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Indian Arrival Day Act passed

Indian Arrival Day Act passed

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June 1st will now be officially recognized in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as Indian Arrival Day. The Bill for an act to provide for official recognition of the dates was passed in parliament on Monday.

In her contribution to the debate, Minister of Culture, the Hon. Rene Baptiste, who moved the motion, related the conditions under which Indians were recruited to St. Vincent, and their lives here. She quoted extensively from research done by Dr. Arnold Thomas, a Vincentian of East Indian descent, and said she was doing so because she wanted to give credit to our local scholars who have taken the time to research and publish their own history and heritage.{{more}}

Also paying tribute to Dr. Thomas was Senator Ronald Marks who said that Thomas had committed himself and his intellect in researching this area. Marks noted that Thomas is now viewed as an expert in the area, and commended him for the wealth of information he has given not only to St. Vincent, but to the region.

Marks, who is of East Indian descent, said he supported the bill with great joy. He commended the government for hearing the cries of its East Indian constituents who struggled for a long time to have the day recognized, and the opposition for supporting the bill.

Opposition Senator St. Claire Leacock applauded the significant contributions made by East Indians to the country, especially bearing in mind their relatively small numbers. He said that even though they experienced great subjugation and exploitation under the system of indentureship, the East Indians kept their objective of amassing wealth in mind, and “in quick time … moved from subjugation to substance.”

Leader of the House, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, also acknowledged the “immense contribution of the people of East Indian descent” to the country, and said that this country owes them a debt of gratitude. Slipping back into his former role as university lecturer, the Prime Minister related that Caribbean people have evolved out of the “cruicible of stuggle”, the result of which is a heterogeneous, homogenous society. The Prime Minister made the distinction between this sort of society and a plural one, which he said would imply that each different racial or cultural section has its own distinct pattern of socio cultural integration. He said here in St. Vincent, the Indians do not have their own distinct pattern of socio cultural integration, nor do the people of African, European, Callinago or Garifuna descent.

Prime Minister Gonsalves disclosed that he had recently offered United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair technical help to assist with the problem of racial disharmony in the UK.

According to Dr. Gonsalves, that problem is covered under the rubric of multiculturalism, but in his opinion, the majority population there has yet to come to terms fully with the minority population. He said that he told Prime Minister Blair that here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we have fashioned whole societies, integrated societies and live peacefully and in tolerance and “no one cultural section, no one racial group, or ethnic entity” uses force to exercise its will.

Present in the House to witness the passage of the bill were members of the Indian Heritage Foundation who expressed their happiness and said that the Act is an acknowledgement of their “rightful place in the hallowed halls of history.”

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