WELCOME SPEECH BY DR. THOMAS ABRAHAM AT GOPIO CONVENTION 2000

On behalf of GOPIO, I extend you a warm welcome to GOPIO Convention 2000. Eleven years ago, the Indian American community took the initiative to organize the First Global Convention of People of Indian origin. The convention was a historic event for people of Indian origin living outside India. It brought together our community leaders, academicians, businessmen and political leaders from 26 countries. After the week-long convention with intensive discussion of various PIO issues, we passed 23 resolutions. Friends, I am very glad to inform you that after 11 years, we were able to see the implementation of most of these resolutions.

We have seen three of the 1st convention delegates, the late Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Mr. Basudeo Panday and Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry coming to power through elections. GOPIO had filed a petition on human rights violation of our people in Fiji to the U.N. in 1991. The triggering point for the first convention was the dismissal of the duly elected Indian dominated government in Fiji. GOPIO had filed a case of human rights violations of PIOs in Fiji in 1991. Now that a democratically elected government headed by Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry is again thrown out of office, the PIO community has to develop some strategies to help our brothers and sisters in Fiji.

People of Indian origin constitute a global community of 20 million people. We, as PIO community, are ten times bigger than that of the city State of Singapore, as big as Sri Lanka and bigger than many of the European countries. If we were to find ways to pool our resources, it will benefit not only the PIO community, but the countries they come from as well as our Motherland India. It has been estimated that, PIOs living outside India has a combined yearly economic output of about $500 billion, as much as the GDP of India. GOPIO has now set its priorities in pooling PIO resources, both financial and professional, for the benefit of PIOs, the countries they come from and India. Toward this goal, the organization has set up GOPIO Business Council early this year to promote business and investment opportunities between different countries having PIO population.

With the new globalization and breaking of the economic boundaries of countries, our new goal is economics, i.e. to promote economic interest of PIOs in different countries. Toward that goal, our convention theme is, "Global PIO Collaboration in Technology, Trade, Investment and Pooling Resources."

With crisis in Fiji where our Indo-Fijian brothers and sisters were harassed and physically harmed, Fiji will be a major subject for discussion at the session "Human Rights and PIO Political Involvement," on Sunday morning. I am so glad that we have several Indo-Fijian delegates who have come from Fiji, Canada, Australia and the U.S. A second session is organized to develop PIO strategies for Fiji. We are back to square one in Fiji similar to the situation when we met at the First Convention. The only difference is that with the internet and communication revolutions, more and more of our people are aware of these issues and are willing to help. Let this convention be a historic event for PIOs. Let us pass the Zurich Declaration by PIOs and for PIOs, that is "When any person of Indian origin is abused, attacked or discriminated in any part of the world because of his or her ethnicity, all persons of Indian origin around the world will deem such an act or action directed against all of them and will stand together in the pursuit of justice."

I am so glad all of you could come to this convention. GOPIO is particularly thankful to Governor M.M. Jacob to come all the way from the North-Hill region of Shillong, Meghalaya. Governor Jacob has been an advisor to GOPIO since 1993. Recently I was there to extend him a personal invitation. It is such a beautiful place, I recommend everyone to visit Meghalaya and I know you will receive a royal treatment. Thank you Governor Jacob for joining us at this convention. I am sure many of you would have opportunity to meet and talk to Governor Jacob during lunch time, coffee breaks and during the banquet tomorrow. Our new NRI commissioner Mr. J.C. Sharma, who is an Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs would speak to us tomorrow. He will be happy to meet delegations from different countries during the course of this convention. We also have amongst us Mr. S.P. Hinduja, one of the most prominent NRI/PIO businessman who will speak to us this evening. For tomorrow mornings inaugural session, our keynote speaker is Dr. Joy Cherian, former Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who was the highest ranking Indian American in the U.S. administration.

I invite all of you to take active participation in the conferences. Before we leave, we should develop some important strategies for the welfare of our PIO community. Thank you for all your support.