168th year of Indian and Hindu Arrival in Jamaica

andrewking0

The month of May marks the 168th year of arrival of Indian indentured immigrants (and Hindu presence) to Jamaica to supply cheap labour to sugar estates. On May 10th 1845, the first group of East Indians landed at Old Harbour Bay in St Catherine with 261 passengers on board. The passengers were immigrants from India who had come to the colony of Jamaica via the S.S. Blundell to work in the sugarcane plantations after the abolition of African slavery. The Indian immigrants spent over 100 days on sea during this dangerous and life changing journey. The immigrants were contracted to work in the sugarcane, rice and banana estates in Westmoreland, Clarendon, St Catherine and St Thomas.

In many ways, they brought India to the Jamaica, indeed it was not without its difficulties due to the cultural differences and no doubt this led to their retention of aspects of their cultural…

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168th year of Indian and Hindu Arrival in Jamaica

The month of May marks the 168th year of arrival of Indian indentured immigrants (and Hindu presence) to Jamaica to supply cheap labour to sugar estates. On May 10th 1845, the first group of East Indians landed at Old Harbour Bay in St Catherine with 261 passengers on board. The passengers were immigrants from India who had come to the colony of Jamaica via the S.S. Blundell to work in the sugarcane plantations after the abolition of African slavery. The Indian immigrants spent over 100 days on sea during this dangerous and life changing journey. The immigrants were contracted to work in the sugarcane, rice and banana estates in Westmoreland, Clarendon, St Catherine and St Thomas.

In many ways, they brought India to the Jamaica, indeed it was not without its difficulties due to the cultural differences and no doubt this led to their retention of aspects of their cultural heritage. They continued with their traditions of Hinduism and Islam.  One major challenge encountered by immigrants in Jamaica was the legality of Hindu and Muslim marriages. Non-Christian unions went unrecognized in Jamaica until 1956.  

Descendants of these Indian immigrants, commemorated the arrival of their ancestors who had crossed three oceans to travel halfway around the world to reach the Caribbean. The commemoration takes the form of music, dances and the annual Roti festival which was held on May 12, 2013 in Chedwin Park Old Harbour.

 

The Government of Jamaica in 1995 proclaimed the Indian Arrival Day May 10 as the Indian Heritage Day in recognition of the Indians’ contribution to the social and economic development of the country. Unfortunately this most auspicious occasion is no long included on the government’s calendar of activities. Historians emphasise the common experience of Africans and Indians under colonial rule, and the links between indentureship and slavery Both Indian Arrival Day and Emancipation Day demonstrate the historical similarities and experience of our people, I therefore beech the Culture Minister Lisa Hanna to reaffirm the 1995 proclamation to protect and preserve our small but rich diversity,

Indian Arrival Day celebrations should serve as an opportunity, not to segregate ethnicity and religion, but more importantly, to allow Jamaicans to experience and participate in our small but rich and historic diversity.   The lack of public edification and interest in protecting and preserving all aspects of our culture have been developed over time as politicians made explicit or implicit effort to isolate the understanding and documenting of minority cultures.

-Andrew King

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ImageEast Indian immigrants prepare rice in Jamaica. 

Jamaica’s trade problems with Caricom

Difficulties encountered by some Jamaican companies wishing to enter certain Caricom markets have attracted outrage and prompted strong-worded responses from our government and the private sector in recent years. But Jamaica’s problems with Caricom are much deeper and cannot be solved with the setting up of Jamaica/Trinidad trade facilitation. The root of the problem goes to the heart of competitiveness and the rules governing the operation of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

Fresh in the mind of Jamaicans is the initial refusal of Jamaican Tastee patties to the T&T market while Trinidad goods enjoyed a US$526.2 million positive trade balance with Jamaica in 2009. Jamaica accuses T&T of providing unfair energy subsidies to its manufacturers, thus giving that country’s manufacturers a huge competitive advantage in trade. T&T manufacturers pay US $0.06 cents a kilowatt while Jamaican manufacturers pay US $0.40 cents. Obviously the high cost of electricity in Jamaica means the consumer will pay a higher price for a product. The anti-Caricom and anti-Trinidad rhetoric being amplified by Jamaican business and some political leaders is growing louder each day. Jamaica continues to struggle with a widening trade deficit with Caricom, nearly US $1. 2 billion. Trinidad’s producers and businesses completely dominate Jamaica’s market, while Jamaican producers and businesses have minimal presence in Trinidad’s market. Jamaica is the largest market in Caricom, importing approximately 30 per cent of intra-regional exports, while it produces less than two per cent of those exports and it does not help that T&T accounts for the bulk of the trade deficit between Jamaica and Caricom. The trade deficit between the two countries is in favour of the twin-island republic and is estimated to be more than US$1 billion a year.

It is widely acknowledged that Trinidad-owned companies in Jamaica make significant contribution to the country’s economy in the form of millions of dollars paid in taxes and the thousand of Jamaicans gainfully employed. Despite the obvious problems, companies from both countries have set up shop—Guardian Holdings, Trinidad Cement Ltd through Carib Cement and Caribbean Airline’s acquisition of Air Jamaica—and on the other hand, Jamaica Money Market Brokers acquisition of TT’s Intercommercial Bank Ltd and Grace Kennedy (among others) are two of Jamaica’s best-known brands in the Trinidadian market. In 2010, then agriculture minister Dr Christopher Tufton accused T&T of using unfair practices to dominate Caricom’s agro-processing sector. Dr Tufton said T&T agro-processors have been using raw materials imported from outside the region and as a result Jamaican producers are not operating on a level playing field, completely ignoring the rules of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. It therefore came as no surprise when the Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton announced in his sectoral presentation to parliament that Jamaica had imposed additional duties on lube oil products from T&T, accusing the oil rich twin-island republic of engaging in a scheme “to circumvent the rules of origin in the Treaty of Chaguaramas, governing the Caribbean Community.”

It is this continuous circumventing of the rules which continue to deprive the treasury of greatly needed revenue; estimated to be as much as J$20 billion in customs duties foregone in 2008. Yes T&T has oil, but we cannot continue to blame Trinidad for our anti-production policies of past governments and our inability to re-tool and actively seek new markets, which has left Jamaica the most uncompetitive economy in the region. Our business and political leaders are so keen on identifying and analysing problems yet we never spend any time on solutions and implementation. While T&T boast per capita income several times greater than ours, the anti-Caricom, anti-Trinidad debate rages on.

http://www.trinidadexpress.com/letters/Jca-trade-problems-with-Caricom-211312781.html http://www.newsday.co.tt/letters/0,179158.htmlImage

Articulated Foreign Policy needed in Jamaica.

In this ever-evolving world, a clearly articulated foreign policy with room for change and adjustment is crucial. International relations and diplomacy are much more than diplomats, ambassadors and travelling. In the Jamaican context, diplomatic relations affect all areas of our lives- trade, investment, industry, tourism, education, culture, development, inter alia, are all linked to our foreign relations.

Does Jamaica have a well articulated foreign policy within the context of international and regional organisations such as CARICOM and the OAS?  As the largest English speaking country in the Caribbean, have we after 51 years articulated and employed a holistic and integrated foreign relations policy?

Individual Caricom countries have found themselves subject to the dictates of external forces for far too long.  Even as a collective, the small size of Caricom countries, their population and markets do not make them powerful, they are able to bargain more strongly together than they can individually. Caricom leaders at the upcoming heads of government meeting in Port of Spain must identify the African, Latin American and Pacific countries as well as Commonwealth nations to enhance and strengthen existing economic and trade relationships and to create new strategic ones which can include joint Caribbean overseas diplomatic missions.

Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade across the region must be more aggressive in its establishments of bilateral ties with more developing countries. Jamaica for example has strong and historic relations with the developed world, but we are lagging behind in establishing investment and trade ties with emerging economies in the Middle East. Our presence on the African and Asian continents is still not yet strong enough.

For more than 50 years, Jamaica has had strong diplomatic and cultural relations with strategic powerhouses like Ethiopia, India and Israel; it is therefore surprising that we don’t have a High Commission or Embassy in either of the said countries to propel Jamaica as the ultimate tourism, cultural, trade and investment destination.

If the Jamaican and Caricom governments recognise the need to attract and inspire global foreign investors, would it not be prudent to adopt a new and integrated approach to foreign, trade and immigration policy planning?

 

However Jamaica and other Caricom countries are moving in the right direction to foster trade and tourism relations by waving visas for some countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe. We must leverage our strengths, inclusive of our strategic locations to do more business with countries like India, Russia, Ethiopia, Israel, Qatar, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, South Korea, Indonesia and South Africa. In this regard, the link between Foreign Policy and Trade Policy is going to be crucial. To support the efforts of the region’s private and manufacturing sector, Caricom leaders should explore the establishment of a Caribbean investment and promotion agency with the right mix of government support and private sector initiative to coordinate and actively seek potential investment for the region. .

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