May 5 has been designated Arrival Day to recognise and celebrate the contributions made by our ancestors, particularly Indians, Portuguese and Chinese, to our national development. The day has been declared a national holiday by the previous PPP/C administration.
To say that our ancestors made a contribution to our national development is an understatement. Indeed, the foundation of modern day Guyana was laid by the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors, who toiled under difficult and inhuman conditions to create a society in which we are proud.
As we celebrate Arrival Day, we should spare a moment to reflect on the state of race relations in Guyana today and what role we can play, both individually and collectively, to create a peaceful and harmonious society as our ancestors would have envisaged. I have always held the view that despite our political and cultural differences, we are generally a peaceful and cohesive society. There exists a fair degree of racial and cultural tolerance which speaks well to our maturity and multiculturalism.
A careful look at present day Guyana would reveal an interesting mix of cultures which further adds to our diversity. I refer to the significant numbers of Cubans, Brazilians, Chinese and Venezuelans, many of whom come to shop and do business. Many, for one reason or the other, have opted to make Guyana their new home. The Chinese in particular, have now established themselves in the business sector and in some ways are playing a dominant role in the commercial and construction sectors. They have moved beyond the ‘Chinese fried-rice’ shops and have now become part of the mainstream business sector.
All of this, I believe, is good for Guyana. The growth of industry and commerce is facilitated by a surge in purchasing power facilitated by the influx of foreign shoppers, in particular, Cubans, whose presence in the shopping centres of Guyana cannot go unnoticed.
I thought of making the above observations to highlight the point that our country is evolving to higher levels of diversity and multiculturalism. This development is not unique to Guyana and should be embraced and facilitated to the extent possible by the relevant authorities. With the anticipated oil economy in the foreseeable future, the number of foreigners coming to our shores is likely to increase even further.
I salute all our ancestors and their descendants on the occasion of Arrival Day. Our country is better off for your contributions in creating a cultural masterpiece for which we are all proud.