by Dwain Thomas
Minister of Culture and Cooperatives, Hon Brenda Hood, representing Grenada at the Indian Diaspora World Convention 2017 in Trinidad.
It was hosted by the Indian Diaspora Council of Trinidad & Tobago, the National Council of Indian Culture (Trinidad and Tobago), the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago and other stakeholders, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the abolition of Indian Indentureship by the British Parliament’s Defense of India Act.
The convention was held from 17 to 20 March 2017. Grenadian delegates included Shadel Nyack Compton, President of the Indo-Grenada Heritage Foundation and Managing Director of Belmont Estate, and Jai Sears, President of the Indian Cultural Organisation, who presented the Grenada report.
Hosting over 36 speakers from 15 countries including Belize, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and UK under the theme, “Global Indian Diaspora: Charting New Frontiers”, this academic conference provided a forum to discuss the impact of indentureship on the millions of descendants of indentured labourers worldwide and encouraged diasporic scholars, researchers and others to enquire into the challenges and practical possibilities for diaspora peoples in the social, economic, technological, scientific, medical and entrepreneurial fields.
Minister Hood addressed a massive crowd at the opening ceremony held at the National Council of Indian Culture Divali Negar in Chaguanas on last Friday night, and captivated the throngs with a spirited and impassioned speech. Minister Hood extended congratulations on the behalf of Grenada to the Indian Diaspora Council and its partners for marking and celebrating the event. She boldly expressed Grenada’s deep appreciation for the contribution that Indo-Grenadians have made to Grenadian society and recognised the significance of India to Grenada’s history, culture, agriculture and economy. She expressed the government’s gratitude for the very cordial relations shared the Government of India, that has resulted in contributions to capacity building, infrastructural development projects, an ICT Centre of Excellence and Innovation and a Cultural Exchange Programme.
The opening ceremony was a packed programme featuring a fusion of rich cultural performances and dynamic speeches. The art forms demonstrated, such as Indian folk songs, chutney and dance performances, took participants on an artistic journey from 1845 in India to contemporary Trinidad.
Guyana Prime Minister Hon Moses Nagamootoo, Minister of External Affairs, India, Sushma Swaraj and President of the Indian Diaspora Council (Int’l) Ashook Ramsaran, and Chairman of the Indian Diaspora Council (TT) Pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram, the 2 primary organisers, all formed a part of the impressive line-up of speakers.
The highlight of the evening was the featured speech made by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Dr Rowley’s gallant entry into the event, ushered in by a most colourful pageantry of Tassa drum and Moko Jumbie escort was a fitting introduction to a very powerful, and thought-provoking oration.
Prime Minister Rowley compared the perils of slavery and indentureship to the present day Syrian situation, a people presently on the move, in terrible human conditions, resulting in the separation of family members, the displacement of children, and the imposition of devastating emotion scars. He continued, “…when we look at our history, would we look back and ask, are we not proud of our ancestors and would we let them down? We are lucky that we do not have to undergo what they have undergone but instead we are to enjoy what they worked for and what they aspired to.” He commended the academic conference and challenged the organisers and delegates to generate outcomes that would assist Trinidadians to learn more and to be prepared to offer more sensitivity to diasporic people. He offered generous thanks to the Government of India for the strong relations enjoyed with Trinidad that positively impacts trade, diplomacy and several other areas.
The academic conference continued over the course of 4 days and included various activities including the release of new books on the theme of the Indian Identity in the Diaspora, tours to various places of diasporic interest e.g. Indian Caribbean Museum, the Temple in the Sea and the 85-foot Hanuman Murti (sacred statue); and a reception and dinner hosted by the Indian High Commission at India House.