Trinidad and Tobago’s Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar said while the restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are necessary, “thousands of people are unable to earn an income and care for their families”.
In a message to mark Indian Arrival Day on Monday, Persad Bissessar, the leader of the United National Congress, said just as “our forefathers united to overcome challenges and build a nation, we must work together now to bring the COVID-19-19 crisis under control”.
She said on the 176th anniversary of the arrival of the first East Indian immigrants to Trinidad and Tobago, the population is also reminded of their courage and resilience in a time of great uncertainty.
“Having braved the perilous journey, our forefathers suffered great hardship upon their arrival to our shores. They persevered and held on to their religious beliefs, culture and traditions, which were passed on through generations. In spite of the harsh conditions and experience of indentureship, the majority of Indians who came to Trinidad and Tobago chose to make this country their home,” said Persad Bissessar, the first woman of Indian descent to lead a government in Trinidad.
She said that the indenture system lasted for over 70 years, ending in 1917, and just a year later, our country, along with the rest of the Caribbean was ravaged by an influenza pandemic, with the Indian immigrant population and the poor and indigenous populations being particularly hard-hit.
“Today, our nation is once again in the throes of a pandemic, this time because of a novel coronavirus – COVID-19. While we have the benefit of advances in technology, equipment, and health care, the poor and vulnerable in our society are severely impacted in many ways.
“The restrictions that are in place, while necessary to curb the spread of the virus, mean that thousands of people are unable to earn an income and care for their families. There is a need for greater protection of the poor and vulnerable at this time,” she said.
Persad Bissessar said that “today we can draw inspiration from our East Indian forefathers and all others who made this nation their home as they looked out for each other, and worked together to build communities. Let us follow their example and work together to overcome this crisis that we are facing.
“Indian Arrival Day serves as a reminder of the diverse beauty of our nation as individuals of different cultures all united to build our nation. The people of Trinidad and Tobago are resilient, and I am confident that together, we can rebuild and emerge stronger than before, and realize our vision for our nation.”