With descendants of the Atlantic slave trade making demands for reparation from their former colonial powers, now all the reasons for Indo Trinidadians to demand compensation for the wrongs committed against them by the State between the period 1956 to present.
It is not the PNM or the UNC or any racial or class group but the State, a living entity with the power to discriminate. The State is not any single individual but a mask for a number of interest groups and powerful individuals to use to their advantage and to cause hurt to others. In Germany the Nazis captured the State and used its coercive powers to discriminate to the point of the genocide of Jews, Gypsies and others deemed lesser beings.
It is important that the State be purged of its tendency to engage in excessive power against the wishes of the people. The State is the embodiment of power, and as a spirit, can take possession of an individual and drive him to do what he would not do under normal circumstances.
The undermentioned are a list of grievances suffered by Indo-Trinidadian under the State of Trinidad and Tobago:
- The government stopped the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha’s school building program in 1956. The then political leader and Prime Minister, the Honourable Dr. Eric Williams, referred to the Hindu schools as cowsheds. Currently, other denominations are having their schools rebuilt and repaired while Indian denominational schools remain closed as in the cases of Ramai Trace Hindu in Penal, the Reform Hindu in Gasparillo. The Debe Campus located in south Trinidad also remains closed.
- Between 1956 to 1986 -30 long years-there was not a single Hindu in the cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago.
- Indians were denied appointments to the senior ranks of the Police, Defense Forces, and Public Service.
- Indians were not appointed as ambassadors in the foreign service of the country. If they were, the number was very small and usually given to party loyalists.
- Indians were denied appointments to State boards and general appointments as managers and workers.
- Indian culture was denied a place in the curriculum. Indian religions-Hinduism and Islam- are not taught at The University of the West Indies. Indian music, dance, and languages-Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu- are not part of the school’s curriculum.
- Indian culture was always given token funding while Creole culture-calypso, carnival, soca, etc- was showered with State funds.
- ‘Secret’ scholarship programs that benefitted mainly non-Indians were promoted in almost every Ministry and State enterprises.
- Agriculture, which employs a large number of Indians, continues to be neglected by the State. Caroni Ltd workers were the lowest-paid among State employees. Budgetary allocation for agriculture remains the lowest per capita given the number of people depending on the industry for their livelihood. Ex-Caroni workers are yet to receive infrastructure including irrigation and access roads on their two-acre plots.
- Infrastructure is not built or repaired to avoid floods in the areas like St Helena, Debe and Penal where the affected citizens are mainly Indians.
- Health infrastructure is denied the people of south and central Trinidad. The failure of the government to open the Couva Children’s Hospital can amount to criminal negligence.
- Indians are denied equal opportunity to sporting facilities. A look at the allocation of facilities in the East-West Corridor compared to Central and South would reveal a gross disparity.
- State subsidized housing favored non-Indians while Indians are left on their own to provide shelters for their families.
The above list is not exhaustive. I strongly recommend that a legal firm be given this task to challenge the State to establish its discriminatory role over the years. Such a case should be used to galvanized all people who strive for a culture of equal opportunity. Moreover, the role of the State should be reduced and greater power should return to the individual, family, and community. People should be empowered to make their decisions for themselves because they know best their needs and grievances.