Indian Arrival Breakfast Meeting
Photo : Jai Sears chats with Pandit Karan Nancoo
A breakfast meeting was hosted by the Indo-Caribbean Cultural Centre (ICCC) on Indian Arrival Day to mark the 172nd Anniversary of Indian Arrival in Trinidad (1845-1917). Chaired by ICCC chairman and founder Dr Kumar Mahabir, the informal meeting was attended by professionals, social and cultural promoters and other distinguished personalities. Among the guests were Pandit Dr Rampersad Parasram, Chairman of Indian Diaspora Council of Trinidad and Tobago; Dr Kirk Meighoo, Political Leader of DNA; Karan Nancoo, President of GOPIO; Pandit Mukram Sirju and Dr Mandraka Bahal. Special guest was Jai Sears, a Guyanese businessman and cultural activist now residing in Grenada.
The conversations took place at the Chaguanas Borough Corporation on Tuesday May 30th 2017. It focused on the actions that Indians could take in their struggle for social justice and ethnic equality in Trinidad and Tobago.
Driven by a mix of past grievances and future plans, the discussion went smoothly with each person given the opportunity to share their views on the future of the Indo –Caribbean community. The common objective was to work towards building a stronger bond among social and cultural activists.
Mahabir stated that while the economic, educational and professional success of Indians has been lauded, there was also the need to recognise social issues such as suicide, alcoholism, diabetes and heart diseases and address them. Members also lamented the absence of Indian business in insurance, banking, media and manufacturing. Everyone agreed that it was a myth that Indians control the private wealth.
Meighoo emphasised the need for Indians to identify specific projects and execute them in groups of four or five members. He suggested that a specialist body be established to gather scientific data on social issues. He cautioned that without scientific data it would be difficult to implement successful policies and programmes.
Sears expressed concern that Indians were not proportionately represented in the armed and defence forces in Trinidad and Guyana. He said that parents and teachers should encourage students to join the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. A Guyanese by birth, Jai Sear fled Guyana when his house was raided by bandits. “Without a presence in the armed forces, Indians in Trinidad and Guyana would always be at the mercy of Africans,” he cautioned.
It was noted that there was only one Muslim and one Hindu among twenty-four (24) ministers in the present government. Various forms of discrimination and injustices against Indians were also discussed. One example was the token State funds granted to commemorate Indian Arrival Day compared to grants given for Emancipation Day.
Mahabir advised the participants that if they felt aggrieved, they should file a request for data through the Freedom of Information Act. If any discriminatory evidence is found, the accuser could lodge a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission which would then conduct legal action against the offending party.
Parasram advised all Indians should rally around the single political leader so that there will be no split votes. He reminded the meeting that when there is unity there is always victory. Parasram took time to share with friends the sacrifices and hard work of many to launch and build the United Nation Congress.
Participants were informed that a free online Indian cultural newspaper will be launched soon and a forum will be organised to highlight writers, artists and film makers.