Sunday, January 20, 2013

Guest Commentary: Unforgivable PNM racism

The column below by SUZANNE MILLS has been reproduced unedited from her personal website. Please click here to visit SUZANNE's website and read more of her works.


A PNM fanatic dropped an acerbic note in my website mailbox, which accused me of failing to grasp the complexity of Hilton Sandy's vile Calcutta comments. 

What was there to understand?

There was nothing complicated about Sandy´s statement, which presaged that a TOP win would lead to an Indian invasion of Tobago.

Despite caustic emails, I still maintain that Sandy´s statement deciphered the thinly coded messages to be found in the PNM´s platform rhetoric and off the cuff comments. There is no camouflaging the racism in the basic or base PNM message, even as the party tries to spin us around by alleging that the PNM is only trying to protect Tobago from a political culture alien to Tobagonians.

Alien is just a euphemism for Indo-Trini, used in an effort to distance the PNM's unwritten manifesto from Sandy´s sickening racist comments when they are one and the same.

“They are taking a political culture from the UNC and the PP and bringing it here,” Orville London has asserted, conveniently forgetting that the TOP, a member of the PP coalition, won the two Tobago seats in 2010.

But London, who boorishly referred to Kamla Persad Bissessar not as Prime Minister, but as “that lady”, has self-appointed himself as lord protector of Tobago and is suggesting that Tobago´s political culture is PNM, not UNC. To this end, funding for the TOP and its links to Trinidad have been major talking points, but no one has asked who is contributing to the PNM´s coffers or who is really running the Tobago campaign.

But what evidence is there to support London’s claim that the PP is alien?

Tobago has never been exclusively PNM country, particularly since the PNM and Tobagonians have been culturally and politically oceans apart for decades.
Tobago elections have always been predicated on self-government and development, not race. If anything, it is PNM political culture that is alien to Tobagonians. 
This has been the nastiest electoral campaign Tobago has ever witnessed precisely because race has been factored into the equation. 

For the first time, Tobagonians are being asked to think less about their heritage, their autonomy, their development and their political growth and are being encouraged to be xenophobic, as if Trinidad and the PP are the enemies and the aliens.

To support his warped message, London has further alleged that the PP has committed atrocities in Trinidad. Clearly he does not understand the meaning of the word. Atrocity means wickedness, brutality and cruelty and London did not give one example to support his pronouncement. Pure hyperbole intended to further scare Tobagonians into voting for a party which has encouraged typical PNM unadulterated patronage while overseeing the demise of Tobago´s tourism sector.

I spent two weeks in Tobago last year and so appalled was I by the deterioration of the island´s tourism; I swore that my next vacation would take me to Grenada, St Lucia, Barbados or Jamaica.

For a sector so dependent on service, service seemed to be the last item on the menu. I was told by hoteliers that they were competing with the THA for staff; as many Tobagonians were now employed in make-work programmes. With 60 per cent of Tobagonians working for the THA, the tourism industry has been dealt a severe body blow. Private entrepreneurs also complained about staff shortages.

Tourism is also on the decline because the THA has failed to market Tobago. The THA has yet to react to the 2008 economic crisis. It did not realise that in order to compete during a worldwide economic slump, it had to sell Tobago, increase its attraction.

Neighbouring Caribbean islands are keenly promoting their countries and they offer stellar service to visitors. While they advertise heavily in traditional markets they are also seeking to make strides in the non-traditional.

Meanwhile foreign investment is encouraged, not turned away, governments not seeing it not as a threat but as a necessary step on the road to employment and development.

In tomorrow´s (Mpnday) election, Tobagonians will be choosing whether to work with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to achieve internal self-government and inject new life into Tobago, or whether they wish to save the PNM´s dwindling political fortunes by buying into racist agendas.

From the first day of PP rule, Orville London has aligned himself with Balisier House, becoming part of the Port-of-Spain-based PNM opposition, regardless of the worth of the ideas proposed by the central government or the potential benefit to Tobagonians these contributions may have brought.

Should Tobago return London and the PNM to the THA, we will have to accept the decision although we may not respect it given the tenor of the PNM campaign. Win or lose, when Dr Keith Rowley returns to Trinidad he will have to face an electorate whose majority are disgusted by Sandy’s racist remarks, comments which Dr Rowley may in vain wish to be water under the bridge.

The people of Trinidad will remember how Dr Rowley sat side by side on a PNM stage with a man who espouses racism, that under his leadership, race became the major issue in this bellicose contest.

Dr Rowley may argue that the Sandy´s outburst is no longer of consequence since Sandy apologised for his comments, but the matter does not end there.

The Opposition leader cannot dictate which issues are important and when the people must stop talking about them. He has sought to extract blood out of Section 34, but expects the populace to forget about Sandy´s remarks because he said so.

Coincidentally where are the people who marched with such outrage against Section 34? Where are the NGOs and the pseudo political organisations? Where is David Abdulah? Is rank racism a non-issue for them?

To the rabid PNM stalwart who wrote me a poison pen letter I repeat: Hilton Sandy has shown his true colours and his apology cannot magically undo his heartfelt sentiments, which in turn unmasked the thrust and foundation of the PNM´s campaign. Now, where´s the complexity in that?

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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