Regional Chairman of Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) David Armogan on Saturday called for Guyanese to put aside their differences and work together for the building of the nation.
He made this call at the celebration of the 180th anniversary of the arrival of the first set of East Indian immigrants to Guyana.
“That is the only way that we will be able to realise the dreams of our foreparents. That is the only way we can pay the greatest to our foreparents by developing the land that they struggled so hard to build for us. Even though they were operating under difficult circumstances, they stuck to their religion, music, food, rituals and were able to hold onto their culture. And that is important for any people because if you lose your culture, you lose it all,” the Chairman told the gathering at Highbury Village, East Berbice – the place where the first set of East Indian immigrants first set foot in British Guiana.
Among those who attending the celebrations was President David Granger, who spoke to the sterling contributions East Indians made to the development of Guyana.
Attending the yearly pilgrimage of Indian descendants to Plantation Highbury, East Bank Berbice, where the first batch of immigrant Indians arrived as indentured labourers on May 5, 1838, President David Granger said as a group, the descendants of East Indians made significant contributions not only to Guyana but the entire world.
He said the immigrants were able to turn challenges into success; these include economic and political success. He said they have also been able to keep their cultural integrity.
“They didn’t come with empty heads and empty hands; they came with cultural, customs and traditions.”
“Today is a day set aside as a national holiday for the persons who arrived; Indians, Chinese, Portuguese and Africans. It also commemorates the single greatest increase in the Guyanese population. “It was an age during which the entire population was revolutionised… Over 340,000 Chinese, Indians, Europeans and Africans came to this country between 1838 and 1917. So during that period, Guyana had a huge surge in population that they were able to transform a string of plantations into the nation that we recognise to as Guyana.”
The President, a historian by profession, said the plantations were transformed by the Indians, Chinese, Portuguese and Africans.
While noting that all of the different groups came to Guyana by ships, the Head of State said, “We are all in this boat together and we will have to make a success of this nation that we have put together.”
On May 5, 1838, the <<<<<MV Whitby>>>>> docked at Plantation Highbury along the Berbice River and 128 Indian natives set foot on the shores of Guyana for the first time.
They were brought to replace the African slaves who had successfully fought to have slavery abolished, forcing the plantation owners to seek alternative forms of labour.
However, they did not initially look at the East Indians.
Although 128 Indians arrived on the <<<<<Whitby>>>>>>, 354 arrived on May 5; a total of 239,000 were shipped to Guyana as indentured labourers. Records indicate that 75,000 went back after the indentureship period.
Among those who attended the event were junior Finance Minister Jaipaul Sharma and Social Cohesion Minister, Dr George Norton.