Indians in Trinidad and Guyana desperately want real, fundamental change in this election year but they are not likely to get it.
Black people in both countries do not want real, fundamental change and they are likely to get their wish. They control the system whether their political parties are in power or not. Real change will mean danger to their control and they will not tolerate it.
Indians desperately want something better, black people just as desperately want nothing different.
If we review the politics of the last half century or so in both countries, it’s impossible to come to any other conclusions. And since politics, in these cases simple racial politics, is the driver of change or no change, it is to politics that we must look.
In Trinidad the People’s National Movement (PNM) and some allies with majority support from black people took power in 1956 and have held it for 10 governments since then. The PNM has established and maintained a system that mostly benefits their supporters, who occupy positions from top to bottom in all important organizations. It retains solid support from its African, mixed race and allied groups from other races and religions, including the Indians from the Presbyterian and Muslim faiths. What the PNM wants it usually gets, and major changes are not on its agenda.
The mostly Indian supported opposition United National Congress (UNC) has had only two bites of the government pie in 1995 and 2010. Both times they found themselves unable to bring about fundamental changes in the system they decry as racist and unjust. Massive resistance from PNM hardliners in the civil service, teaching service, trade unions, police, media, the Christian and Muslim faiths crippled them. Even when out of political power, the PNM controls the board in Trinidad.
Basdeo Panday, the first Indian prime minister. spent his entire term pandering to the PNM supporters who were watching him like hawks. If he had attempted anything big like bringing about Indian-black racial parity in the police service street riots would have brought down his government and he knew it.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar the second Indian prime minister could do no better in fundamental change than Panday. Does anybody believe she could have brought about cultural funding equality for Indian culture and black culture? Could she have decentralized half a dozen government ministry headquarters out of PNM-controlled Port of Spain into south and central UNC strongholds?
Kamla, the UNC prime minister, was so weak she didn’t dare to have opposition leader Keith Rowley arrested when he accused her and other ministers of conspiracy to murder on the basis of obviously bogus emails. Yes there would have been mass riots had she done so. I was monitoring public reaction at the time and was astounded at the massive and vehement black support of Rowley.
The UNC has a slim chance of unseating the incompetent Rowley (now prime minister!) and his woefully incompetent PNM in the 2020 elections.
But does anybody really believe Kamla will be able to make fundamental change in a second bite of the government banana? Not me!
Anybody who disagrees can give a 2020 winner Kamla this simple litmus test. Declare the police service ineffective as set up today, and bring new officers from the rural areas to switch places with mostly black urban based police of today who are known to be reluctant to arrest their kith and kin criminals in the towns.
Or better still, let Kamla set up a rural constabulary of special reserve police recruited from the country areas (Indians!) to support the Police Service in underserviced areas. Rural constabulary to be armed of course.
It’s been done in other countries. A sensible move. But in Trinidad? Indian police with guns, probably supporters of the UNC? That is the black nightmare, armed Indians as a counter balance to the PNM loyalists in the Police Service and army. That is fight talk. Black people will kill to prevent that happening. Kamla knows it too.
The system of racial politics, winner takes all loser takes the fall, that Trinidad has endured for the last half century is flawed, non functioning, a big not so funny joke. But the PNM stalwarts like it so because the alternative of a better system that does not guarantee them control is unthinkable.
The UNC knows the system is absurd and should really be changed bigly for the good of the nation. Their record of making such changes when in power is not impressive. My judgment is that even if they win in 2020 they will not be about to do it this time.
With only minor changes of name and dates, this story can apply equally to Guyana. The ruling black based APNU and its tiny coalition partner the Indian based AFC are rolling towards a general election they are determined to win at any cost. They are not considering any fundamental change.
Opposition PPP with its mostly Indian base and a handful of token blacks, is talking big change if it wins power. But how much major change did it make in its last time in power from 1992-2015? Nothing to boast about, right? Why believe it could be different if they win in 2020?
It’s the same story as Trinidad. When the black party-the PNC (forerunner of APNU)-took power from 1964-1992 they rigged the system just as the PNM did in Trinidad, so they had control whether in power or in opposition. They have massive and ferocious support from black people going into the 2020 election, and those black people don’t want big change, they don’t want exchange. Look for major trouble if they lose the election.
Some will get angry at me for this depressing forecast. They will say I should give solutions and not just point out problems a la Vidia Naipaul.
My reply is that I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em. If I see no viable solutions I am not going to invent some to make people feel good. That’s the job of the public relations folks. Reasoned disagreement with my conclusions will be welcomed.