The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) joins in expressing to all Guyanese best wishes on the occasion of Arrival Day 2019. The day’s observances are yet another reminder of our rich diversity and the unique multi-cultural composition of our nation. Indeed, it adds to the vibrant tapestry of Guyana where people of different backgrounds can co-exist in harmony and unity as they all seek to improve their lives; a goal linked to building our country which will surely augur well for the future generations.
The day is generally associated with the arrival of East Indian indentured servants to our country. At this time too, we also recall those other nationalities who toiled to develop our nation and advance its progress under the indentureship scheme. History has recorded that over 240,000 East Indians arrived on our shores and nearly 31,000 Portuguese, mainly from the island of Madeira, came to our then colony as well. We also recognise that some 13,000 Chinese made the long journey to then British Guiana as well and we are aware too that the colonialists brought labourers from Malta, Ireland, Germany and England.
Arrival Day also reminds us of the reasons for the indentureship system. The then immigrants who replaced the emancipated slaves were made to toil in the fields of the sugar plantations to enrich the foreign owners of the plantations. Indentured labourers and their families were forced to exist in inhumane and atrocious conditions. And, like their compatriots, they were forced to engage in several struggles, which gave us several martyrs, in order to bring about small improvements and meagre benefits in their lives and work conditions.
Today as we celebrate Arrival Day, the GAWU cannot fail to observe that the industry that occasioned our diversity is finding itself in difficult times. We are disheartened to note that the sugar industry, a large source of sustenance for thousands of Guyanese has been significantly minimised. For the workers and their families, the cane farmers, the shop owners, the market vendors, the bus drivers and others, their days are filled with hardship, misery and difficulty. Even worse is that they have been left to fend for themselves as the powers-that-be have largely ignored their plight.
It is disturbing that at this time when our nation celebrates a day set aside to recognise the contributions of the indentured immigrants to our nation that their heirs along with other fellow workers are forced to contend with harrowing circumstances arising from closure and the intended miniaturisation of the sugar industry. It is especially disturbing for the Union that such thoughts were entertained especially when they were unnecessary. Sugar, we reiterate, has all possibilities of success but, among other things, requires the active and material support and confidence of the powers-that-be.
As we celebrate Arrival Day, the GAWU urges all Guyanese to spare a moment to reflect on how far as a people we have come, the challenges we overcame, and the successes we have recorded. At this time, when we ought to be looking to reach new and higher plateaus, we see concerted efforts that will very likely reverse much of the progress we have made and rightly can take pride in. Let us resist such efforts and get back on the developmental track.
GAWU joins with all of Guyana to celebrate Arrival Day.a