Minister Norton reflects on Chinese contributions to nation

as Guyana observes inaugural Chinese Arrival Day

With Guyana observing its first Chinese Arrival Day today, newly appointment Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George Norton has reflected on the contributions of one of the country’s six peoples, while urging greater unity among Guyanese.

This observance of the 164th anniversary of the arrival of the Chinese was announced earlier this month by President David Granger and according to Minister Norton, it was a significant move given the substantial contributions the Chinese have made to the country since their arrival on January 12, 1853. Norton noted that it is vital that these contributions be acknowledged in order to ensure

Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George Norton
Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George Norton

that a unified country is fostered while preserving the Chinese culture.

During the entire period 1853 to 1879, a total of 13,541 diverse Chinese landed in Guyana, bringing with them various religions, different languages and varying beliefs, he added. The Social Cohesion Minister continued that the Chinese came as the smallest group of indentured labourers and were distributed to the sugar plantations in the three counties of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo. Fortunately, he noted, families were kept together in the distribution.

“Engrained neatly in the fabric of the Guyanese society are contributions by Chinese that include the tasty cuisine that continues to be popular in Guyana and which is talked about in many other countries; folklore and the language which continues to be spoken by natives and is even taught here at the Confucius Institute.

The Chinese were astute businessmen who operated grocery stores and were druggists, butchers, hucksters, cart and boat cab owners, barbers and laundrymen, among other things. Their contribution to commerce can still be seen today with various businesses across the country,” the Minister outlined.

He reminded too of the contributions that the Chinese made to the development of sport in Guyana, mentioning the Chinese Sports Club, now known as the Guyana Motor Racing and Sports Club (GMRSC).

Dr Norton recalled that among the sporting disciplines of the club were cricket, tennis, basketball and hockey, noting that the club shone in the latter sport back in 1961 when eight of its members were selected to tour with the national hockey team which won the first and only Quadrangular Hockey Tournament among British Guiana, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados. The club went on to have the leading hockey team in Guyana, winning all the hockey tournaments in 1974, he added.

Furthermore, the Social Cohesion Minister remarked that the Chinese have been fully integrated into the Guyanese society and have been able to excel in virtually every area, including in academia, the legal and medical fields. He mentioned some notable Guyanese Chinese which include the first President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the late Arthur Chung; former Chief Justice Ian Chang; entrepreneur Stanley Ming; General Surgeon, Dr Wallace Lee, and Mathematician Claude Lee.

“Chinese, like all other ethnic groups in Guyana, must be recognised for their sterling contributions and must be integrally involved in every aspect of building our beautiful country. Guyana is commonly referred to as the land of six peoples, owing to our rich ethnic diversity, but we must remember that we are one people, in one nation, working towards one destiny. As we celebrate the arrival of Chinese in Guyana, let us use this time to reflect on our rich diversity and pledge to work together to foster and promote social cohesion,” urged Dr Norton.

According to the newly appointed Social Cohesion Minister, his Ministry has a vision of a unified Guyana where diversities are embraced, conflicts are resolved, networks and collaboration with stakeholders strengthened and decision-making processes result in equal opportunities and benefits to all.

He noted that his Government will continue to work towards creating enabling environments to forge and reinforce strong family, community, national values and relationships, in order to enhance and sustain socio-economic, cultural and spiritual well-being as well as enriched livelihoods for all.

“While I may have only recently assumed office as the Minister of Social Cohesion, I wish to take this opportunity to assure all Guyanese that I will ensure that the Ministry fulfils its mandate and that we build a socially cohesive society. However, we cannot do this alone, and we have engaged and will continue to engage Guyanese in order to foster and promote social cohesion. Persons must be cognisant that this is a continuous process and social cohesion will not be attained overnight,” he posited.

On this note, Minister Norton asked that there continue to be cooperation in order to build a Guyana where all Guyanese, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, geographic location, cultural beliefs, ability or socio-economic backgrounds have the best life possible, as he extended Chinese Arrival Day greetings to all of Guyana.