As Jamaica begins its transition to a Republic, the country intends to maintain the best of its heritage and culture, says Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte.
The Minister was speaking at the first Indian Diaspora Conference, held on March 26 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
“We intend to preserve the best of our past and present that has made us a stable democracy, while affirming our self-determination and cultural heritage,” she said.
The event, organised by the High Commission of India, featured a photo exhibition and documentary that chronicles the journey of Indian indentured labourers to Jamaica, from 1845 to the present. The Indians were brought by the British to supplement the labour force, which was then enslaved Africans.
Minister Malahoo Forte commended India’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Rungsung Masakui, for hosting the Conference, which, she said, was taking place at a time when Jamaica is embarking on the most comprehensive and consequential constitutional reform work to be undertaken in the nation since the attainment of political independence in 1962.
She said the Conference was also being held when the Government of India has assumed Presidency of the G-20 (Group of 20 countries) and the leading voice for the Global South on the international stage.
Mrs. Malahoo Forte, who spoke on the topic ‘Shaping the India-Jamaica identity’, said her father, who is of Indian descent, had raised her to honour the core Indian values and to be proud of her heritage.
“I think it is these values that help to shape the Indian identity, which was really among the values of respect, respect for self, respect for elders and the love of family,” she added.
The Minister said that she is happy to have been born in a Jamaica, “which constitutionally guarantees all persons the rights of freedom from discrimination on the grounds of being female, on the grounds of race, place of origin, social class, colour, among other things”.
“Let us honour our Indian ancestry. Let us honour our Indian culture and let us live each day with the love and respect we show for each other,” she said.
Discussions at the conference focused on Jamaican-Indian entrepreneurs and business in Jamaica, Jamaican-Indian professionals and their contribution in governance, and the contribution of Indian-Jamaicans to the progress and development of the Jamaican society.