MESSAGE FROM THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, THE HONOURABLE MRS KAMLA PERSAD-BISSESSAR, SC MP, ON THE OCCASION OF DIVALI, 2023
Sitaram and good day to one and all.
I hope that this year’s Divali holiday finds each of you in good health, happiness, and a true appreciation of the beautiful diversity of our country, where we can all join together to celebrate this very auspicious Hindu festival of lights.
The traditions and religious significance of Divali were brought to our country over 170 years ago, by our East Indian fore parents, during the Indentureship period.
That it has now evolved into a national festival, embraced and celebrated by the majority of citizens, is a testament to Trinidad and Tobago’s global and historic hallmark. And this has always been our unique ability as a diverse people of varying religions and ethnicities to espouse an inspiring type of tolerance, togetherness, and unity that binds us into a beautiful, kaleidoscopic country.
This year, I urge citizens to continue to be exemplars of this tolerance and acceptance, and to keep giving equal importance to all national holidays, regardless of their religious origins.
As we celebrate this year’s Divali holiday, let us also remember that currently, across the globe, millions of people are at war and conflict due to their religious and ethnic differences. Indeed, according to the Geneva Academy’s research, in 2023, there are 114 armed conflicts, including some international wars, taking place in our world.
These include places like: Israel, Palestine, Russia, Ukraine Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, China, Armenia, Mexico, and Colombia.
Trinidad and Tobago therefore shines as a beacon for global tolerance and we must never forego our responsibility to our nation’s children and our future generations to ensure that we continue in this unique, blessed, and inspirational stead.
Yet, sadly, we are not immune from this global trend of violence and brutality. We are currently living in a period of unprecedented runaway crime and violence which has thrown us into a desolate state of fear and persecution for the past few years.
This, along with our current economic challenges, has resulted in a vast majority of our citizens being forced to cope daily with an avalanche of negative emotions: shock, pain, contempt, anger, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness.
Because of this, citizens are now faced with the challenge of finding a way to stay mentally healthy and spiritually whole, and to prevent ourselves from becoming embittered, hate-filled, overly suspicious, and desensitized.
I have always personally coped with such trying times by seeking hope, comfort, and guidance in God’s teachings across all religious divides. And I have often found inspiration in the meaning of Divali.
It is, as you may know, a morality story of Lord Rama’s defeat of the evil demon king Rawan, who had terrorized nations for decades before his defeat.
Related in the ancient Hindu religious scriptures— the Ramayana— Divali’s great lessons are perennially applicable to all places and all periods in history, where, in a nation’s darkest hour, the forces of good, humanity, and God united to overthrow evil, and ensured the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and prosperity over poverty.
This year, Divali has special significance for us here in Trinidad and Tobago.
For, at this very trying time of our nation’s existence, it reminds us that our citizens should be more than ever, inspired to persevere in togetherness and faith.
Indeed, the darkest night of the year is Divali, but that darkness is dispelled and nullified when people throughout the land light thousands of deyas in unison, and provide the universal light of goodness, triumph, and prosperity.
Let us realize that without our continued, beautiful bond of unity, our nation simply cannot progress. The power lies within us—in our hearts, souls, and minds— to preserve the democracy for which our foreparents toiled, and that our children will one day inherit.
And so, I wish to extend my very best wishes to every citizen in our beloved country, and beyond. On behalf of myself, my family, and the United National Congress, I wish you, your families, and loved ones, a very safe and happy Divali.
May Mother Lakshmi’s shower everyone with Her richest blessings, and may you always continue to prosper in Her divine light of happiness and prosperity.
Thank you and Shubh Divali.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition
11th November 2023