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It’s Mela time again – A Happy 170th Anniversary on the occasion of Indian Arrival to Guyana

All roads lead today to Anna Regina Community Centre Ground
GUYANA will once again pulse with the sights, sounds, and scents of a culture that is distinctly Eastern in flavour as the Indian Arrival Committee (IAC) prepares to treat the nation to a series of festivities known simply to all and sundry as The Grand Cultural Melas.

These Melas, which are three in number, will be the highlight of a month-long programme of events, beginning today, to mark the coming of peoples of the Indian race to these hallowed shores.

And like those of 2004, 2006 and 2007, the Grand Cultural Melas of 2008 will have an international dimension to it with the participation of the Bhojpuri Folk and Dance Troupe led by MsManjulaDiwakar and comprised of 11 persons including four female dancers, three specialist musicians, two singers, one compeer (master of ceremonies) and one liaison officer.

This is the third such group to visit Guyana in the last five years, the first being the Bhojpuri Folk Troupe led by ACP M Singh in 2004, and the Surangama Troupe led by DrPushpa Prasad in 2007.

In 2005, the IAC introduced an award to honour outstanding Guyanese of Indian ancestry for their invaluable contributions to the development of Guyana. IsahackBasir, Isaac Sankat, LiloutieBhookmohan, MoharajieSewcharan (Jagmohan) and Nizam Rajab were honoured for their contributions to community development; Pita Pyaree, Ayube Hamid, and the late LaxhmiKalicharran and Gobind Ram for theirs to culture; Patrick Dyal and TotaMangar for theirs to education; SattaurGafoor and Dr Bobby Ramroop for business; ShriPrakashGossai for his in the field of religion; and the late SatyadeowSawh for his selfless contributions in the field of diplomacy and in government. This year will see five more persons being honoured by the IAC.

During the launching of the Melas at the Sizzling Platter Restaurant last Sunday, the IAC inaugurated its special magazine titled ‘KalAajAurKal’ which means ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’.

Edited by noted custodian of Guyanese literature, PetamberPersaud, this magazine, which will be issued annually, highlights the work of the IAC in the fields of culture, education and social work. Photographs of activities from previous Melas, and IAC-led outreaches and plays, which latter were staged at the National Cultural Centre in 2006 and 2007, are liberally interspersed with articles by PetamberPersaud, Evan RadhayPersaudMisra, TotaMangar, the late DrCheddiJagan, NeazSubhan, AdityaPersaud and Raymond Chikrie.

The first of this year’s Grand Melas will be held today at the Anna Regina Community Centre Ground; followed by a second at the National Park here in Georgetown next Sunday; and a third the following day, May 5, which just so happens to be Arrival Day and a national holiday, at the Albion Sports Complex in Berbice. Admission to all three events is $200 for adults. Children will be admitted free of charge. Gates open from 14:00hrs. No alcohol allowed.

In the six years of its existence, the IAC has consistently pursued works related to its cultural, educational and social foci and will continue to do so in the years ahead. Since its inception, the organization has made monetary donations to a number of needy causes, including persons that are seriously ill and in need of urgent treatment; the aged who are either bed-ridden or blind; some whose houses were destroyed by high winds; and young artistes. The IAC has made visits and presentations to orphanages, and members regularly perform at wake houses whenever the occasion arises.

The IAC is proud also of the fact that it was the only organisation to present statistical data before a Special Parliamentary Committee on the Age of Consent Bill. The IAC argued strongly for the Age of Consent to be increased to 16 from 13 and was rewarded when the National Assembly decided to accede to its wishes.

The IAC, which came into being in 2003, is also proud of its application to the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) in September 2003 which advanced that the publication titled ‘The Cycle of Racial Oppression in Guyana’ authored by Dr Kean Gibson, a Guyanese-born lecturer at the University of the West Indies, peddled and spread racial hatred in Guyana between its principal ethnic groups. In the considered view of the ERC, following public hearings between April 14, 2004 and May 17, 2004, the work must be regarded as wholly lacking in academic character and as representing nothing further than the personal views, unfortunately distorted and regrettably prejudiced, of a private individual; views that display no grounding in reality and cannot in good faith be advanced by any ethnic group as a basis for position or argument in public or political debate.

The IAC made a submission to the Disciplined Forces Commission in 2003, based on the statistical analysis of data acquired during four public consultations and is concerned that many of these recommendations have not yet been implemented.

While it is appropriate to celebrate the Arrival of Indians, we cannot lose sight of the fact that what we have in Guyana today is the cumulative experience and work of all who came to this country, including the native people, or Amerindians, that were already here thousands of years.

It is necessary for every Guyanese to realise and be reminded constantly that building a multi-ethnic country like Guyana proceeds from the recognition that each group brought something here and the secret, therefore, to nation building is unity and working together.

The IAC wishes to state that the fundamental lesson for all Guyanese is that by working together a great nation can be built.

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