Mayor: Do away with ‘Indian’ Arrival Day
By SASHA HARRINANAN Monday, April 23 2012
PORT-OF-SPAIN Mayor Louis Lee Sing has called on Government to make Indian Arrival Day (May 30) an all-inclusive event by removing the word “Indian” and encouraging the participation of all ethnic groups whose ancestors arrived in TT by boat.
“With the exception of the Caribs, all of our ancestors came here by boat. Whether they came as African slaves, as Indian indentured labourers on the Fatel Razack in 1845 or as Chinese and Syrian labourers...they all reached these shores by boat. So why restrict this public holiday to one group?” Lee Sing asked yesterday.
Citing the genocide of hundreds of thousands of minority Tutsi people by the majority Hutu people in the East African nation of Rwanda in 1994, Lee Sing said TT must work toward true harmony rather than parallel celebrations of different ethnic groups.
“We run the risk of becoming another Rwanda or another Bahrain, if we let existing racial tensions continue. Unity among our people must start with celebrating our common history and heritage, not by highlighting differences in each ethnic or racial group,” Lee Sing said.
The mayor said it was time to return to the original name, Arrival Day, the title given in1994 when the then Government declared May 30 as a public holiday to mark the arrival of the first group of Indian indentured labourers to Trinidad on May 30, 1845. In 1995, the holiday was renamed Indian Arrival Day.
Speaking with Newsday yesterday, Lee Sing said he planned to hold a march on May 30 to highlight the dangers of having separate celebrations for various ethnic groups. “A whole chunk of the population is being excluded by Indian Arrival Day. We owe it to ourselves, to the future unity and ethnic harmony of this country, to change the name to Arrival Day and encourage every group to celebrate their contributions to TT,” Lee Sing declared.
Questioned about the perception that Emancipation Day was geared toward celebrating the end of slavery in TT and therefore also excluded other groups, Lee Sing argued this too should become more inclusive.
“Emancipation Day should not be limited to the African community. While it marks the end of slavery, it should also celebrate the end of indentured labour in this country. While both holidays hold special significance to the Indian and African communities, we have got to find a way to bring our multi-ethnic people together and we should start by renaming some holidays and making others all-inclusive,” Lee Sing stated.