Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Pakistan's lesson for TnT

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
June 14, 2007

Contrary to Prime Minister Patrick Manning's public identification, "the most intractable problem facing Trinidad and Tobago at this time is (not) race relations" but ethnic relations.

Yes, we all belong to the human race but this human-race matrix is replete with people of different/ varied/ diversified skin colour or hues as a result of adaptation and migration coterminous with human sexual interrelationships/ contacts over the millennia.

According to the international community, including the United Nations, Afrikans have a different skin colour or hue from Europeans, while Indians and Afrikans possess the same skin colour or hue.

In other words, it is universally accepted that people of the Afrikan race are Black, non-White, while people of the East Indian race (Asians) are non-White, people of colour; people of the European race are classified as White.

More specifically, in terms of the population dynamics of TnT, East Indians comprise 42 per cent, Afrikans 38 per cent, Europeans .01 per cent, etc. Therefore, this means that the majority population of TnT in non-white, people of colour.

These official census figures obviously suggest that if a Prime Minister of the Afrikan race (Patrick Manning) were to activate impeachment proceedings to oust a Chief Justice who is of the Indian (Asian) race (Satnarine Sharma) then such action cannot be viewed/construed/manipulated as racial victimization, racial harassment, etc. It must only be viewed/construed/manipulated as ethnic victimization; ethnic harassment simply because the two factions/parties involved are of the same skin colour or hue according to the international community. Every country/nation, including TnT, has to conform to the universally accepted norms of the international community.

As a corollary, the on-going, complementary legal cum violent battles in Pakistan serve as a prima facie explanatory example/schema for TnT.

On 9 March 2007, President General Pervez Musharraf (who seized power in a 1999 military coup) unilaterally suspended/removed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry from office based on "unspecified credible complaints that he had abused his office."

Since that day, there have been daily violent anti-government riots, judges have resigned, lawyers are in acerbic protest, dozens of people have been killed and the capital city, Karachi, has been "paralyzed' to say the least.

However, the most poignant/significant point of comparative analysis is that at the center of all of this mayhem, the newspaper headlines read as follows: "Ethnic Bloodshed Erupts" in Pakistan. The headlines do not read: "Racial Bloodshed Erupts" in Pakistan simply because the President and the Supreme Court Chief Justice are both non-white, men of colour.

Ergo, these same headlines (not wishing) must also apply to TnT in the legal stand-off between the Prime Minister and Chief Justice, namely: "Ethnic Bloodshed Erupts" not "Racial Bloodshed Erupts" in TnT.

By way of international comparative elucidation, let us recall that in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, when 250,000 Serbs were killed, the international community labeled this carnage as "ethnic cleansing"; it was not described as "racial cleansing" simply because the warring factions were of the same racial hue.

In the 1994 wanton slaughter/killings in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis, this massacre was described as "ethnic genocide"; it was not described as "racial genocide" simply because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue.

When the then militants of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) killed both British and Irish citizens, the international community condemned those atrocities as "sectarian/communal violence." They were not condemned as acts of "racial violence" simply because the warring factions were of the same racial hue.

As of this writing (June 2007), when Shi'ites, Kurds and Sunnis kill each other in Iraq, these acts of violence are described by the international community as "sectarian violence" and "sectarian carnage" that are rapidly pushing Iraq into a civil war and "sectarian inferno." These acts are not described as "racial violence" simple because the three warring factions are of the same racial hue.

And finally, the international community is lamenting on the "factional violence" that is currently waging between Fatah, Hamas and Palestinians in Gaza; the concern is not about "racial violence" because the three warring factions are of the same racial hue.

Now is the time to relegate the "race question" to the ash heap of TnT's political jargon. Now is the time to interject some modicum of political maturity in TnT's body politic. We were all enslaved and colonized by the same Europeans. Now is the time for the former enslaved and colonized to psychologically/ subconsciously destroy the European slave-master's-colonizer's whip and to stand up as an independent people.

As C.L.R. James once warned: "The racial question is subsidiary to the class question in politics and to think of (neo-colonialism) in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error less grave than to make it fundamental."

And as Professor Lloyd Braithwaite observed in 1954: " Every social system possesses some symbolic means by which the unity of the society in affirmed. In those societies which are highly stratified or in which there are several groups with sharply divergent cultures, there tend to be a variety of such means. In the case of Trinidad, we have a highly stratified society in which there is nonetheless a great deal of common cultural allegiance. It is to be expected, therefore, that many of the 'national' (problems) will reflect the stresses and tensions within the society."

It is to be hoped that the current impasse between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice will remain within its legitimate legal realm and not spill over and ferment dysfunctional/divisive ethnic discord.

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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