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Principles of principals

By Terry Joseph
August 05, 2005

You couldn't wish for a more wholesome foursome than Ken Gordon, Arthur Lok Jack, Dr Bhoe Tewarie and Tajmool Hosein QC, framers of the Principles of Fairness, an eight-point template for rescuing us from further decay but which, apparently, missed a ninth clause, one dedicated to issues of internecine conflict.

When they premiered the plan last September, it was swiftly endorsed by principals of 28 non-Governmental organisations, who evidently, saw the need to jointly deliver us from that evil but soon enough, some of the same principals began using the very platform to launch attacks against groupings of dissimilar hue and heritage.

On the very day of the launch, Sat Maharaj of the Sanataan Dharma Maha Sabha(SDMS) got into a public joust with talk show host Ricardo "Gladiator" Welch. A week later, in a letter to the Daily Express, Parsuram Maharaj, President of the Trinidad branch of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO), described the effort as a "pappy-show" ,saying hoped-for success was doubtful, given the absence of executive clout.

On Sunday, October 10, a letter from Karan Mahabirsingh of Carapachaima predicted failure of the project, also citing politicians as the engineers of its demise. "The reason is simple", Mr Mahabirsingh said, "there is no desire on the part of politicians of whatever stripe to have any kind of equality."

October 20: Mr Gordon, addressing the St Augustine Rotary Club, moved to quash assumptions that there were plans afoot to turn the principals of the principles into the next political party.

On October 31, UWI Professor Rhoda Reddock highlighted a significant variation of a position forwarded to Cabinet via the Ministry of Gender Affairs which, she claimed, sanitised recommendations from the university's Centre for Gender and Development Studies regarding discrimination against gays.

November 9: Letter-writer Vernon B Guischard took issue with a statement attributed to Mr Gordon ("We live here, not in Africa"), saying the latter grossly misconstrued the purpose of a NAEAP sponsored conference titled "An African perspective on Vision 2020," resulting in taking "a myopic view of its objective".

In his New Year's message, aired during a broadcast by the Inter Religious Organisation on January 2, Roman Catholic Archbishop Edward Gilbert endorsed the plan, urging us to use the Principles of Fairness as a model for living this year.

On March 16, Christian Mouttet, head of the Chamber of Commerce lamented: "I note with deep regret that contrary to the spirit and intention of Principle No. 5, the promotion of racial harmony remains an elusive dream for some members of the Lower House of Parliament."

In April, newspapers were flooded with letters on the subject. On May 6, Mr Gordon noted a marked decline in the number of racial and controversial calypsoes throughout the Carnival season, crediting the introduction of the Principles of Fairness.

Another signatory, Public Services Association Head, Jennifer Baptiste-Primus, during a June 19 address, bashed the Syrian community, saying: "Ah doh care about none ah dem, the Syrians and dem feel they ruling this town. This is our town, leh we take back our town."

Sat Maharaj supported Mrs Baptiste-Primus, saying: "Now that they are under pressure they want us all to become involved and fight for them", adding that Syrians never supported the Indians over the past 20 years when they claimed discrimination from other quarters.

Meanwhile, UWI Principal, Dr Tewarie, was proceeding with a conference on the Principles, its timing upsetting yet another signatory, NAEAP president, Prof Selwyn Cudjoe. On July 26, he complained the talks were deliberately scheduled to clash with Emancipation events and called for a boycott of the conference.

In response, Dr Tewarie said he was needlessly attacked on spurious grounds and "personally vilified and labelled by an agent provocateur bent on divisiveness and confusion". He then proceeded to give a dissertation on constitution reform, a favourite topic of UNC political leader Basdeo Panday.

Yet another signatory, Raffique Shah, let fly his own salvo in responding to Prof Cudjoe: "In a society that's being torn apart by vultures who prey on race, religion, hairstyle, colour of skin and other prejudices, I don't know that the committee will ever achieve its objectives," Shah said in his column last Sunday.

What the dateline shows is that, except for February, every month since the Principles of Fairness was launched, there has been at least a little sniping between principals, indicating too that only during Carnival, when all ethnic groups wine together, did the warfare let up.

You may draw your own conclusions.

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