Trinidad and Tobago marks 170 years of Indian arrivals

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, a person of Indian origin, has commemorated the 170th anniversary of the first arrival of East Indians in the island nation, saying that ethnic Indians were a privileged lot.

In her Indian Arrival Day message on Friday, Persad-Bissessar said it was “an honour and privilege” to have influence over the political system, which is strongly guided by that very principle, Trinidad Express reported on Saturday.

“As an advocate for an end to discrimination, I have tried to use my time to ensure that at every step of the way we are increasingly defined by the things that unite us,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Indian Arrival Day, the commemoration of 170 years since the first arrival on local shores of East Indian indentured immigrants, marks “a national occasion that reminds us of the indomitable strength of the human spirit, especially in times of challenges and adversity”, Persad-Bissessar said.

President Anthony Carmona also extended his wishes to the East Indian community.

“East Indian culture is characterised and driven by a deep sense of spirituality.”

“The teachings of Indian holy texts have instilled and embedded in our citizens, positive social values such as humility, respect for elders, sacrifice, hard work and vision,” the president said.

Newly arrived Indian coolies in Trinidad
Newly arrived Indian coolies in Trinidad in 1845

The East Indian diaspora was sourced from the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 and 1917. They were brought here by the then colonial government to rescue the dying agricultural economy following the end of slavery by the British Parliament in 1834.

The first batch of East Indians was the beginning of several journeys amounting to approximately 148,000 East Indians. They brought with them new cuisine, habits, traditions, customs and Hinduism.

The total number of ethnic Indians in Trinidad and Tobago is 625,000 or 34 percent of the entire population.