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South of de Caroni

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 27, 2015

Ever since Rodney Charles sent out his memo of instructions to his UNC colleagues they have been trying to depict Dr. Keith Rowley as big, black bad animal; a beast unbecoming of the office of prime minister. The present version of this attack started when Dr. Rowley took a wine, on carnival day, on an Indian woman. Many UNC politicians saw this act as verging on the sacrilegious. Now, they have sunken to the lowest of the low. They have branded Dr. Rowley and his descendants (that is, his children and his children's children) as the products of rape.

The UNC has never showed an enlightened understanding of our society and what it stands for. They never understood that carnival is a celebration of the flesh. It was part of the historical compromised worked out between the Romans (who believed in the primacy of the flesh) and the Christian who, in their religiosity, placed an emphasis on the spirit in an arrangement that was consolidated at the Nicaea Council in AD 325. This open air festival, practiced in Europe for centuries, was brought to Trinidad by the French at the end of the 18th century. When the people of West Africa arrived they added their own contribution which is why we call Carnival "a Creole bacchanal."

In wining on an Indian woman Dr. Rowley was merely participating in an historical festival that makes us who we are.

When this first lie did not work, they claimed Dr. Rowley committed another sacrilegious act when he used a Creole aphorism to politely remind the UNC that "if yuh kill meh dog; ah go kill yuh cat." In her Dictionary of the English/Creole of T&T, Lise Winer has shown that such a proverb comes out of the bowels of a Trinidadian consciousness. In fact, it is a part of our linguistic heritage that draws on the oral literary tradition of West Africa (such as the proverb) that black people (or better yet Creole people) have used traditionally to define their reality and to instruct their young.

So that when Dr. Rowley draws on our Creole wisdom to respond to statements made by others he is drawing on a tradition that predates PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the superfluities of the UNC's interpretation (or perhaps, misinterpretation) of our linguistic heritage which leads one to ask: "whey these people come from?" Basdeo Panday would never have made that mistake.

Persad-Bissessar has done her utmost to create an ethnic divide in the society that she euphemistically describes as north and south of the Caroni. Her argument is that the PNM concentrated its efforts on the development of the north of the Caroni (read African) and ignored the south of the Caroni (read Indian.) This racial construct that argues that because the PNM took care of black people the UNC feels obligated to take care of Indian people. The notion that this Creole society must be enlarged to satisfy the needs of all of us never occurred to the UNC which makes its resort to crude racism explicable.

In this context, Vernella Alleyne-Toppin's statement is a culmination of a well-defined strategy that seeks to place Dr. Rowley in a social stratum that is even lower than Rawan, the king of demons in Hindu mythology, from which he can never be redeemed. Within the UNC, his blackness and "so-called" arrogance are projected as the essence of his being. It signals that Dr. Rowley must be demonized to restore UNC hegemony of the society. As one UNC banner on Monday night read: "Keep your children away from Keith Rowley."

Fortunately the society now sees, as it could not see before, what Kamla's formulation of "south of Caroni" means. It's a formulation that is filled with hated, vindictiveness and ethnic bias. It is the most despicable attempt to racialize the society and demonize Dr. Rowley. Toppin's outburst was part of a larger UNC script rendered in a lower and meaner register.

Moon does run till daylight ketch it or, to put in in a different way, the longest rope has an end. The UNC rope is coming to an end. Daylight (or probably the rising sun) is revealing its meaner qualities. It is a shame that this party of parties has to end in such a low, evil-spirted manner. Even God in his heavens cries out in shame.

Selwyn R. Cudjoe is a professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College. He can be reached at

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