Diaspora conference marks St Vincent’s Indian Arrival Day

NEW YORK, June 3, CMC – The commemoration on Friday of Indian Arrival Day in St Vincent and the Grenadines was “significantly different” this year as an international conference of the Indian Diaspora was held there for the first time, the organiser has said here.

The St Vincent and the Grenadines Chapter of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin International (GOPIO-SVG) said in a statement here that for the first time in St Vincent, there is an International Indian Diaspora Conference, which concludes on Sunday, the statement said. GOPIO is an international organization representing about 25 million people in the Indian Diaspora.

Since 1975, Indian Diaspora Conferences have been held mainly in Trinidad and other larger territories.

A decision was taken to organize one this year in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to coincide with Indian Arrival Day, GOPIO-SVG said.

It said the conference is organized by the GOPIO-SVG in collaboration with the SVG Indian Heritage Foundation, with the support from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

Organisers said participants have come from several countries, including India, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, among them government ministers and diplomats, as well as other high-level officials.

The statement said the conference is jointly organized by Dr. Kumar Mahabir, co-chair of the GOPIO Academic Council and professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), and Dr. Arnold Thomas, GOPIO International Coordinator for the Caribbean.

On Saturday, several panel discussions were held at Murray Heights Hotel in Kingstown, the capital, ranging from topics such as conditions under which Indians came, cultural and religious adaptation, and integration and assimilation.

The participants joined a Seventh Day Adventist Evangelistic Crusade at a special session to recognise the rise of Adventism among Indians in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize.

There will be several activities throughout the month which on June 1 marked the arrival of Asian Indian migrant workers on sugar plantations in the post-slavery 19th century.

Though the bulk of the workers came to Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, smaller numbers of East Indians came to other Eastern Caribbean islands, many of them later as first-generation petty traders.

In celebration of the event, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Indian Heritage Foundation organises an annual re-enactment of the landing of Indians at Indian Bay, just outside Kingstown, followed by a procession to the city’s Heritage Square where patrons feast on Indian cuisine.

Indo-Caribbean people who have made a mark on global culture and politics include the current world number one test batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Trinidadian-American rapper and singer-songwriter Nicky Minaj, top American thoroughbred jockey Rajiv Maragh, Surinamese model and actor Fareisa Joemmanbaks, former Guyanese president Bharat Jagdeo, Canadian politician and physician Hedy Fry and veteran Californian Democratic politican Mervyn Dymally.