Jahaji bundle kept us
By SEAN DOUGLAS Saturday, May 31 2014
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GOPIO gift: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar wears a shawl presented to her as a gift by GOPIO delegates who she, along with Minister of National...
PENNILESS indentured labourers who left India from as far back as 169 years ago had their lives sustained in Trinidad and Tobago by holy books carried in their humble jahaji bundles, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has said.
On Wednesday, at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, the Prime Minister addressed delegates of a recent conference in Trinidad held by the group, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO).
She said when East Indians first arrived in TT, they had no traveller’s cheques nor wire-transfers, but instead over the years were sustained by the Koran and the Gita brought over with them.
“Our forefathers left with nothing but the books and teachings and a way of life,” she related on the occasion of Indian Arrival Day.
Persad-Bissessar said while many present were children coming out of India, TT’s strength is its very diverse population of peoples from very great nations.
“When I go abroad I represent this land of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said. Quoting former prime minister, the late Dr Eric Williams, she said there is no Mother India, no Mother Africa and the like, but that there is a Grandmother India, Grandmother Africa, Grandmother China, Grandmother Europe and Grandmother Syria/Lebanon.
Persad-Bissessar hailed the origins of the GOPIO delegates present as including Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, US, South Africa, Suriname and India. She thanked GOPIO for holding its conference in TT.
Earlier Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration, Rodger Samuel, hailed GOPIO for its work in promoting human rights and the aspirations of people across the globe. He congratulated the group on its 25th anniversary. GOPIO International president, Ashook Ramsaran, noted the fusion of food, music, religion and culture in TT, and quipped that he felt at home here because a well-known street in Chaguanas bears his family name.
The Prime Minister was later presented with a book, a shawl and a photo of South African icon, the late Nelson Mandela by GOPIO various delegates.