Arrival Day celebrates contribution of all races – Granger
…as Indian Arrival Day Monument commissioned
Arrival Day was commemorated on Sunday with the unveiling of the long awaited $160 million Palmyra Monument in a ceremony wherein President David Granger saluted not only the arrival of East Indian migrants, but the arrival of all races to Guyana.
At that commissioning ceremony, attended by Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, HE Venkatachalam Mahalingam, Granger hailed the diversity of Berbice, and the contributions of all races to the development of Guyana.
“Arrival Day celebrates the contributions of all of our peoples – Amerindians, Africans, Asians and Europeans. Our nation was established on the foundation of their sacrifices and achievements,” he declared.
“Arrival Day recognises the nation’s diversity. It signifies the creation of a conglomeration of cultures. The nation is multicultural, and always will be; and each culture enriches national integration despite differences in origin,” he continued.
According to the President, Arrival Day is a national holiday that happens to coincide with the observance of Indian Arrival Day. He noted that the East Berbice-Corentyne Region is a melting pot of different ethnicities; like “Africans, Amerindians and East Indian communities”, as well as persons of “Chinese and European descent.”
“Almost 240,000 indentured immigrants arrived in British Guiana in the ensuing eight decades until the system was abolished in 1917. More than seven out of every ten of these immigrants opted to stay and make this country their home,” he said.
“The abolition of Indian indentured immigration intensified migrants’ efforts to integrate more fully into our multi-ethnic society. Indians already shared a common space with other ethnic groups, with whom they had sought and enjoyed respectful relations,” the President explained.
He noted that the contributions of the Indians to Guyana’s economy are unquestionable; and pointed out that Indians, who began arriving even before the abolition of African enslavement in 1838, eventually became the main source of labour in the sugar and rice industries.
“They have helped to sustain these pillars of our economy for more than 180 years. Indian resourcefulness contributed also to the diversification of the rural economy through the development of cattle rearing, cash crop and coconut cultivation, paddy growing, rice milling and fishing,” he explained.
He noted that village economies and settlements, and skills the Indians brought from India — as bakers, boatmen, charcoal burners, chemists, fishermen, goldsmiths, hucksters, milk and sweetmeat vendors, shopkeepers and tailors — helped to reshape the Guyanese rural economic and social landscape.
Indians, he added, became a considerable commercial and landowning class after they quit the plantations.
“Some, through thrift and industry, became part of a thriving business elite,” he declared.
Granger also hailed the contributions of specific East Indians, including academics Clem Seecharan and Dr Rupert Roopnaraine; attorneys Edward Alfred Luckhoo and Stanley Hardyal; business persons Sattaur Gafoor and Lyla Kissoon; diplomats Sir Shridath Ramphal and Sir Lionel Luckhoo; and doctors Balwant Singh and Deborah Persaud.
“…trade unionists Ayube Edun and Joseph Latchmansingh; public servants Eshwar Persaud and Lloyd Searwar; religious leaders Reepu Daman Persaud, Faizal Ferouz and Benedict Singh; cultural champions Rajkumarie Singh and Lakshmi Kallicharran; and sportsmen Rohan Kanhai and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, all of whom are excellent examples of Guyanese of Indian descent who attained eminence in professional and public life,” he stated.
“We must preserve this precious multicultural heritage by working together to secure a common future, where all are recognised and respected and where everyone could enjoy this country’s bounty. Arrival Day and Indian Arrival Day both commit us to continue to work together for the good life for all. Happy Arrival Day, and may God bless you all,” he said as he concluded his remarks.
The $160 million Palmyra Monument is composed of six 12-foot-tall bronze statues depicting a child, two women and three men as they perform their daily tasks.
The monument itself has a rocky history. In April 2018, months before the sculptures were installed, the base which was constructed to support the six statues collapsed, costing much fallout between the contractors and designers after the design by the previous administration was modified by the Government.
The monument has been funded by the Government of India.