PNM’s discrimination resembles Botha’s South Africa

PNM’s discrimination resembles Botha’s South Africa

Photo : Dr Eric Williams, Kamal Mohammed and Errol Mahabir

Rowley and his PNM Government are moving closer to Hitler’s Germany minus the gas chambers in its relations to Indians. Despite this trend the PNM is bent on standing its ground on its propaganda of high morals and equal opportunity and ‘every creed and race finding an equal place’ rhetoric. The reality is that the Indian community did not benefit from the PNM. It was their spirit of hard work, sacrifice and thrift that made them rise despite the discriminatory policies of the PNM. Like the Jews under Hitler and around the world, the Indians ignored the State and went about pursuing their individual, family and community wellbeing.

The response of Ashton Ford (Express 27/01/18), a former PNM General Secretary, is lame and an insult to the PNM. Instead of identifying PNM Indians he should have shared with his readers PNM’s policies in relation to agriculture, culture, the public service, the Foreign Service, etc. Since he failed to outline PNM’s policies I would now attempt to remind him.

In the area of agriculture, the PNM continues to be a dismal failure. Its policy in agriculture is to keep alive a Ministry of Agriculture and other state companies but without any real or genuine interest in developing agriculture. What the PNM has succeeded in doing is entrenching a class of food importers. If anyone has benefitted from PNM’s policies on agriculture it has to be the food importers so much so that the culture of agriculture and agro-processing is dying.

The PNM’s animosity against agriculture is so extreme that it has failed to articulate it as a diversification strategy to save on foreign exchange, increase employment and contribute to the GDP. Agriculture is perceived as an “Indian thing” that would benefit Indians despite the reality that there are non-Indian farmers throughout the country.

Indian culture has never been embraced as an integral part of the national culture. The funding it receives is marginal compared to what is provided by the Ministry of Culture, NLCB and other state enterprises for Carnivals and other creole cultural practices. There is no researcher employed by the Ministry of Culture to research and write on aspects of Indian culture. And the Ministry’s token sponsorship of chutney music during the Carnival season is done through George Singh, a member of the Saith-Al Rawi clan of San Fernando. If today Indian culture appears to be alive and flourishing, it is despite PNM’s policies.

Ford wrote: “Several state boards are chaired by Indians…” I would like Ford to tell his readers what % of Indians are members of state boards and chairmen. Under the NAR and the UNC state boards reflected the ethnic diversity of the country; never under the PNM.

The Foreign Service continues to be an enclave to show case blackness. If Indians are given postings it is only a reward for opposing the “Indian Party” as was the case of Manideo Persad and now Dave Persad.  One cannot ignore the rulings of the Law Lords in the case of Feroza Ramjohn and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and PM Manning where it was upheld that there was discrimination by the state against Feroza Ramjohn.

Ford wrote: “In the public service under the PNM the country had two chief justices of Indian descent, namely Issac Hyatalia and Sat Sharma.”  That is a fact that no one can deny. What Ford did not tell us was the arresting of Sharma by the PNM police operatives on spurious and unsubstantiated allegations brought by the PNM administration. Ford should have reminded his readers of the appointment of Occah Seepaul as Speaker of the House and why his PNM Government had to put her under house arrest.

The defence forces in the country do not reflect the ethnic diversity of the country. When is T&T going to appoint an Indian to the post of Commissioner of Police? Now that this exercise is being finalised and an Indian name has surfaced to the top, there is objection by the political directorate.  We are now hearing about typo error and allegations of land grabbing when the selection does not meet the approval of the Prime Minister. This is the modus operandi of the PNM that Ashton Ford needs to admit to…black first and second, talent optional.

The BIche High School was an expression of the overt policies of the PNM to deny Indians an education. Thanks to the UNC schools were built throughout the country giving all equal access to education. Who are objecting to the Debe Campus? Why is it not opening? Why are the Ramai Trace Hindu School and Reform Hindu School-both 95% completed- not being completed and handed over the SDMS Board? Why is the Rousillac Hindu School not being constructed? Is that the PNM brand of equal opportunity that Ford is alluding to? The PNM has returned to 1956 when it shut down the SDMS school-building programme and PM Eric Williams is on record referring to the SDMS schools as cowsheds.

Ford made reference to “the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare was established to provide proper housing solutions for sugar workers and cane farmers…” Ford must be reminded that that programme was not a creation of the PNM but part of the state welfare culture initiated by the sugar producers in the 1950s and was not isolated to Trinidad.  Ford must be reminded that Indians were loaned a paltry sum of $1700 to build a house. Indians were happy to receive that sum and they made full use of it.

I would have rather like to have Ford tell his readers about HDC and how Indians have benefitted. HDC is an exercise in ethnic discrimination. It is apartheid at its worst. Indians with creolised names are received with hostility and suspicion when they turn up at the HDC office to sign documents for houses.  The officers would wonder whether the persons before them were the true applicants. The HDC was never designed to facilitate Indians and if they have benefitted from this state housing programme it was under the NAR and the UNC governments, not the PNM.

When BWIA was shut down it was replaced with Caribbean Airlines. When Caroni Ltd was shut down it was replaced with CEPEP, a programme that rewards PNM party hacks who have little or no skills. However, the real motive is to have at its disposal a band of “brown shirts” who can be readily mobilised for political campaigns with a roti and chicken, a beer and free rides on a maxi.

 While Caribbean Airlines fly at a loss and CEPEP workers flourish, the compensation packages offered to the ex-Caroni workers are yet to be processed and distributed.

Flooding continues to plague areas like St Helena, Caroni, Barrackpore, Debe and Woodland and Caparo, all areas highly populated with Indians. The response of the head of the ODPM to the floods in south was a reflection of PNM non-policy on issues affecting Indians. Prime Ministers Keith Rowley is on record for expressing more concerns for the disasters in Dominica and other Caribbean islands than on the flooding in affected areas where Indo Trinidadians are the majority population.

I think Ashton Ford has failed to provide any sensible and meaningful response to Kamal Persad’s “48-plus years of black power in T&T.” What Ford successfully did was to provide a listing of Indians such as the Saiths, the Mahabirs and the Mohammeds who have personally benefitted from the PNM and not the community they claim to represent. Many of those PNM Indians were creolised and represented nothing Indian. For example, Errol Mahabir was of Portuguese ancestry but the PNM has co-opted these faces and others bearing historical baggage to fight the mainstream Indian (Hindu) population.

If the PNM wanted Indians it should have incorporated Hindus within the PNM. But this was not done for 30 years (1956-86) of uninterrupted PNM rule. This tokenism continues in the PNM with one Hindu in the person of Rohan Sinanan in Cabinet today and another in the person of Avinash Singh, a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.

The PNM can no longer object to the appointment of Indians in senior positions in the State apparatus. Feigning typo error and refusing to appoint an officer after an independent commission has deliberated and made recommendations is without doubt taking the country down the road to Botha’s South Africa where racism was rationalised and legislated.