President hails contributions of Indians; says Guyana is richer ‘culturally’

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President David Granger today applauded the contributions of Indian indentured immigrants and their descendants to the building of Guyana, as he noted that the country is now richer, culturally, socially and politically because of these contributions.

The President was at the time speaking at the observance of the 180th anniversary of the arrival of East Indian Immigrants to Guyana, which was held at Plantation Highbury, East Berbice-Corentyne, Region Six, organised by the Berbice Indian Cultural Committee (BICC).

In his address, the President noted that while this day is generally recognised as ‘Arrival Day’ to commemorate the arrival of the Indians, Portuguese, Chinese and Europeans to what was then British Guiana, it is a day to celebrate East Indians and the contributions that they have made to the nation.

President David Granger and First Lady, Sandra Granger with these little ones [Ministry of the Presidency photo]
The Head of State noted that Indian indentured immigrants played an important role in the transformation of the economy.

“They turned their indentureship into citizenship. From an economic point of view, Indians helped to transform the country that they adopted, what was then British Guiana.

“Indian skills in paddy and vegetable-farming, coconut-cultivation and cattle-rearing; and their skills as boatmen, charcoal-burners, goldsmiths, fishermen, hucksters, milk and sweetmeat vendors, shopkeepers and tailors enriched the entire economy. These are skills they brought from their homelands. All of these skills enriched the Guyanese society. We are richer now with Indian immigration.”

The President noted that East Indians also helped to transform their own lives and the lives of other immigrants who came to British Guiana, through their resistance to abuse, brutality, confinement, and domination of plantation life.

“Their resistance included riots and strikes and many of them were killed.   Indians, while a docile people, stood up for their rights and by standing up for their rights, they helped to preserve the rights for future generations and people like Dr. Joseph Latchmansingh was the head of the Union that struck on the East Demerara that ended up with the shooting of the sugar workers.

“In other ways, the political footprint of Indian Guyanese was made more prominent and other Berbicians like Joseph Luckhoo was the first Indian elected to the Combined Court. He was followed by E.A. Luckhoo, A.E Seeram and J.B. Singh, Peer Bacchus, C. R. Jacob, A.M. Edun and, later, Dr. Cheddi Jagan and others,” the President said.

President David Granger addressing the gathering. [Ministry of the Presidency photo]
Meanwhile, President Granger noted that this year also commemorates the 100th birth anniversary of Dr. Cheddi Jagan, the son of Indian indentured immigrants.

He said that Dr. Jagan’s contribution is perhaps the most outstanding of Indo Guyanese in the struggle for national liberation.

“From a political point of view, Indians were able to make Guyanese and preserve the rights of Guyanese and the contributions that they made have been able to make the lives of all Guyanese more dignified,” the Head of State noted.

Chairman of East Berbice-Corentyne (Region Six), Mr. David Armogan, in his remarks noted that Arrival Day serves as a sharp reminder to all Guyanese that social cohesion cannot be taken for granted and that a cohesive state is the most fitting homage and the best tribute that Guyanese can pay to their ancestors.

The first batch of Indians arrived in Guyana 180 years ago to work as indentured immigrants on the sugar plantations. Almost 240,000 Indians came to Guyana between 1838 and 1917, the year in which indentured immigration was finally abolished. (Extracted and modified from Ministry of the Presidency)

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