Thursday 5th June 2003

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The polarisation problem

Dr Eric Williams said there was little intellectual life in T&T. All the parties to the political exploitation of ethnic insecurity are proving Dr Williams’ perspicacity. Our children need less partisan propaganda and more objective analysis of the dangerous mix of ethnicity and political ambitions.

Will President Richards’ planned racism committee add to the confusion, obfuscation and impotent, if dangerous, denial of State-sponsored affirmative action projects? Too many careers have been built, or are being sustained, by deliberate posturing as ethnic leaders or champions of co-ethnic sufferers.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning told us that CEPEP is good: “It will solve our race problems. It deals with people who have had a historical disadvantage.” Too many politicians are ignorant of the fact that whenever information is valuable, users will seek the best. So it is with the matter of discrimination, racism and intellectually shallow affirmative action projects in our country. Political platitudes will not conceal the facts of discrimination, or absence of racism in State behaviour.

President Richards seems unaware of the document “Ethnicity and Employment Practices in the Public and Private Sectors in Trinidad and Tobago”. The Centre for Ethnic Studies was established by Prime Minister Manning in 1992. Mr Manning must be entirely ignorant of the contents of the report: Volume 1 – The public sector which he requested to “conduct research into problems arising out of cultural divergence in an ex-colonial society and to make recommendations for addressing such problems in the context of public policy making.”

The executive summary which President Richards must study tries hard to avoid stating its own conclusions in clear and simple English, but reports, inter alia, that:

“It was also striking that certain sections of the public service were regarded as the preserves of one group or the other. Competition for such preserves and for what were regarded as lucrative or strategic sections of the public service often degenerated into ethnic rivalries.

“One of the major findings of the investigation was the tendency for Indians to be heavily under-represented at the higher reaches of the public sector. In the case of the public enterprise sector, of the 17 companies studied, only five had a reasonable representation of Indo-Trinidadians. Six had no Indo-Trinidadians on their boards, while on the remainder they were under-represented. In only two companies were the CEOs Indo-Trinidadian. In only six of the companies could it be said that Indo-Trinidadian representation was adequate.”

The President and Mr Manning cannot both be right: that we have racial polarisation at the same time that there is total integration of Indos and Afros, while CEPEP is devoted “to solve race problems”.

Has Mr Manning implemented the recommendations of his Centre for Ethnic Studies? Number three, of 16 recommendations, requires that “a positive attempt should be made to ensure a measure of racial balance on all interview panels in the public service, municipal corporations, and in the public enterprise sector”. Has such a panel distributed CEPEP contracts or employed workers in the State sector? President Richards must have an interest in logical consistency between thought and action.

What will President Richards find out that Dr Eric Williams did not know in 1970? “Perspectives for the New Society: the People’s Charter 1956, Revisited, a Special Convention of the PNM, November 27, 28, 29, 1970”, outlined ideas as a foundation for implementing “black power”. Dr Williams said:

“Perhaps the PNM Government has sometimes in the past gone too far in being paternalistic in the face of severe lack of social amenities and appalling levels of unemployment. The new society must now place greater emphasis on self-reliance and personal and group initiative. Economic independence and popular participation have to be earned by the people, not handed down by the Government. What is more, only a bigot would deny that the people in the country of African descent need to develop greater pride in themselves and a greater degree of constructive consciousness in order to secure much of the necessary motivation.”

Thirty-three years after Dr Williams spoke, we are still defending an education system which leaves 80 per cent of the 16-year-olds barely literate in a sense relevant to the 21st century economy, and a PNM Government designs CEPEP “to solve race problems”, while President Richards plans to use taxpayers’ time and money to investigate racial polarisation.

Yet our politicians refuse to do the intellectual analysis of the reasons why Dr Eric Williams’ “Perspectives for a New Society” and Mr Manning’s “Ethnicity and Employment Practices” has left us begging “community leaders” to manage the unemployed, the urban youth and ethnic protesters!

The Prime Minister needs to reconcile his statement “The East Indian fellow citizens are as integrated as any other into all aspects of national life” with President Richards’ plan to investigate racial polarisation, and his own statement about CEPEP “to solve race problems”. Mr Manning needs to reconcile the statement of Mrs Glenda Morean and others who suggest that “the UNC criminalised URP or ETP” with the facts that Dr Williams created the “Crash Programme” to employ ex-criminals.

Mr Manning must reconcile the idea of a recent criminalisation of URP/ETP/DEWD/LID with the Errol Mahabir Report requested by Dr Williams which said that violence and killings had taken place over fighting for money from the projects. The UWI has a report done by Selwyn Ryan and others specifically on Laventille which also reports shootings and murders over control of Special Works/Crash Programme/DEWD projects.

The intellectual work President Richards needs to do must analyse the impotence of the State to change ethnic preferences, culture, and the implications of Sharks and Sardines: Blacks in Business by Selwyn Ryan and Lou-Ann Barclay.

From Dr Williams to Patrick Manning, we have failed to discern the costs of affirmative action, and the lessons of the successful Igbo in Nigeria, the Bamileke of the Cameroon, the Kikuyu of Kenya, Jews all over the world, the Chinese in Malaya, Arabs in Trinidad, and Gujeratis, Sikhs, Ismailis and Patels in East Africa.

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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