Address by Leader of the Opposition the Honourable Dr. Godwin Friday to Parliament on the Occasion of the Visit of His Excellency Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, President of the Republic of India on May 19, 2022
Your Excellency, it is a great honour for me to join in welcoming you and your delegation to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I extend this welcome also on behalf of my colleague Members of the Opposition.
We welcome you as the Head of State of your great nation, the Republic of India, and as a friend. I trust that your journey here, though long, was buoyed with expectations about what you might see here and who you would greet, and pray that over the course of your visit, those expectations would be met and, indeed, that you are now enjoying the warm hospitality of our people.
Differences and Shared Values
The differences between our countries may seem vast, but what matters most are the things we share that bring us together, ever closer, in friendship and mutual cooperation. In a world riven by enmity and strive– often caused by manufactured prejudice and exaggerated fears—we who get along well together must do all we can to promote peace, justice, and harmony in the world.
We come from opposite sides of the world, you from the East and we from the West.
You are a great and ancient civilization, interrupted by colonial rule, but once again on a path to wonderful things of your own choosing and forged by your own hands. We are a young nation, comprised of the original peoples–Kalinago and Garifuna– and newer arrivals, including Indians, who came during colonial times and we, too, are striving to make our way in the world.
You are the second largest nation on earth by population; we are one of the smallest. Yet, you honor us by choosing to visit. This tells us that the differences mentioned, though seemingly large, are in fact small matters in comparison with the common values and other things that we share.
We share similar institutions of government and a commitment to human rights and democracy. India, as the largest democracy on Earth, is an inspiration to us, one of the world’s smallest. Like you, we believe that despite setbacks from time to time and the constant and often rancorous noises of the process at work, democracy is still the best form of government that humans have yet devised. Let us persist in that belief and continue to work to perfect it in practice.
We note the great economic and technological advances your country continues to make. We are grateful for the economic, technical, and diplomatic assistance you have provided to us over the years and, in particular, we note the timely contribution of covid19 vaccines at the height of the pandemic. It is my hope and indeed my expectation that these spheres of cooperation and collaboration will expand and, inevitably, deepen our ties with one another.
Indian Culture in SVG
The contributions in the cultural sphere are no less significant. Colonialism brought our peoples and cultures together over 160 years ago, when Indians were brought here to provide labor for the colonial economic machine. The sinews of those people, their sweat and tears helped to build this land. The hardships they endured have not been in vain, as their children and successive generations have contributed to our national development and made successful lives for themselves in SVG: your diaspora; their home.
Their arrival is celebrated every year with reverence, enjoyment, and hope. We must applaud and support the efforts of those who seek to reclaim and promote Indian culture here, e.g. the Indian Heritage Foundation– a far better approach than in the early years when assimilation and cultural annihilation were the order of the day. For after all, we must do more than simply share a common space: we must inhabit it together, shape it together, and make it a thing of joy and beauty—a light in the world.
On the lighter side, but no less significant, we share a common love of cricket. Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Tendulkar are as much our heroes as Sobers, Richards and Lara are yours. May the friendly rivalry continue and may we always be able to appreciate each other’s accomplishments.
Excellency, I am happy that you will see various parts of our country: La Soufriere volcano in its awesome splendor; and the Grenadines–specifically Canouan–in their pristine beauty. I am confident that you will enjoy the experience.
We wish you safe travels in your overseas mission.
When you return home, please convey our best wishes and gratitude to your Government and people.