It is most regrettable that Guyanese media makes no mention of or report on the international conference on Indian indentureship held in Trinidad on August 22 and 23 hosted by the National Center of Indian Culture (NCIC) in Chaguanas. It is a historic conference to mark a milestone, the centennial of the official end of Indian indentureship that began in Reunion in 1828, 1834 in Mauritius, 1838 in British Guiana, and other years in colonies in Africa, the Pacific, Caribbean, and Indian Ocean. Similar conference on milestones commemorating end of slavery were given prominent media coverage and funding in Guyana, including the ones last year and this year.
As a clarification, the year 1917 marked the centennial of the end of recruitment of indentureship and conferences were held globally to commemorate that milestone. Although recruitment ended in March 1917, lasting some 89 years, indentured servitude continued until January 1919 when London officially ended all forced labour although the practice on the plantation continued for much longer until Indians were informed of their freedom, accepted that they were a free people similar to how slaves were freed, and the local authorities enforced the law on freedom.
International conferences were held to commemorate the end of recruitment of indentured Indian labourers in Trinidad, Guyana, New York, India, Mauritius, Fiji, Guadeloupe,
Martinique, Suriname, Reunion and other societies. I helped to organize and promote and presented academic papers in several of them. A similar conference was held last year in Fiji to mark the official end of indentureship in Fiji and now the one in Trinidad this past weekend, both of which I played a role in its organization and publicity and presented papers (physically in Fiji and virtually for the one in Trinidad). Similar conferences were planned for Mauritius, India, and New York but have been postponed as a result of the COVID pandemic. Similar commemoration were held in Guyana to mark the milestones such as the centenary of indentureship in 1938, 150th anniversary in 1988, and 175th anniversary in 2013, all of which received wide media coverage.
As noted, the Indo-Guyanese diaspora is very disappointed, as expressed in conversations and as noted by the organizers of the international conference in Trinidad, with lack of coverage in the mainstream media in Guyana of the weekend proceedings and of the milestone itself.
Aside from the conference itself, there is a paucity of materials in the media of indentured slavery – one of the most inhumane acts of man against man.
It is incumbent upon all media to provide some kind of coverage of such an important economic and social aspect of our history that defines and shape our history as a people and as a country.
I must also mention that the University of Guyana also failed to provide support for such a conference (in 2017 and 2020) while providing significant support (including large amounts of funding) for conferences commemorating end of slavery. I will leave that for a separate letter on the public record.