By Kamal Persad
Mr. Aston Ford, former PNM general secretary, letter “Panday, the revisionist provocateur” is inaccurate in terms of the history of the country, especially with the Federal Elections of March 25, 1958.
He referred to Ferdie Ferreira, “a PNM historian” in his book Political Encounters 1946- 2016: “The ‘recalcitrant minority’ statement in Woodford Square and subsequently at Harris Promenade- has become part of our political history. It was a statement that, from its inception, was taken out of context,”
Ferdie Ferreira recorded the defeat of the PNM in the Federal Election on March 25, 1958, in the night: “Standing before the large animated crowd at Princess Building Grounds, Williams went on to make his now historic speech, repeating his ‘recalcitrant minority” thesis.
“The nation on the march to inevitable destiny. We will neither be stopped or interrupted by reactionary forces. The PNM bulldozers are digging deep into the hillsides and woe be unto any recalcitrant minority that attempts to stop our march to freedom and independence,” The crowd roared its approval.
Louis Rostant “was their reaction of the Black nationalist leader and the nationalist movement…. The recalcitrant minority was not in Caroni and/or the sugar belt.”
And further added that “Williams did not create, invent or discover the recalcitrant minority. They have been mankind from the very inception of the human race. Change has never been accepted by all.” He said nothing of the April 01, 1958 speech by Eric Williams against Indians.
Eric Williams Inward Hunger (1969) has a speech entitled The Danger Facing Trinidad and Tobago and the West Indian Nation extracts on April 01, 1958. Mr. Aston Ford said that the ‘statement … it has been repeated for decades by individuals with divisive agenda. A maliciously misconstrued misstatement … and referred to a direct attack on Indians in T&T for Dr. Eric Williams by those with malintent.”
And “right-thinking citizens look back at the history of T&T” and the role that Dr. Eric Williams played with respect to the Indians. Eric Williams, in fact, blamed Indians for the PNM’s defeat in the Federal Elections of March 25, 1958.
The root of the anti-Indian PNM campaign began with the 1956 General Elections and continues today.
Indian Brother- 1956 and 1958
F.E. Brassington in The Politics of Opposition said that “I did not put to him (Bhadase) the Indian Brother letter, circulated as a handbill, inspired by him, or did he think that it was a PNM election trick to discredit him and his Party? It was certainly a missive that signaled the polarization of politics in Trinidad and Tobago on racial lines.”
He further added “that the PDP posed to the PNM prospects was well recognized, as was evident in the memorable address by Dr. Williams in Woodford Square during the General Elections campaign in 1956, an address which he drew attention to a letter purported to have been circulated by the PDP calling on its “Indian brothers” to support it. Dr Williams had, on that occasion, made immense political capital out of this unfortunate, ill-advised, and ill-timed epistle which, in the minds of the part of the PDP. Dr Williams branded this as a “menace” and proceeded to statistically dissect the country according to the races and their numbers making up the society.”
The Federal Elections was held on March 25, 1958. Eric Williams said: “Our opponents even went to the length of distributing by the thousands of letters dated March 28, addressed ‘My dear Indian Brother” and signed “Yours truly, Indian.” He continued the letter: “Sedition in intent, offensive, derogatory, an insult to the West Indian nation … the vicious document: the most offensive in terms of politics …”
Dr. Eric Williams in the General Elections of 1956 in Woodford Square attacked the PDP on the basis of race- “the Indian brother” and on April 01, 1956, he used race again: “the Indian brother” to attack the DLP. He was obsessed with race and Indians.
Was that a PNM strategy?
Aston Ford and Ferdie Ferreira, a PNM historian and “Portrait of a Patriot” said, “that racial divide and blatant acts of racism never occurred under a PNM government from 1956 to today.” Dr. Winston Mahabir, Minister of the PNM Government (1956-61) said in In and Out of Politics (1978) about the Federal Elections in 1958. Chapter 3 -The Federal Mule and the Scapegoat- represents Eric Williams and the PNM racism against Indians. He wrote that “we experienced a sudden shattering of all the ideals for which we thought we stood. We felt guilty of the lies we had preached to the Indians about the genuineness of Williams and our Party.”
The defeat of Eric Williams and the PNMites in the Federal Elections on March 25 1958 was traumatic. On the night of March 25, 1958, at Princess Building, Port of Spain Williams blamed the whites. On April 01, 1958, at Woodford Square, he blamed Indians and repeated on April 02 in San Fernando. Since 1961, elections in T&T are fraudulent with voting machines and gerrymandering of electoral boundaries. Aston Ford, Ferdie Ferreira, Mrs. Erica Williams, et al can defend Eric Williams’ record and legacy. The truth is well-known and will not distort the history of Trinidad and Tobago.