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Indian Arrival Day celebrated

The Herald, 30 May 2000

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad - Trinidad and Tobago marked Indian Arrival Day Tuesday, with President Arthur Robinson saying while the country was still evolving as a culturally diverse society it had much to offer the world by way of example, as a people who uphold the essential freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. "This enables us to appreciate our differences in a way that we seek to preserve for the good of all of us," he said.

He said it was important to pass on to the younger generations the virtues of understanding, tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of the human mix of the country - Arawak, Carib, African, Indian, Chinese, European, Middle-Eastern and Latin. "The beauty of our beloved country derives from this diversity of our people," the President said.

Trinidadians and Tobagonians are celebrating the 155th anniversary of the arrival here of the first group from India.

Meanwhile, a trade union on Tuesday complained of "new forms of exploitation" of workers, and urged people in the twin-island nation to unite. "In this election year, it is important to remember that what unites us is more significant than what divides us. In fact, we should embrace and enjoy those differences of culture and faith that history has bestowed upon our small country," the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) said in a statement. "Whether we are of Indian or African descent, it was the forces of colonialism and imperialism determined our ancestors' arrival in Trinidad and Tobago."

The union said it was the need for cheap labour that was behind both slavery and its successor system of indentured labour.

The union charged that in many respects little had changed as working people of Trinidad and Tobago, like workers throughout the world, continued to be exploited for the profit of the few. "The old, crude forms of oppression have been replaced by more subtle but equally ruthless exploitation of the multi-national companies and international lending agencies," the union claimed.

The union said that in the Caribbean it had seen several examples of this new domination.

In acknowledging the significance of Indian Arrival Day, the NUGFW said it welcomed the cultural diversity that has enriched the nation. "But we know that if we are to build resistance to the new forms of exploitation, then this can only be done on the basis of unity," it said. "The youth of today, in particular, need to learn from the experiences of their ancestors and build a strong labour movement that can fight for a fairer society irrespective of colour race, religion or creed.