Friday 9th June, 2006


Dion Jeffers

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Dion Jeffers

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Ethnic cleansing?

T&T is one of the few countries in the Caribbean that enjoys a variety of races. It enjoyed a rich history of trials and tribulations which saw this country changing hands many times.

Today we have the influence of the Spanish, the Portuguese and the British within our society. The two dominant races, the African and the East Indian, also played integral roles in shaping La Trinity. From the slave trade to indentureship, to colonialism and beyond, not many countries around the world can boast of such a rich heritage.

But instead of appreciating our uniqueness and instilling the practices of racial solidarity, there are those who are bent on destabilising the peaceful coexistence of mankind in this gem of the Caribbean.

It has now become the norm of the Opposition United National Congress to charge racial discrimination anytime an East Indian (or if we choose the more subtle term, an Indo-Trinidadian) is accused of an offence.

Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma has been accused of misbehaviour in public office. This is a very serious allegation as it has brought the independence of the judiciary into question. We all believe that equal justice prevails, but the allegations made against the goodly CJ have sought to cast doubts in our minds as to whether it really does.

As serious as this allegation is, one would have hoped that the calls for investigations into the matter would have been resounding in all quarters. Instead, the race card has been played, with the Opposition accusing the PNM administration of ethnic cleansing.

Is it to say that Indo-Trinidadians are not to be investigated? Are Indo-Trinidadians to be exempted from investigations as opposed to other ethnic groups?

It is this PNM administration, accused of ethnic cleansing, that initiated investigations into its own in the likes of Dr Keith Rowley and Minister Eric Williams. And in spite of the charges of ethnic cleansing being labelled against the Government, rational thinking citizens can see that racial harmony is very much alive in the rank and file of the party.

From party chairman Franklin Khan to the PNM’s choice for House Speaker and Senate President, Barendra Sinanan and Dr Linda Baboolal, respectively, even government ministers Diane Seukeran, Christine Sahadeo and Satish Ramroop are part of the Government that is accused of ethnic cleansing.

Racial imbalance

The issue of racial imbalance has now permeated the walls of the protective services with police officers charging there will be an issue of racial imbalance if they are not promoted. What sort of an argument is this?

The fact remains that because of the mixture of races that proliferate the society and its complexity, along with the individualism and divergent cultures that exist, there can never be a racial balance in any organisation.

Placing racial balance before expertise and competencies will not auger well. We will never be able to produce the desired end product simply because we choose race over competence.

There always was and will always continue to be entities in our society where different races are dominant.

Racial balance or professional expertise?

When we examine the two major races, we will see that Africans continue to dominate such things as calypso and the protective services while East Indians continue to dominate the business sector.

On the world athletic stage, blacks continue to be the dominant race, while in T&T the East Indian man continues to dominate the cricket pitch.

Recently, there was a letter to the editor calling for more East Indians to be included in the Soca Warriors team for the World Cup.

T&T, this archaic thinking is very unhealthy for a developing society and it only continues to set us back. Why is it that the colour of a man’s skin and his ethnicity continue to bear credence today in almost every issue that arises?

Why can’t we see people as citizens of T&T, regardless of skin texture? What we need to ensure is that the right people are placed into the right positions. Why should we compromise the calibre of players on the team just to claim racial harmony?

Racial harmony can only exists in the minds and the hearts of men. The way we treat each other, the things we do and say, practising the ideals of being our brother’s keeper, coming together for a common cause, rallying ’round the WI—these are all indications of racial harmony.

Having 50 per cent East Indian and 50 per cent African in every institution is not the solution.

The older folks need to take a page out of the books of us youth. Look at the relationships we have with peers, whether it be at school or at play. We have no time to argue about race or play the game.

At the end of the day, we all have to live in this land together and if the Maharajs dominate the medical fields and the Tobys continue to dominate the football fields that should not be an issue. It all has to do with the individual’s thinking and liking.

As for the charges of ethnic cleansing by the Government, in the words of a colleague, that’s rubbish.

Deon Jeffers is the education officer of the PNM National Youth League




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