* President joins thousands at IAC Mela 2006
THE CROWD AT THE MELA
Head of State President Bharrat Jagdeo made this observation Sunday evening at the Indian Arrival Committee’s (IAC) Cultural Mela and Family Fun Day attended by thousands at the National Park.
May is the month when most immigrants came to Guyana as indentured labourers. The East Indians came on May 5, 1838 and comprised the largest group.
The culture that was brought to Guyana by the East Indians, the President said, is not just about singing and dancing.
“Don’t think it is about the singing and dancing only. There is a serious nature to our culture…we celebrate here with singing and dancing, but in the philosophy brought to our country, there is struggle and perseverance; and in difficult times we must demonstrate those characteristics,” the President urged.
He urged Guyanese not to be fearful, even though a few groups in society are bent on creating fear through violence.
“If we allow them to succeed, then future generations would judge us harshly,” President Jagdeo said, adding that Guyanese should not “allow fear to paralyse us. If our fore-parents did that, we would not have been here today to celebrate.”
The President urged that strength be drawn from fore-parents, since they persevered despite coming here under harsh conditions.
The Head of State also cautioned the younger generation to never be narrow-minded and at all times to respect other people’s culture, since each group in multi-religious, ethnic and cultural Guyana must be allowed to celebrate their legacy as a proud people. He also urged that respect be shown at all times to elders in society.
“If we pay attention to our elders and value our children, we will be living up to the rich culture brought to this land,” he said.
The Head of State stressed the importance of family, noting that Guyana would not be a success if it focuses solely on building the economic, social and security aspects, and neglect the family.
Indians in those days, like many others of different races who came, were deprived of a basic education and endured conditions that led to ill health. To be employed under the colonial rule, Muslims and Hindus had to convert to Christianity.
Additionally, as was illustrated in 1910, people had to meet two criteria before they were allowed to vote: literacy and an income above 300 pounds per annum. As a result, only 188 of 4104 Indians, who were the majority of the population, were allowed to vote.
It was only in 1953 that education and income level did not matter any more, with the introduction of Universal Adult Suffrage, “something that we fought for, for every Guyanese once they reached that voting age.”
And this was not only for people of Indian descent, because those of African descent faced hard conditions too, through colonialism and slavery,” the President said.
At the Mela, the President visited various booths which sold many dishes, including Indian traditional dishes. He also met large sections of the crowd and visited the children at the game stations.
The event featured an extensive cultural programme that included dances by a troupe from India and others several local Mandirs.
IAC first celebrated its Mela in 2003, an event which has since grown bigger.
It is usually celebrated around Arrival Day, first observed in 2004 to honour the arrival of Chinese, Portuguese and East Indians to Guyana’s foreshores, all in the month of May.