Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Commentary: PNM playing a race card to try to retain control of Tobago

This column was first published on December 29, 2012
Tobago market
The People's National Movement (PNM) and its supporters are quick to paint the People's Partnership with a racist brush, charging that the administration led by Kamla Persad-Bissessar is putting people of African origin at a great disadvantage.

The reality is different and any independent analysis would show that the PNM's fears are imaginary and intended to generate ethnic divisiveness while the People's Partnership has been working hard at creating a society in which everyone is equal.

The PNM on the other had, while casting stones, is refusing to look at its own actions in trying to divide the country. The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) election campaign is based on the same ethnic fear that it is injecting in the country and abroad through its propaganda machinery.

In the THA campaign Chief Secretary Orville London is on record as telling people they won't be forgiven if they don't vote PNM. And the party is making no secret about telling Tobagonians that if the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) wins, it would be the start of the "Indianisation" of the island.

A quote attributed to Tobagonian former head of the civil service Reginald Dumas is quite telling. In an interview in the Guardian Dumas is quoted as saying that people are saying that TOP leader Ashworth Jack “dances too much to the tune of the Prime Minister" and that Tobagonians say “Tobago is to be ‘Indianised’" if TOP wins.

Tobago is a part of Trinidad and Tobago and any citizen has the right to live there if she or he chooses. So it is absurd to suggest that if one party wins "Indians would take over" the island. The reality is that there is no such threat and there never was one. People don't need a government to tell them where to live and work.

Trinidad and Tobago has a peculiar demographic that is based on its history, which explains why the regions that were dominated by the sugar industry have been populated by people of Indian origin. Their forefathers were the ones brought to the country to work in the plantations after slavery ended. The ethnic composition of Tobago also has its historical relevance.

If people of Indian origin want to move to Tobago they will do so whether Jack or London is in charge. Fortunately, you don't need a permit to move residence in Trinidad & Tobago or to choose where you want to invest your money.

What the people of Tobago need to ask themselves is whether their lives are better today than when Orville London and the PNM took charge of the island in January 2001. Are they better off today after the THA under London spent $17 billion?

That is the only issue. The PNM doesn't want to deal with that because it cannot honestly show where that money went or tell the people what it has done to make their lives any better. So it is engaged in fear-mongering and an absurd appeal to race.

The PNM sees others as reflections of itself so it can only view every political decision in terms of race because that is how it governed from 1956. If you pay attention to the PNM's propaganda today you would believe that no one of Indian origin is fit to hold political or other office in Trinidad & Tobago.

Trinidad & Tobago is a free state built of a tradition of democracy inherited from its colonial master. And our national anthem boasts of a country where every creed and race finds an equal place.

No one race, religion or political group has any God given right to govern a country where every citizen is equal. The PNM needs to understand that and to acknowledge that the people decided in a free and fair election that the PNM was no longer fit to govern.

Kamla and the PP buried the PNM and race-based politics in 2010. Today, the PNM is doing a great disservice to Tobagonians and to every citizen of Trinidad & Tobago by raising the ghost of racism to try to retain power in Tobago. If it works, it would be a sad day for the country and a retrograde step for all of us.

Jai Parasram

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai