Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 22nd 2015 Contents A29
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Nelson Island is one of six small islands
west of Port-of-Spain in the Gulf of Paria.
For thousands of our Indian migrant family
forebears, it was their very first taste of
After a three-month voyage from India in
often cramped, difficult conditions, the new-
comers must have welcomed this landfall.
Disembarkation at Nelson Island let them
rest. It also let colonial authorities quarantine
the sick, cremate the dead, and organise the
new labour force for allocation to different
estates across T&T. A medical doctor would
inspect all immigrants on arrival, a "Protector
of Immigrants" would inspect them, too.
Authorities also inspected the ship, food
stocks and stores, and fumigated the immi-
grants bundles and blankets.
After two weeks on Nelson Island, the new
arrivals would then be sent out in small boats
to Port-of-Spain, and from there, they would
be taken to estates to start their "indenture-
ships"---five-year work contracts that, for
many, became the start of a lifelong home
This weekend, the National Trust of T&T
is helping us explore this slice of immigration
history through several tours via water-taxi,
as we get set to celebrate Indian Arrival Day
on May 30.
Between 1845 and 1917, 143,939 Indians
came here to work as contract labour on
agricultural estates after the abolition of
African slavery, according to historian Bridget
Brereton. Initially, from 1845 to 1865, the new
Indian immigrants were brought straight to
Port-of-Spain in a confused, chaotic mass,
with no-one to understand their languages
or immediate needs. But from 1865, a rudi-
mentary system of immigrant processing
developed, as the Indian migrant labourers
were first brought to Nelson Island for some
recuperation and medical care, said Dr Win-
ston Suite. Dr Suite is chairman of the Nation-
al Trust of T&T. He was speaking in an inter-
view with the T&T Guardian on Monday at
the Trust s Wrightson Road offices.
The National Trust tours this weekend are
part of efforts to make this part of our history
more accessible and fun for locals and tourists
alike. A range of talk sessions, cultural per-
formances and exhibitions will be set up in
Nelson Island as part of the tour experience.
From talks on immigrant language problems,
to mehendi demonstrations, to sari-wrapping
sessions, and maybe even a paratha display,
activities will be varied, promised Dr Suite.
All are welcome.
"We are not duplicating what may be at
Divali Nagar," said Dr Suite. "Rather, we are
stressing the actual arrival and initial pro-
cessing of the migrants, that initial encounter.
And we ve invited a wide cross-section of
Indian organisations to share the arrival expe-
rience with the population."
Nelson Island plans
Nelson Island has had a colourful history.
In addition to being an Indian immigrant
decanting centre, it was also, at different
times, a playground and holiday venue for
the elite, and a prison for those who offended
the colonial (or neocolonial) business class.
Fiery labour leader Tubal Uriah "Buzz"
Butler, for instance, who was also a Spiritual
Baptist preacher and the founding father of
the Oilfield Workers Trade Union, led strikes
in the oilfields in 1937, protesting against
poor working conditions, poor wages, racism
When the strikes spread from the oilfields
to the sugar factories, the British government
responded by arresting Butler, and he was
imprisoned on Nelson Island from September
1937-May 1939, and imprisoned again on
Nelson Island that same year, after the out-
break of WW2 in September 1939, right until
the end of the war in 1945.
Much later, in 1970 following the Black
Power mass protests by thousands of disaf-
fected citizens at a time of continued insti-
tutional racism, unemployment and general
hard times, Nelson Island became a detention
centre for those who had challenged the Eric
Williams government. Detainees included
Oilfields Workers Trade Union president
George Weekes, National Joint Action Com-
mittee leader Geddes Granger, Apoesho
Mutope, Winston Suite and Clive Nunez.
Dr Suite referred to these historic events
as he explained the National Trust s plans
to develop future heritage projects at Nelson
Island. The National Trust, he said, would
like to develop three permanent heritage
exhibition sites on Nelson Island, based on
the themes of Indian immigration, Butler s
late 30s imprisonment, and the 1970s deten-
tions which happened there.
Power needs, and staff training
But first, some site-specific and other fac-
tors must be addressed, he said.
A key constraint at Nelson Island is elec-
tricity, said Dr Suite. So far, electricity is only
available on site from generators, and from
some solar-powered sources, he said. A more
reliable power source would be needed for
certain kinds of sustained heritage and cultural
tourism development, said Suite.
The Trust will be looking for possible help
from UWI and UTT to study wind power
possibilities for power generation, said Suite.
Also, to truly realise the site s potential as
a form of revenue-earning sustainable heritage
tourism, said Suite, we would need qualified,
knowledgeable tour guides with panache---
and so far, we don t really have the right
training programmes to develop such expert-
ise, noted Suite. • Continues on Page A31
In a break from the sea of dystopian
offerings aimed at young adult audi-
ences, the world of tomorrow is given
a glossy, Disney makeover in the stu-
dio s latest big budget spectacular.
Tomorrowland, out in US theatres
today, sees Walt Disney s early vi-
sions of a scientific utopia come alive
on screen, a vibrant creative paradise
in a parallel realm, epitomising
mankind s true potential.
But Tomorrowland is mysteriously
lost and the task to recover and revi-
talise it falls on Casey Newton (Britt
Robertson), a feisty teenage girl with
an aptitude for science.
Her belief in the futuristic land
leads her on a journey to Frank
Walker (George Clooney), a former
boy genius once enticed by the prom-
ise of Tomorrowland but now exiled
"I loved how optimistic it was,"
Clooney said in an interview. "I loved
the idea that it looked at the world
saying the future is not what you see
when you turn on the television and
you get depressed and you re inun-
dated with it. It doesn t have to end
that way." (Reuters)
Clooney finds optimism at heart of a promising Tomorrowland
Dr Winston Suite is the current chair of
the Council of the National Trust of T&T. He
is an engineer by training with expertise in
concrete technology, contract law,
infrastructure planning and development,
and natural hazard management.
He has been a construction engineer and
educator for more than 30 years, and a
consultant in disaster management for
over 20 years. Suite began his career in
1965 working as an engineer for the T&T
In 1976 he started his own firm, Suite
He joined the faculty of UWI in 1983, and
from 1997 to 2006 he headed the school's
construction engineering and management
programme. He later lectured at UTT.
WHO IS PROF WINSTON SUITE?
Nelson Island tours celebrate first encounters
Professor Winston Suite, chairman of the
National Trust of T&T.
d in 1890 was
who came to
1865 to 1917,
all the Indian
Exploring our heritage
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