Hon. Basdeo Panday: International Indigenous Gathering 2000.

Remarks At The Launching Of International Indigenous Gathering 2000.
Speaker: Hon. Basdeo Panday, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Date: 29th June 2000
Venue: Carib Community Centre
Occasion: The Launching Of International Indigenous Gathering 2000.

The Honourable Basdeo Panday
Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago
1995-2000, 2000-2001

My Dear Friends:

I am delighted to be here.

You have honoured me by inviting me to visit your Community and take part in this very important event.

My Dear Friends;
My Brothers and Sisters of the Carib Community;
My Brothers and Sisters of the National Family of Trinidad and Tobago:

For one week, this August, from the 25th to the 30th, Amerindians from across the Caribbean, and from North, Central and South America, will assemble here in Trinidad and Tobago for the International Indigenous Gathering 2000.

A week before that gathering of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, Scholars from all over the world will gather here in Trinidad and Tobago for the World Hindu Conference - 2000.

During the week preceding that gathering of Hindu Scholars from all over the world, another related landmark event will take place here in Trinidad and Tobago.

That event will be the International Conference on Asian Migrations to the Americas, which will be organised by the Department of History of the University of the West Indies.
Last August, as you may recall, prominent Orisha Leaders from all over the world gathered here in Trinidad and Tobago for the Sixth World Congress of Orisha Tradition and Culture.

My Dear Friends:
In no other country of the world will this unique confluence of cultures take place. This conjuncture of cultures is a timely reminder of who we really are and what our beloved country is all about.

Today, at this moment, we stand on land that was the land of the ancestors of our hosts, the members of the Santa Rosa Carib Community.

This land was their land; Then came the colonizers from Europe.

The indigenous peoples of the Americas were the first victims of Europe’s colonizers.

The first nations were the first to be colonized in the Americas.

Not only did the colonizers seize the land - and the resources on these lands - they were guilty of a serious libel against the indigenous people of our islands, whom they described as savages; and in certain instances, as cannibals.

My Dear Friends:
Given what has gone before, it was inevitable that in these times of rising consciousness, the Caribs of the Caribbean would call for recognition and respect.

Such a call has come from the Caribs of our country; the people who are assembled here, not the beer.

By the way, it is not surprising that in some quarters there is rising demand for a strong and sustained assertion that a Carib is not a Beer.

I fully support the call for Trinidad and Tobago to recognise and respect its first people, the Caribs.

The call for recognition of the Carib presence in our country deserves positive responses from the Government and from the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

I give the commitment, now, that I will pursue the actions necessary to ensure that in accordance with the wishes of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, October 14th be designated a "Day of Recognition" to celebrate the Carib Community in our Republic.

Let me stress that the Carib Community has not petitioned for a Public Holiday.

The members of the Community have simply asked that this country give recognition and respect on a special day to its indigenous people, its first immigrants.

My Friends:
We must, of course, go beyond giving recognition to our Carib Community for one day. We must recognise that this place was their space long before the other people who came before Columbus, as well as those who came after, those who came from India, from Africa, and from Europe included.

The Caribs have petitioned the Government for the grant of State Lands for the establishment of a Carib Village, together with land for the establishment of a Carib Forest Reserve.

I support those aims, in principle.

I have asked that the competent agencies of Government treat this request with due diligence and with due despatch.

There can be no guarantees that the parcel of land that has been identified will be available.
Nor can there be any guarantee as to the amount of land that may be available.

I am, however, committed to working to ensure that our Carib Community should have land on which to locate an ancestral home.

There can be no objection to the grant of ceremonial lands to our Carib brothers and sisters.

Our brothers and sisters whose ancestors trace their roots to Africa and to India have already been so favoured.

Brothers and Sisters:
As I said at the beginning of my remarks, this August, will bring to Trinidad and Tobago a unique confluence of cultures, Amerindians, Hindus, Asians.

They will gather here from lands near and afar, in a land that they see to be a legitimate incubator for diversity.

In some ways, in certain senses, Trinidad and Tobago is as much a crucible of diversity as it is an incubator.

But to our great and widely envied credit, we, you and I, here in Trinidad and Tobago, we have forged a union between differing cultures, differing races, differing creeds that, without our recognising it, has made our nation a Mecca for immigrant groups of many a Diaspora.

This reality should force upon us the consciousness that no one group should ever be permitted dominance over any other group, irrespective of the origins or circumstances of such groups.

My Friends:

The theme selected for the International Indigenous Gathering could well apply all three international conferences that will take place here in August.

"Many Places; One People."

What an apt description of how our nation has been fashioned.

My Brothers and Sisters:
It is easy for us to take these things for granted.

It is easy for us to be directed by the powerful organs that shape popular mood, thought, attitudes.

Imagine, for instance, being enjoined by a national newspaper, in its considered corporate opinion, that existing legal barriers to obscenity in the performance arts be removed.

Would such licence extend to the Savannah Stage, to MOBS 2? Where will the licence end? This call for licence and licentiousness comes as the Ministry of Education is working with the nation’s educators and with our religious bodies to re-frame the syllabus to place new emphasis on religious values, on values in education.

Where will there begin a concomitant responsibility with entitlement?

But back to the business of the day; the call for a place in the sun from voices that have been muted throughout the millennia.

It is estimated that man - and woman, let me add - first arrived in the new world 20 to 35 millennia before Columbus came.

That first wave of immigrants, came, we are told, from Asia.

It is our obligation to work to ensure that our aspiration, our commitment, our belief that every creed and race should find an equal place should embrace those whose ancestors came before Columbus, as well as those who have come since.

We must, also, ever be grateful that here in Trinidad and Tobago, we have been truly blessed in having such a confluence of cultures, while successfully avoiding any serious clash, because of those cultures.

We have, so far, respected the diversity which defines our society.

Consider that the Orishas and the Hindus and the Asians and the Amerindians have chosen to gather here in our country in international congress.

This is a statement of profound eloquence.

It is a statement to which we must give enduring recognition.

Trinidad and Tobago has every reason to pride itself as a model nation of the new millennium.

We are a model nation where, from many places, we have come to dwell together as one people.

My Dear Friends:
On this occasion, during the Santa Rosa Celebrations, during the week of August 25th to August 30th, and on November 14th, it will be fitting that Trinidad and Tobago concedes to its Carib citizens the position that should never be denied them, that they are our nation’s first people.

Ladies and Gentlemen; My Dear Friends:
My Brothers and Sisters:
I trust that the business community will give meaningful support to the initiatives of the Carib Community to define a presence in their homeland.

I assure you that the support of the Government will be readily given. I look forward to welcoming our Amerindian Brothers and Sisters and First Peoples from around the globe to the International Gathering of Indigenous peoples, in the fourth week of August.

I trust, that as a prelude to that gathering, our entire nation will embrace as our beloved brothers and sisters, the members of the Carib Community of Trinidad and Tobago.

Thank you for inviting me.
May God Bless you all.

"Patria est communis omnium parens" - Our native land is the common parent of us all. Keep it beautiful, make it even more so.

Blessed is all of creation
Blessed be my beautiful people
Blessed be the day of our awakening
Blessed is my country
Blessed are her patient hills.

Mweh ka allay!