Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Equality Council investigating Sandy's "Calcutta" boat statement

The Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) is investigating Hilton Sandy, the People's National Movement (PNM) candidate in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Election who made a controversial ant-Indian statement on a political platform.

Media reports say Sandy made the "Calcutta ship" statement more than once and was endorsed by his party's top officials including THA Chief Secretary Orville London and PNM Leader Keith Rowley. Sandy has apologised twice for the statement.

Sandy is the PNM candidate for the electoral district of Belle Garden East/Roxborough/Delaford. He told supporters on January 4 that if the PNM loses the election "a ship from Calcutta" would sail to Tobago.

Read the related story: Another Sandy racist "Calcutta" statement takes ambiguity out of the question

The Express newspaper reported Wednesday that it has seen a copy of the preliminary report dated January 15 in which the EOC stated that it received a complaint via its website on January 10 from the Equality Council of Trinidad and Tobago against Mr Hilton Sandy.

It said the report acknowledges the complaint from Vice-chair of the Equality Council of Trinidad and Tobago Barrington "Skippy" Thomas who claimed that Sandy breached Section 7 (1) of the Equal Opportunity Act, which defines offensive behaviour as "A person shall not otherwise than in private do an act which:

(a) Is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or groups of persons

(b) Is done because of the gender, race, ethnicity, origin, or religion of the other person or of some or all of the persons in the group

(c) Is done with the intention of inciting gender, racial or religious hatred.

Thomas reported that the statement was directed at Sandy's political opponents who are allied to the People's Partnership Government and was interpreted by many to be a reference to persons of East Indian origin who comprise the traditional support base of the United National Congress (UNC), which is the majority party within the People's Partnership Government.

Thomas stated: "Mr Sandy is a candidate for the People's National Movement political party, which has had its traditional support base among persons of African ethnic origin. At the same time, it is to be noted that demographic data has shown that the population of Tobago is, by and large, traditionally of African ethnic origin.

"Given this background, the complainant feels that the respondent's statements are "acrimonious, racist and combustible" and were made to "perjure and insult" persons of East Indian origin as a group, "with the intention of inciting racial/tribal voting practice in the upcoming THA election".

The Express quoted from the EOC report:

"It is to be noted that the commission has not yet received a proper transcript of the respondent's full statement. As such, we cannot at this point make any conclusions or findings on the matter. Further, it was reported in the news media that the respondent has apologised or retracted his statement. We would also need to see the transcript of this as it would affect that we can and cannot do."

The Express said the EOC stated that it cannot fine or reprimand Sandy because "offensive behaviour" under the Act was not created as a criminal offence. It added that the EOC's function is to receive, investigate and, as far as possible, conciliate allegations of discrimination.

If the matter cannot be resolved by conciliation, then an Equal Opportunity Tribunal is appointed to examine it further, it added.

The EOC outlined the process for conducting its investigation, stating that in order to prove a complaint of offensive behaviour, the alleged act must meet all three criteria set out in Section 7 (1):
  • the conduct or statement must reasonably likely, in all of the circumstances, insult, offend, humiliate or intimate another person or group of persons. The statement(s) made must be looked at in their entirety, as well as the context of the surrounding circumstances, and a conclusion must be drawn as to whether it is reasonable that humiliation was caused
  • the conduct or statement must be done because of the gender, race, ethnicity, origin or religion of the other person or of some or all of the persons in the group
  • the statement must be made with the intention of inciting gender, racial or religious hatred
The Express quoted further from the preliminary report:

"Proving a person's intent is a challenge but it is not impossible. It has been said that the state of a man's mind is as much a fact as the state of his digestion, and that one's intent can be proven as any factual matter...

"In criminal law, one is taken to have intended the natural consequences of one's actions so that, for example, one cannot point and shoot a loaded gun at a crowd of persons and then say one did not intend to do harm."

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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