Trinidad and Tobago has the largest group of indentured labourers in the region, after Guyana, with over 44 per cent of the Indian Diaspora making up the national populace. As we observe the 167th anniversary of the arrival of the first East Indians here on May 30, 1845. East Indians came here principally from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to rescue the failed agricultural capacity, notably sugar cane, cocoa and coffee. The first East Indian Arrival Day took place on May 30, 1945, at Skinner Park, San Fernando, at which messages were read by the then acting Governor of Trinidad and Tobago representing the Government of the United Kingdom. Messages of goodwill came from Mahatma Gandhi, who ironically, had fought hard against the East Indian indenture system. Local dignitaries included Timothy Roodal, George Fitzpatrick, Adrian Rienzi Cola and Muri Kirpalani.
Today, T&T remains a nation of cultural diversity, to which East Indians have made significant contributions. It is always heart-warming to see the population of T&T joining, participating, supporting and celebrating the many religious and cultural presentations, namely like Carnival, Panorama, Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr, Phagwa and Christmas. Trinidad and Tobago's first prime minister, Dr Eric Williams, said on August 31, 1962, that there was no mother India, no mother Africa, no mother Lebanon. There is only one mother- mother Trinidad and Tobago. As T&T celebrates Indian Arrival Day tomorrow, we must use it as an opportunity to encourage the participation of shared values. All peoples must work toward the promotion of our citizenship, at all levels of the society. Let us pay homage to our East Indian ancestors on this day. Have a happy and safe East Indian Arrival Day.