IN my article on June 23, I stated “I seldom respond to accusations and allegations of racial discrimination in our society knowing only too well how explosive and destructive racial conflicts can destroy a society/nation”.
I was merely responding to allegations expressed by former minister Trevor Sudama, of institutionalised discrimination against Indo-Trinbagonians by Dr Eric Williams and successive PNM governments over its 40-odd years in power.
The former minister resorted to baffle us with bulls%&t
(1) Didn’t Caroni workers get a 100 per cent increase?—Yes.
(2) Did Caroni workers get a pension plan?—Yes.
(3) Did Caroni workers get a guaranteed 40-hour work week?—Yes.
(4) Did Caroni workers get lands for housing and agriculture?—Yes.
(5) Did the PNM government under an East Indian minister of health eliminate hookworm in the sugar belt?—Yes.
He proceeds to question the quantum of the allocations. The money wasn’t enough; the lands were not fertile. They had to go to court to get the land. Wasn’t it a PNM government commitment to give them the lands? He finally accuses me of threatening him, and by extension, the East Indian community. Please tell us, Trevor, what were the terms and conditions of sugar workers before the PNM government acquired the estate in 1975? Trevor, it was you who shouted “institutionalised discrimination”, not the dock workers, not the oil workers, not the government daily paid workers—it was you!
As an elementary student of history, I know only too well—as you also should know—how dangerous, how destructive, how explosive such allegations can be to gullible groups.
There are very few societies in the world where allegations of discrimination are not made, from the Aborigines in Australia, the Maoris in New Zealand, tribes in Africa, Apartheid in South Africa, the caste system in India and the Muslim’s allegations of alleged institutionalised discrimination; the labour migrants in the wealthy Middle East and Emirates, the Uighers in China, the Eastern Europeans in Europe, the original native Indians in Latin and South America and of course the Afro-Americans and Latinos in the US.
Modern communications bring these atrocities to our attention every day, hence the reason for us, all of us, to be extremely careful, guarded, and to exercise maximum control over our utterances on such a sensitive issue. For public personalities more so at the political level to consistently convey the impression that the Afro-based PNM government engaged in institutionalised discrimination against Indo-Trinbagonians is not short of an attempt to deprive us of what your colleague the eminent, progressive, very successful and fearless criminal attorney expressed in his statement on July 4—Quote, “Long live Trinidad and Tobago where we live in harmony and peace and will continue to strive for an equal place for every creed and race — justice for all” .
This is exactly what I meant in my statement, “Take care you get what you want and you lose what you have.” I deliberately used the term “you” instead of “we” simply because it was you who made the accusation of institutionalised discrimination, not the Portuguese who came as indentured labourers and graduated to the JB Fernandes empire, the Furness Group of Companies, JJ Ribeiro etc etc; the Chinese who came as indentured labourers and graduated to the MovieTowne empire, William H Scott Hardware empire, Hing King Brewery, the Lee Lum energy pioneer, etc; the Middle Eastern pedlars—the one per cent who graduated from pedlars to ANSA McAL, Blue Waters, Rituals. West Mall, Ellerslie Plaza, etc; Afro Trinidadians from slavery to the production of some of our finest scholars, statesmen, sportsmen, artists, educators, labour leaders, freedom fighters, national ambassadors who spearheaded our peaceful successful transition from colonialism to Independence who generally protected us from two major assaults on our democratic freedoms and liberties in 1970 and 1990?
Who successfully manned our institutions after the peaceful departure of the colonial masters and finally, I hope, you are not talking on behalf of the vast majority of our Indo Trinbagonians who, like all the rest of us, has in the words of eminent jurist, Israel Khan SC, “Indo Trinidadians as an ethnic group have done exceedingly well in education, religion, culture, economics and sports since our forefathers arrived as “bonded coolies”—the fact of the matter, the reality of life and survival in T&T, for all of us victims of slavery and indentureship in the words of distinguished poet Langston Hughes, “Life for me/us ain’t been no crystal stair.”
We have all worked hard, our ancestors, forefathers across the racial and ethnic divide made tremendous sacrifices, endured deprivation, discrimination and oppression under a policy of institutionalised discrimination.
We overcame, survived and prospered.
Some like in all other countries on the planet did better…in fact, much better than others. This is the nature of the beast called mankind: the animal called humanity, whatever the race, colour, religion or nationality of the beast, the name of the game is “Survival of the fittest”. It is against this background, my fellow brothers, countrymen, patriots Trevor Sudama, Gerald Ramdeen, Israel Khan, that even at this advanced age of 88-plus, with a fading memory I wish to assure you, Brother Khan, that there is no necessity for trembling; to inform Brother Ramdeen that it was not only the Indo Trinbagonians that worked hard, made sacrifices and succeeded. We all did. Brother Trevor has no reason to feel threatened by my statement: like Covid-19, we are all in this together.
T&T belongs to all of us and has in fact been good to all of us. To date, after 74 years of adult suffrage, 58 years of Independence, none, not one of our prime ministers from Dr Eric Williams to Dr Keith Rowley inclusive of Basdeo Panday and Kamla Persad-Bissessar has wilfully and/or deliberately engaged in “institutionalised discrimination”. Nepotism, yes —they are all guilty of party patronage, party handouts: this is the price we pay for our system of democracy: “winner take all”.
NB: Just to remind Israel Khan SC
(1) that the first Indo Trinbagonian chief justice, Sir Isaac Hyatali was appointed under a PNM government in preference to Justice Clement Phillips
(2) the most powerful opponents to Kamaluddin Mohammed and Errol Mahabir after Dr Williams’ death in 1981 were the then Opposition Leader of the UNC Basdeo Panday who relentlessly accused them of being the twins of corruption. Mahabir was not spared on the infamous Japanese Garden. Poor Kamal was almost beaten to his political death on the altar of his association with the Motilal Moonan empire.
As party organiser of the ONR, I was part of that political strike squad to destroy these two powerful political opponents. I, subsequently apologised to both Mahabir and Mohammed before they departed. The party decision to select George Chambers was not only the correct political decision. It saved the PNM from what was a sure cut arse in 1981 which did not escape them in 1986. It had nothing to do with race. Chambers’s only asset in 1981 is the fact that he was squeaky clean. The rest is now history!
To my brothers and fellow patriots (Trevor, Gerald and Israel) all I ask of you is to stop fanning a fire you cannot out.
(3) It was Arthur NR Robinson that gave the country its first Indo-Trinbagonian prime minister.
(4) PNM Patrick Manning’s government approved a second term as president for Noor Hassanali.
Thanks for the opportunity of providing you with some more unquestionable facts.