Kamla: East Indians’ arrival helped shape Trinidad and Tobago’s unique identity

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this May 2018 file photo Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar sits in a boat, representing the Fatel Razack on which East Indian indentured labourers came to Trinidad and Tobago from India, at Indian Arrival Day celebrations at Bonasse Village, Cedros. –

AS Trinidad and Tobago prepared to celebrate Corpus Christi and Indian Arrival Day on May 30, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said it could still boast of being the best example to the world, as a country where a melting pot of ethnicities, cultures, and religions live in harmony.

Corpus Christi (Latin for “the body of Christ”) is a mainly Roman Catholic observance, while Indian Arrival marks the entry of the first group of 220 East Indian men and women to these shores, aboard the Fatel Razack, in 1845.

In a message marking the 179th anniversary of Indian arrival, Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar recalled that over 140,000 Indians left their homes and made the dangerous journey across the Kala Pani to Trinidad and Tobago, between May 30, 1845 and 1917 when indentureship ended.

“Their arrival heralded a new era of economic, social, and cultural development that would eventually play a crucial role in shaping our unique national identity,” she said.

“Today, thanks to these Jahajees our country can boast of the unique adaptations of East Indian cuisine, music, dance, clothing, language and observances of Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Phagwa and Hosay, which now form part of our cultural fabric.”

She said she is also proud that in this rainbow country, “We are able to celebrate this holiday together with all other ethnicities whose ancestors united to build our beautiful nation.

“We also do so at a time when many countries across the globe are currently engaged in active warfare and violent civil unrest due to religious and ethnic differences.

“Yet Trinidad and Tobago can still boast of being the best example to the world of a country where such a tremendous melting pot of ethnicities, cultures, and religions live in harmony.”

She said this is a major significance of Indian Arrival Day and a testament to the nation’s commitment to democracy in its most promising form.

“Today we honour the legacy and achievement of our East Indian foreparents, proud in the knowledge that their sacrifice and contributions have carved for us a clear path to equality and progress.

“As we celebrate Indian Arrival Day 2024, let us therefore rededicate ourselves to the cherished principles of justice, peace, harmony, tolerance, respect, and goodwill for all citizens, in our perpetual quest for a brighter and more prosperous Trinidad and Tobago.

“Happy Indian Arrival Day!”