During the life of the Race Relations Committee, Prof Cudjoe and myself differed fundamentally on several issues of race, history, politics, education, religion and culture in T&T. However, despite these differences we remained civil to each other and we never allowed our different opinions to become personalised. This example of our maturity as a people is not unique and is perhaps the only reason why there has not been violent racial conflict in T&T as there has been in similar societies such as Fiji and Guy-ana. So while others are shocked that Prof Cudjoe asked me to deliver the feature address at the launch of his book titled Indian Time Ah Come, others are equally amazed that I accepted. The title of the book is very deceptive and may be mischievously designed to incite racial tensions between the Indian and African communities here in T&T. It is conceived to mobilise Prof Cudjoe's People's National Movement African support against the ruling People's Partnership Government. The title openly trumpets the long-held African and PNM fear of an Indian-based political party domination of T&T. Yet since the massive defeat of the PNM on May 24, not a government official, party member, Indian-based organisation or Indian spokesman or leader has articulated this sentiment of "Indian time now."
Indian Time Ah Come is not Trini speak. We in Trinidad don't use "ah" in this way. Apart from what else might be wrong in the text, the title is certainly foreign as no doubt the message that it hopes to mobilise. The Indian spectre last surfaced during the Panday administration (1995-2001) along similar lines to mobilise fear in the Afro-Trinidadian community against what was projected as an Indian and Hindu-dominated government. This tested weapon is once again being dusted off, oiled and greased to be deployed against Kamla's People's Partnership Government. The first volley appears to be by Prof Cudjoe. I must commend Prof Cudjoe for finally finding his voice after almost a decade of being deaf and mute during most of the reign of his political party the PNM. Perhaps being appointed by the PNM as a director of the Central Bank was enough to silence Prof Cudjoe for the greater part of a decade, save an annual emancipation outburst during a heavily state- funded NEAP event. Prof Cudjoe's voice begins anew with his tried and tested clarion calls of race and the colonial ste-reotype of the Indian spectre.
This racial bogey of the Indo-Trinidadian operating the apparatus of state continues almost unbroken from the 2010 election where race was preached on many political platforms during the last elections. On April 12, leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) revealed that the race card has been pulled out already in Tobago by the PNM. Mr Jack revealed that TOP members were flooded with text messages on their mobile phones saying that the Indians should not be given a chance at the Treasury. The Jack-led TOP was presenting a strong challenge to the PNM in Tobago and the PNM no doubt was of the view that by instilling ethnic fears among Tobagonians the TOP would be blocked from taking the two Tobago seats. In St Augustine on April 13, Prime Minister Manning said: "But you know if this was a UNC platform, what you would have heard, my dear friends? You would have heard 'give me a Guinness and ah puncheon!'" In Plum Mitan, Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert followed up on Manning's "Guinness and puncheon" by saying there are no rum drinkers or political conmen on the PNM slate of candidates, "but I can't say the same for the UNC.'
Facing the heat from an Indian backlash on what some conceived as a racist statement, Manning attempted to explain it without success. It was however left to Jack Warner to defend the Indian community. The UNC chairman said Manning insulted every East Indian in the country with that statement. At the St Augustine meeting of April 16, Warner asserted: "On Monday night Patrick Manning insulted Indians in the country...So what you are saying is that every Indian is an alcoholic, every Indian is a drunkard?" Prime Minister Manning, at the PNM Cunupia meeting, stated: "I want to know what portfolio will be given to Prakash Ramadhar, Anand Ramlogan, Devant Maharaj, Tim Gopeesingh, Suruj Rambachan, and Austin Jack Warner." This I read as another coded racial message when he identified these candidates who in the past defended the Indian community from the various forms of PNM discrimination policies. Mr Manning asked about the possible appointments of these individuals and not that of Ma-kandal Daaga and Errol McLeod, David Abdulah, Ashford Jack, Wade Mark and other Afro-Trinis on the unity platform. Instead, the likes of Mark, Daaga, and McLeod have been held out by the PNM for public ridicule and odium.
Part 3 next week
Satnarayan Maharaj is the
secretary general of the
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha