Reparation-More Harm than Good

Reparation-More Harm than Good

Photo : L-R Keith Rowley, Anand Ramlogan, David Granger 

  • Anand Ramlogan addresses contemporary issues of discrimination
  • African males don’t take responsibility for their fatherhood
  • Caricom must address the social and economic decadence of Caricom states after more than 50 years of independence
  • The entire Caribbean turned a blind eye to racial discrimination in Guyana in the 1970s and 1980s
  • Talking about the past and reparation is a lame excuse to cover mismanagement, corruption, racism and discrimination.

Caricom appears to be more eager to address the historical wrongs of yesteryears rather than dealing with current issues. This escape is best exemplified in its struggles for reparation from former colonial powers.  In this respect Anand Ramlogan, SC must be commended for addressing contemporary issues of discrimination rather than hiding behind a fig leaf with his eyes shut, and hoping that he is safe from all threats. His latest victory in the court for Police Constable Billy Ramsundar is testimony that he is not going to live in the past but meet head on the challenges of today.

Anand Ramlogan, SC has demonstrated over the years that he is not just another qualified lawyer but one who is going to use his knowledge of the law to address discrimination against the person by the State. For far too long many people have been discriminated by the State and so few of our lawyers have come forward to address their grievances before the courts.

Discrimination is not new but is part of human society. Where ever there is a group of people there will always be cries of discrimination –real or perceived. The challenge of society is not to ignore those pleas, pretending that all is well but to put systems in place to address them. This is why former Attorney General Ramesh Maharaj must be commended for enacting legislations such as the Judicial Review Act and the Freedom of Information Act that not only strengthen our democracy but also give the individual the power to seek redress in the courts.

I read with interest Dara’s Healy’s Black Doll (Newday July 15, 2017). Healy wrote “.. after emancipation white and mulatto males would frequent the barrack yards in and around Port of Spain, seeking sexual favours from black women. The masquerade evolved as a form of protest against this practice, and the fact that the laws protected the men who refused to take responsibility for any children who came about because of these liaisons.”

Dara Healy is right about that historical fact. My contention is that there are many children who are fathered today by African males who do not take responsibility for their fatherhood. It is common today to see many single mothers with children and no father figures around. Is that not an issue that Dara Healy should be writing about? No. Instead she escapes into history, laying blame on the whites for social action that took place more than 200 years ago but not uttering one word of reprimand against African males.

This culture of escaping into the past is not isolated to Dara Healy but has become an aspect of Caribbean culture. In another article “Reparation issues deserves respect,” by Ayegoro Ome (Newsday Saturday July 15, 2017) a case was proposed by Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsales, for Caricom to “engage the UK, France and Holland on the issue of reparations to the nations and the peoples of the Caribbean for crime against humanity of native genocide, the transatlantic trade and racialised  system of chattel slavery.”

Again, it is easy for Caricom Heads of Government to remind themselves of injustices of the past while ignoring to deal with current social and economic issues. Why don’t Caricom address the social and economic decadence of Caricom states after more than 50 years of independence? Look at the current fiasco with the sea bridge between Trinidad and Tobago. A small matter like an inter-island ferry service cannot be managed efficiently. Unemployment is high across Caricom. Crime is a runaway horse that governments appear helpless to curb. There is nothing good about us. Is Holland or the UK responsible for that?  Yes, to some extent! But have our leaders managed our affairs properly? Or, is it that when we fail we can always blame the injustices of slavery and colonialism?

The racism and discrimination is a recurring theme in Caribbean life. There is blatant discrimination against Indians and Amerindians by the David Granger’s PNC government in Guyana. The sugar industry is being dismantled to spite Indians who are the main supporters of the Opposition PPP.  The entire Caricom appears to be engaged in a sinister conspiracy to marginalise and destroy every industry where Indians are in the mainstay. In Trinidad and Tobago the sugar industry was long closed but little has been done to help famers in a meaningful way. Now there is talk on the air of shutting down NADEVCO Market at Debe and to merge the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) with First Citizens. It is as clear as daylight that the Rowley administration is eager to destroy the livelihood of famers as exemplified in the closure of Caroni Green Ltd. It was a horrendous scene seeing young mothers in tears after receiving termination letters. The CEO pleads for Caroni Greens to be offered to the workers to run as a co-operative was ignored by the Rowley government.

Dr Vishnu Bishram has suggested that the lands in Guyana be given to the former cane-cutters to produce sugar-cane in small holding of 5-15 acres. The cane would be sold to the factory which would be privately owned with the cane farmers being share- holders.  This model is being used in India and East Africa and is very successful wherever applied. The PNC is hell bent on closure leaving the workers to the wolves!

It is clear that the modus operandi of the PNC is to do everything to make life difficult for the Indians. This is gross discrimination and must be addressed but instead of doing so Caricom is championing the right to reparation. It was bad for the colonial powers to act unjustly against Blacks but it’s alright for a PNC government to discriminate against Indians and Amerindians!

The entire Caribbean turned a blind eye to racial discrimination in Guyana in the 1970s and 1980s so much so that the PNC policy of discrimination drove the economy to the ground. Despite the repeated rigging of elections in Guyana, the leaders of Caricom chose not to interfere in the internal affairs of Guyana. The result of such blatant acts of discrimination was the collapse of the economy and the mass migration of Guyanese of all races seeking refuge abroad. Yet, there was not a word of protest from Caricom governments! They were only too happy to have a failing black government in power in Guyana rather that an Indian government that can bring prosperity for all.

The Indo-Caribbean intelligentsia must not allow itself to fall into the “black man historical death trap.” The blacks’ obsession with the injustices of the past has clouded his mind so much so that he does not see a brighter future ahead.  It seems that engaging in protest actions for back pay is high in the Blacks’ list of priorities; not setting goals and working towards them. Seeking reparation is akin to back pay. In fact one calypsonian has sung asking for “my grandfather back pay’.

Vice Chancellor of The UWI, Sir Hilary Beckles, has made an appeal for reparation to embrace the hardships and exploitation of Indians during indenture. Personally, I am not keen on that. I would like Sir Hilary to address the marginalization of Indians in text books and the English B (Literature) and History syllabi. Despite Indians forming large sections of the population in the southern Caribbean they continue to remain marginalised in the senior echelons of the public service, Carifesta, Carifta Games and so many institutions including tourist brochures. In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, and Caricom, there is a dearth of Indians in the embassies abroad. 

Dr Visnu Bishram highlighted the refusal of The UWI and The UG to actively participate in funding activities marking the 100th anniversary of the ending of Indian indenture. He noted that while President Granger voted 1500USD for a UG Conference on ending of indentureship, last year’s Emancipation received three times that amount. Also, THE UWI provides regular funding for travel and accommodation for meetings abroad on reparation but still has not made available any funding for the hosting of events to commemorate the termination of indenture. Sometimes one is tempted to ask if our higher institutions of learning are descending into the decadence and abyss of some of our media houses!

The Black people of the Caribbean need to stop pointing fingers and start looking within. In 1970 Blacks protested for “black power” when they had power but did not know what to do with it; today they are protesting for reparation when billions are squandered and mismanaged. An example is the Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad. Originally estimated to cost TT$200m, it was finally completed at TT$1.3b after delays spanning a decade and the sitting of a Commission of Inquiry.  Why is the Couva Children’s Hospital not being opened? Are the former slave owners responsible for the delay?

Who is fooling who? Black people need to look each other squarely in the eyes and deal with the social and economic challenges facing the Caribbean today. Talking about the past and reparation is a lame excuse to cover our mismanagement, corruption and our racist and discriminatory mind set.