I wish to extend greetings to all Guyanese on the occasion of Arrival day 2017. This day has been set aside to celebrate the arrival of all indentured immigrants to Guyana under a system, which has long been described as one of “struggle, sacrifice and resistance.”
The East Indians, Chinese, Portuguese and Africans were brought to British Guiana to work as indentured labourers on the sugar plantations as a result of a void, which was created in the labour force due to the abolition of the dreadful system of African slavery.
British Guiana was the recipient of some 238,907 East Indian immigrants between 1838 and 1917, approximately 32,216 Portuguese between 1835 and 1890, a total of 13,541 Chinese for the entire period of 1853 to 1879 and approximately 13,970 Africans between 1840 and 1860. These four groups have all contributed to the development of Guyana in every sphere and have left behind legacies of cultural traditions, which have moulded Guyana into a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society.
Arrival day is an ideal time for all Guyanese to reflect on and celebrate their country’s rich diversity, which makes us truly unique. It allows us to have a greater appreciation of the struggles of our fore parents, who paved the way for us to live the lives we do today in this beautiful nation.
Many of the persons who came to these wonderful shores were lured by the promise of a better life but were faced with very harsh conditions. We have come a long way as a nation and this is because of the hard work of our fore parents. It is, therefore, our duty to continue their efforts by working together for the betterment of our country.
As we celebrate their arrival, it is an opportune time for all Guyana to be reminded that regardless of their ethnicity, colour, class or creed, they are all equal in value. We must not let ourselves be divided but must resolve to develop greater harmony in our relations with each other.
The Government of Guyana has established the Ministry of Social Cohesion for the purpose of building a more unified country. However, we cannot do this alone, and we have engaged and will continue to engage all Guyanese in order to foster and promote social cohesion.
Every Guyanese has a role to play in the process and we must remember that social cohesion will not be achieved overnight. Let us all continue to work together to ensure that we build a Guyana where all Guyanese, regardless of age, gender, religious beliefs, geographic location, cultural beliefs or socio-economic backgrounds have the best life possible.