Friday, January 11, 2013

Letter: Perhaps the Equal Opportunities Commission should act against THA candidate Hilton Sandy

In 2007 a sitting UNC Senator created an uproar when he suggested that abortion and cash-incentive sterilisation could be used as measures to reduce crime in specific communities in the Trinidad and Tobago. 

Almost immediately, a wave of protest shot through the country. Rennie Dumas, a Minister then, labelled the statements a threat of "genocide". Independent Senator Dana Seetahal wrote in her column that the statements were a "reflection of his (the UNC Senator) own bias."

Swift action was demanded against what was perceived to be a highly offensive remark and swift action followed. Two days later the Senator in question had his appointment revoked through instructions by the UNC’s then political leader.

Six years later an incumbent Assemblyman from Tobago rallies his crowd to reject the "Calcutta boat". But his act of linguistic provocation does not evoke the wrath of the “independent and fair-minded bench.” 

The commentator seemingly escapes reprimand and is allowed to contest an election and offer himself to national office to be paid by tax-payers. He further beats his chest and boasts that he “committed no crime”.

But maybe, just maybe, this may be one for the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) of Trinidad and Tobago.

The EOC which is guided by the Equal Opportunities Act 2000, states in its website its mandate as being inter alia; “to prevent and discourage acts of discrimination relating to race, gender, religion, disability, employment, education, accommodation, status (and) offensive behaviour”.

Section seven of the Act, under the heading, “Offensive Behaviour” states, “A person shall not otherwise than in private, do any act which—
(a) is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group 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; and
(c) which is done with the intention of inciting gender, racial or religious hatred”.

Was the statement by the Tobago Assemblyman made in public? Has it offended or humiliated any person or group of persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity? Was there an intention to incite racial hatred?

Trinidad and Tobago is known worldwide not just for its cosmopolitan configuration but for the harmonious co-existence of such diverse ethnic and cultural interests. 

We have persistently and consistently rejected, rebuked and reprimanded any attempt to chisel away at our solidarity cemented through years of socio-political and economic struggle. No election candidate local or general, Trinidadian or Tobagonian should seek to alter that expressly or impliedly.

Maybe, just maybe, there has been a breach of the law and maybe, just maybe the relevant authority should be called upon to act.

Ashvani Mahabir

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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