Keep morality out when interpreting history

Keep morality out when interpreting history

Photo : Dool Hanomansingh

I am pleased to respond to an article titled “Don’t politicise and racialise this issue” by Shabaka Kambon, director of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, that appeared in your Express Newspaper dated December 19, 2017. His letter was a response to my commentary titled “Painting the history of Trinidad black” that appeared in your newspaper dated December 06, 2017.

I find it strange that Shabaka Kambon took a little less than two weeks to respond to my article. Nevertheless, I welcome his response. It is my sincere view that no one has a monopoly on truth and that includes me. I hope that Shabaka Kambon would understand this view so that we can have more debates and fewer murders in this country.

Kambon wrote of my “…attacking Prof Beckles and myself…”. Is Kambon saying that I am not entitled to differ from Prof Beckles and himself? I don’t believe that anyone who is a public figure should be treated like a sacred cow and that include Prof Beckles and Shabaka Kambon. If I came across as attacking I would like to sincerely apologise.

Kambon identified me as the editor of ICDN, an online Newspaper and went on to state that ICDN “...features contributions from Sat Maharaj and Kumar Mahabir that a sane person can understand the overarching demented tone of the piece…”  How long again are black people like Kambon going to describe views of Sat Maharaj and Kumar Mahabir as “demented”? Could Kambon tell me which Indian opinion is not “demented”? Is he of the view that the only worthy Indian are those who agree with his point of view?

Shabaka Kambon should learn from Sat Maharaj if he wishes to make a success of his life. Sat is the leader of the Maha Sabha, the largest Hindu organization in the country with more than 350,000 members. The Maha Sabha runs 43 primary and 5 secondary schools with thousands of children and more than 1500 teachers. It Pandits’ Parishad has a membership of more than 400 to service the spiritual needs of the Hindu community. It also has more than 225 mandirs stretching the length and breadth of the country. If Kambon truly wants to improve his community I suggest that he establishes a working relationship with Sat Maharaj to make his organization the success that he desires.

Also, I would like Kambon to know that Kumar Mahabir has a doctorate in medical anthropology from University of Florida and is the author of more that fifteen books. Mahabir is a well-known and respected academic throughout the Indian diaspora. Kambon should help me to understand what is “demented” about Kumar Mahabir’s presence in ICDN?

Kambon continued: “This colonial fetishism is a slap in the face of the modern generation of Indian scholars and activists who are finally speaking out about the atrocities of Imperialism and Colonialism.” Kambon is right. Indian scholars are speaking out but not attempting to erase facts. It is heartening to hear Kambon identifying with the struggles of Indian scholars in their fight for social justice. However, Kambon should be able to explain why the Caricom Reparation Committee (CRC) does not include in its agenda the hardships and sufferings of Indian indentured labourers? The CRC has a chairman and other members who are paid a stipend for work and travel. Is Caricom of the view that Indian Indentures did not suffer under colonial rule?

Kambon wrote: “These antagonists see the racialising and politicising of this discourse as a way to prevent people from dealing with the moral and historical questions that our work encourages the society to confront but we will not be distracted.”

It appears that when someone disagrees with Kambon’s view such an individual is labelled an “antagonist.” I would like Kambon to know that I am not antagonistic to him but only claim the right to share my opinion. Why is Kambon talking about “moral” questions? Whose moral is he referring to?

Interestingly, Kambon dismisses Dr Eric Williams’ missive at the Indo Trinidadian community when he described Indians as a ‘hostile and recalcitrant minority’ but has gleefully reminded his readers of the sins of Winston Churchill who described the Indians as “a beastly people with a beastly religion” and charged the latter for the Bengal famine in India that resulted in 4 million people dying.

Again, we are seeing the morality of Kambon coming to the fore in his interpretation of history. Kambon is quick and ready to overlook Williams’ sin but ready to pillory Winston Churchill.  I would like Kambon to talk about the morality of Caricom leaders who dismissed the request of the Commonwealth of Nations to provide asylum to Indians when they were expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972. Not a single Indian from Uganda was given asylum by a member nation of the Caribbean Commonwealth.

Kambon should employ his morality to help us to understand the responses of Caricom leaders when Forbes Burnham was rigging elections after elections in Guyana. Despite the decline of the economy and the massive migration of Guyanese to other parts of the world seeking asylum, our Caricom leaders turned a blind eye to Burnham’s human rights abuses.

This is the confusion that runs riot in the mind of Kambon. He confuses his brand of morality with historical facts and interpretation. While I admire his courage to defend the morals of Williams, I strongly recommend that he accepts that all races have low and high points and stop believing that other races are guilty of wrong actions while his African brethren are the victims. This is the dilemma that Kambon needs to exorcise to liberate his demented mind.