Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Race and Politics in TnT, Revisited

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
July 24, 2006

For some time now, certain groups and individuals have bandied about the notion, albeit accusation, that they have been the victims/targets of racial discrimination and  racial victimization by the PNM government.

However, while there may or may not be any evidence to build a prima facie case of discrimination and/or victimization, any racial  connotation in either scenario is a colossal non sequitur.

The fact of the matter is that according  to  TnT's 2000 population census statistics, the "ethnic mix" consists of 43.3 per cent Indian, 39.5 per
cent Afrikan, 18.4 per cent Mixed, European 0.6 per cent, Chinese and Other 1.2 per cent.

In other words, the majority population in TnT is non-White, non-European and people of colour.

Afrikan-Trinbagonians are non-White, non-European; Indian-Trinbagonians are non-White, non-European, people of colour.

Furthermore, in terms of geo-politics, India is located in Asia and Asians are considered people of  colour. They are not White. They are not European.

Ergo, Afrikan -Trinbagonians and Indian-Trinbagonians are of the same racial hue. Therefore, in human interaction terms between these two entities in TnT, race should not be the issue/problem/question; ethnicity is.

To elucidate this point even further, when the genocide took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina between the Serbs in 1992, during which 250,000 people were killed, the United Nations and the  international community described that awful incident as "ethnic cleansing." . It was not described as racial cleansing solely because  the two warring factions were of the same racial hue--- they were White.

Similarly, when wanton slaughter/killings took place in  Rwanda in 1994 between the Hutus and Tutsis, those acts were described as "ethnic genocide." They were not called racial genocide  solely because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue--- they were Black.

Moreover, when the militants of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) killed Irish and British citizens, those atrocities were called "sectarian/communal violence."  They were not called racial violence solely because the warring factions were of the same racial hue---they were White.

In  May 2005, almost 8,000 people fled  "deadly ethnic clashes around Ivory Coast's western cocoa town of Duekoue." They did not flee from deadly racial clashes solely because the warring  factions were of the same racial hue--=- they were Black.

And finally, during the heydays of Apartheid in South Africa, when Afrikans killed fellow Afrikans , those acts were aptly  described as "Black on Black crime." This was a correct description solely because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue---they were Black.

Therefore, in the specific case of  TnT,  if Satnarayan Maharaj, Secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha claims  that his organization was denied a radio license by the PNM government, then that public policy decision  can only represent ethnic victimization. This is the truism solely because the two factions are of the same  racial hue--- they are non-White. Such a decision does not represent racial victimization.

In a similar vain, the action taken by Prime Minister Patrick Manning  in any real or imagined personal vendetta to allegedly attempt to remove Chief Justice Satnarine Sharma  from office must only be described as ethnic victimization and/or ethnic intimidation. Again, this is the truism solely because Patrick Manning and Satnarine Sharma are of the same racial hue--- they are  non-White, men of colour.

And this analysis can go on and on and on, ad infinitum, in regard  to the two major  political warring factions in TnT.  The bottom-line  is therefore very simple: Indian-Trinbagonians cannot claim racial discrimination and/or racial victimization against the PNM government or the Attorney General. They can only charge ethnic discrimination/victimization.

This same ethnic conclusion also holds true for Afrikan-Trinbagonians if Basdeo Panday were Prime Minister and Kamla Persad-Bissessar were Attorney General.

Indeed, now is the time to relegate the race issue/madness to the ash heap of TnT people's history as this country strives to achieve a sense of national unity.

As deceased, revolutionary political theorist/practitioner, C.L.R. James once admonished: "The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics and to think of ( TnT's neo-colonialism) in terms of race is disastrous."

In this polyglot, multi-racial, multi-cultural and  multi-ethnic society, now is the time for all  Trinbagonians to study race no more.

The stark reality is that Trinbagonians are demanding that the race issue be expunged from the nation's body politic and public discourse.

Before race plunges TnT into the abyss of self-destruction, Trinbagonians need to heed  the apocalyptic admonition of slain Afrikan-American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King: "Now that the judgement of God is upon us, we either learn to live together as brothers or we'll all die together as fools."

The population census figures serve to warn  us  that race is a foolish, ahistorical, dysfunctional and divisive issue. Race is a non-issue/non-starter in TnT politics.

Now is the time for intelligent Trinbagonians to act  in an educated manner in the public arena and to decease and desist  from screaming racial discrimination/victimization  each and every time a real or imagined public policy decision goes against them or their respective organization.

The fact of the matter is that the majority population in TnT has the common denominators of European colonialism and slavery (contract or no contract). Now is the time for all the former colonized and enslaved to come together  as brothers and sisters to destroy the European colonizer's/slave-master's whip.

Indeed, history demands no less collective, concerted action.

Moreover, common sense suggests that the focus should  not only be on solving the intractable  problem of multi-faceted/multi-dimensional crime and violence in society but  also on maximizing the Basic Human Needs (BHN) of the people. The public policy agenda of this PNM government is bent on maximizing the Gross National Product (GNP) rather than maximizing the Gross National Welfare (GNW) of the people.

PNM's public policy actions have not only totally marginalized "the least of these in society" , especially residents in east Port-of-Spain (Laventille) and Woodbrook, but have also been the most vindictive and contemptuous towards the labour movement in TnT. The government's arrogant lethargy, indifference and recalcitrance in the full implementation of the Occupation Safety and Hazardous Act (OSHA) speak volumes as to the PNM's acerbic, defiant and combative anti-people policy posture.

The fact of the matter is that workers' lives have been devalued under the Manning administration. How many more workers must die and/or loose their vital limbs, Mr. PNM government?.

The performance of the PNM has proven that TnT needs a pro-active, ex ante government not a "Johnny come lately", ex post, re-active government. The Manning administration resembles the latter picture.

The reality is that the people of TnT, especially those in east and central Trinidad, have been the victims of the "exclusion principle" when it comes to government's macro social policy planning. The people are always an after thought in the minds of these planners. The people are always invisible. The people become visible in the PNM's planning schemes only when general elections are in sight.

The record also shows that the PNM government's decision-making process is totally devoid of any scintilla of democratic and consultative process. The breakfast shed debacle and the construction of the National Carnival Entertainment Centre at the Queen's Park Savannah are valid evidence of dictatorial PNM public policy decisions.

The Manning administration is acting in the tradition of the Euro-colonial master who automatically assumed upon himself that he knew what was best for the colonized.

Fellow Trinbagonians, "Massa Day" is not done; it only now operates in new and improved Neo-colonial clothing to the max.

"The more things change; the more they remain the same."

In the final analysis, Trinbagonians are just sick and tired of being sick and tired of absentee governance on both sides of the political spectrum in TnT. Thus, the following holds true: PNM is the Problem

UNC is not the Solution
We, the People, must provide the Resolution
Magnum Sunt Populi --- Great Are the People.
We, the People, will and must always prevail

TnT needs a government that is of the people, by the people and for the
people. As of this writing, TnT is hamstringed by a government whose
only determination is to hold on to power.

Shem Hotep ("I go in Peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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