she said she belonged to third generation of East Indian immigrants who grew up poor but at least had a chance to go to school.

She said her great grandmother was Sumaria Seepersad, who was only 16 when she came to Trinidad from Madras, India, in the early 1880s.

“Historical records show, for the majority poor, working class population, Trinidad was a brutal place of widespread neglect and entrenched colonial discrimination and desolation. But Sumaria was determined to beat the odds. She lived in a cutya—a tiny mud hut— with her children and worked for many years in the sugar cane lands of what’s now known as Bennett Drive, Palmiste, San Fernando,” she said.

Her great grandmother would wake up at 3 am to clean and “leepay” the grounds of her hut, then, drink a cup of goat’s milk and set off to work with her children in tow, toiling in the hot sun for nearly ten hours a day, she said.

And added that she also worked in the cocoa and coffee lands of Princes Town, and would walk approximately ten miles to and from Palmiste.

Persad-Bissessar said their grand children and children were the privileged inheritors of the strange land they came to and sacrificed their lives to build.

“Our nation was built out of some of the greatest civilizations in the world, and in history—India, Africa, China, the Middle East, Europe.

But we have no Mother Europe, Mother India, Mother Africa, or Mother China. We only have our beloved Mother Trinidad and Tobago. There are, however, our Great Grandmothers India, Africa, Europe, China, and the Middle East,” she said.

These ancestors brought their songs, dances, food and philosophies and fused them into the cultural identity Trinidad and Tobago has today.

She said today’s citizens were duty-bound to pass on this rich inheritance to younger generations.