Opposition MP Dr Tim Gopeesingh claims there is ethnic cleansing at Port-of-Spain General Hospital, an allegation which Prime Minister Patrick Manning and Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert described as irresponsible in the extreme.
Manning's comment was made while he was on his seat in the House of Representatives during yesterday's debate on a bill to establish, among other things, an Ambulance Authority in T&T. The legislation was presented for debate by Health Minister Jerry Narace. But it was during the contribution of Gopeesingh that the claim of racism at the hospital surfaced.
"There has been an issue of ethnic cleansing at Port-of-Spain General Hospital as far as the doctors are concerned," Gopeesingh said. "I understand that most of the East Indian doctors have had to leave Port-of-Spain hospital. I understand the Port-of-Spain (General) hospital is a virtual African hospital now."
Panday, who was seated in the Chamber, was heard saying in support, "racism."
Gopeesingh said he was told of these developments but was not aware if they were true. Minutes later, he said they were facts. Gopeesingh said there were more than 150 senior doctors in T&T of East Indian descent and "they have been forced out of the service. There is a collaboration between the Medical Chief of Staff and the administrator at the Port-of-Spain hospital, dealing with this situation." At this point, Speaker Barendra Sinanan intervened, saying that the issue was the subject of another proceeding but not the bill being debated. Later in his contribution, Leader of Government Business Colm Imbert accused Gopeesingh of uttering the "racist statements that could provoke racial hatred." "Mr Speaker, without a shred of evidence... irresponsible in the extreme," Imbert said.
Imbert said the vast majority of medical practitioners in the Public Service were East Indians so it was not possible for there to be a majority of African doctors at any public health institutions in T&T. "It is a fact that the majority of doctors in this country are of East Indian descent," Imbert stressed. He said 80 per cent of the graduates of the faculty of medicine at the University of the West Indies were of East Indian descent. "I can say without any fear of contradiction that the majority of doctors in every hospital in the public health service, with the possible exception of Tobago, are of East Indian descent," Imbert said. He said he could not stand in the Parliament and allow Gopeesingh to "utter falsehoods and promote racial hatred in this country." Imbert said Gopeesingh's claims were "wholly irrelevant, baseless, unfounded, frivolous and vexatious." He demanded that Gopeesingh prove his claim of ethnic cleansing.