T&T’s cohesiveness comforts President Weekes

President Paula-Mae Weekes is paying tribute to the East Indian and national community, saying “while we may be a work in progress, there is evidence that we may yet claim a place of leadership in the matter of living in harmony.”

This as the country celebrates the 173rd anniversary of the arrival of Indentured labourers from India.

In the lead up to today’s Indian Arrival Day celebrations, national attention has been focused on Nafesa Nakhid, an on-the-job-trainee who was not allowed to take up an appointment at the Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College because she was wearing a hijab.

But Weekes is urging that as a nation we “continue to embrace the possibilities for greater cohesiveness,” even as “characteristics of our various origins are clearly recognisable.”

Weekes observed that while modern technology has made it “almost impossible” for any nation to be insulated from what is happening in other parts of the world, “so the possibilities of influence are very real,” and while T&T is not the only country that can boast of “diversity in its population,” there is, she said, “a Trinidad and Tobago brand that has enabled us to avoid serious manifestations of discord, as has been and even now is being experienced, in many parts of the world.”

The contribution of persons of Indian origin to Trinidad and Tobago, she said, “remains current, not confined to history, and is visible in every sphere of national life.”

She observed that while the day brings into focus “our compatriots of East Indian origin, this should be also a time of celebration for all of us.”

The President observed that the seed planted by the indentured labourers who came in 1845 and others who followed from the Indian subcontinent, “has flourished and has added considerably to our signature as a nation.”

She noted that the circumstances of arrival in T&T were such that those who came “clung tenaciously to family and customs,” in what could be described as a “means of survival in an environment that hardly provided evidence of the possibility of a better life than that which was left behind, having crossed the Kalapani with so much hope.”

Their vision for themselves and their progeny, Weekes said, did not match the purpose of those who held authority over them.

“However, by dint of sacrifice and faithfulness to the lessons learned from the civilization that had nurtured them, they built their security and contributed their distinctive strands to the tapestry of this Nation, in several aspects of our culture including our culinary arts and music,” she said.

The recently opened Mud House Museum, located in a house that was built in 1885 at Siparia Old Road in Fyzabad, Weekes said, bears testimony to the East Indian presence in our history, as does the Indian Caribbean Museum of Trinidad and Tobago that was opened on May 7, 2006, at Orange Field Road, Waterloo.

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