'Guyanese should return to spirit of the 1950s'
-- President Jagdeo at Indian Immigration Day ceremony
-- President Jagdeo

by Stacey Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
May 6, 2000

GUYANESE should return to the spirit of the 1950's when there was unity amongst the races who worked together for the common good of the country, President Bharrat Jagdeo urged yesterday.

"History shows that when we work together as one people of different religions and races, we achieve most," he told the gathering at the ceremony yesterday to mark the 162nd anniversary of the arrival of East Indians in Guyana. As is now traditional, the anniversary ceremony was held at the Indian Monument Gardens, Church and Camp Streets, Georgetown.

"Look at the spirit of the 1950s, which is often spoken about, when the major races of this country were together against the common enemy of colonialism. We see that those struggles were the most productive struggles and they resulted in us gaining Independence. That was when our people worked together," the President said.

Mr Jagdeo further emphasised that Guyanese need to celebrate their diversity rather than prey on others through the media, propagating violence.

"Every single day we have people within our society and in sections of the media who prey on our people. We have hate speeches and racism being propagated every single day. And this has no place in a country like ours, where we have many people from different places. We all share one thing - a common country, common people, and we are Guyanese before everything else," the youthful Head of State reasoned.

The President described the arrival of East Indians here, to this unknown destination in 1838, as pioneers and risk-takers, two key characteristics which the Indo-Guyanese has maintained.

"Risk-taking is very important for entrepreneurship, and the pioneering spirit which led them to leave those shores in unknown circumstances, has given them the courage to work hard in Guyana to carve out a niche in this country for themselves, and to make an indelible mark on the development of this country in every sphere of activity," President Jagdeo noted.

Over 162 years, the President said, the Indian immigrants gave a lot to the building of this country, "not only by their contributions but by their many sufferings and tribulations".

"There is no reason why Guyana cannot be a prosperous place. And (about) this division we have, let's find some common accord and move together into the future, for without it, we're going to be lost. We've got so much to offer in this nation of ours, yet, we are so far behind. There is a lot of catching up to do," the Head of State urged.

He remarked that Indians in Guyana have excelled significantly in various fields.

"I do not need to enumerate the different fields they (Indians) have excelled in. Just looking here, you can see the distinguished Guyanese," the President observed.

He added that the arrival of Indians to Guyana was rather significant, since they set the tone for another feature experienced in society today, which is "a strong display of tolerance for religion, and for people of different religions".

"...and these are some of the features that are key to the success of Guyana - risk-taking, entrepreneurship, pioneering activities and tolerance and understanding of peoples' cultures especially in a multicultural society like ours".

"I am extremely proud, as I am sure many of you are, to be a descendant of those people who left India 162 years ago. As a Guyanese my history does not start 162 years ago, as a Guyanese my history is also the history of the Amerindian people of this country, it is of the forest settlers, of the African slaves who were forced to come to this country, and the Indians and other groups who came here.

"That's our history as Guyanese people. While we must be extremely proud of our connections with India and our Indian ancestry, we are Guyanese, and for me that is very important," President Jagdeo pointed out.

He encouraged those who have worked in the cultural arena to keep alive that spirit which came with the foreparents to continue to work to foster this climate in the country.

"We should take a lesson from our foreparents. They came well-equipped for a society that they founded themselves. They came with an entrepreneurial spirit, willing to take risks in unknown circumstances. They came as pioneers and worked as pioneers. They came without knowing what discrimination was, and they came with that feeling of tolerance and we should all work towards that," the President appealed.

He said with an air of confidence that Guyana has a bright future, and he urged the politicians to work together for the common good of the country and its people.

Also in attendance at the ceremony were: Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr. Prakash Joshi; Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud, who is also Minister of Agriculture; Mr. Yesu Persaud, leading businessman and Chairman of the Indian Commemoration Trust; and Mr. Patrick Dyal and Mr. Tota Mangar, University of Guyana lecturers and members of the Indian Commemoration Trust.