After 59 years of independence, where is Trinidad and Tobago as a nation? Politically the country remains divided along racial and ethnic lines. The PNM Government that has ruled 44 of these 59 years (73%) has done more to divide this plural society than bridge the gaps. In fact, every one who has opposed the PNM has been sanctioned in one way or the other. Any rival to the PNM is viewed with hostility from its inception in 1956 to present…a legacy of hate and victimization from its founding father, Dr. Eric Williams.
Worse is that these discriminatory policies of the PNM continue to reincarnate themselves. When Patrick Manning came to power, he didn’t attempt to steer PNM away from its traditional mores. Instead, he locked up a sitting Chief Justice who was appointed to the position by the Basdeo Panday-led UNC government. It was a clear signal to the Indian community that occupying such a portfolio was s a transgression of the natural order. His famous Petrosingh remarks was to signal that Indians were overstepping their bound.
Patrick Manning demonstrated further his contempt for the Indian community by shutting down Caroni Ltd, sending more than 9,000 workers on the breadline. Several communities in the sugar belt were indirectly affected. Overall, the closure of Caroni Ltd impacted the lives of more than 100,000 citizens.
Many argued that shutting down Caroni was a policy of the government to break the political base of the UNC. But closing the industry was not enough. Worse was the government reneging on its separation package for the workers. The promise of land for the ex-Caroni workers was not being fulfilled. After the government’s failure to deliver the land promised, ex-Caroni workers challenged the government’s decision in the court and Justice Lennox Deyalsingh ruled in their favour. Patrick Manning appealed the decision. It was only when the PP Government took power in 2010 that the government withdrew the appeal and the workers were now able to access their lands.
Today we are hearing threats from the sitting Minister of Agriculture to take back the leases from those farmers whose 2-acre plots are not under cultivation. This Minister of Agriculture should first enquire from the owners of the leases why they are not farming the land. The Minister of Agriculture is very much aware of the lack of irrigation, praedial larceny, market challenges, etc but lacks the will to have them corrected. Had he done so, he would be going against the unwritten policy of the PNN to suffer the agricultural industry.
Dr Keith Rowley is on a mission to outdo the previous political leaders of the PNM vis-à-vis Indo Trinis. This was well played out in the field of education. Hindu schools that are 95% completed under the PP Government continue to remain shut while new schools are being rebuilt in PNM strongholds. The Debe Campus remains shut with no time frame set to open it. This politics of spite and discrimination make the Biche High School’s fiasco insignificant!
If T&T has to unite as one nation, the government of the day must implement a culture of equal opportunity- the best man for the job. Too many institutions are headed by party hacks and not necessarily the best individuals. Too many deserving citizens-mainly Indians- are bypassed for incompetent party hacks.
At 59, T&T is sliding down hill…if not already at the bottom! If we are, it is only a culture of free enterprise that would help us to rise out of this abyss. The people have the ability to bring the nation out of this social and economic rut. The government must now step back and allow the people to go forward. This is our only hope – the people taking charge of their destination, not the tobagonizing of the society.