When my friend Prof Selwyn Cudjoe invited me to deliver the feature address at the launch of his latest publication, Indian Time Ah Come In Trinidad and Tobago, my first response was that this was a set-up. Was Selwyn attempting to portray Sat Maharaj and Indians in general as a group glorifying in the political success of the People's Partnership in a boastful way?
Were we being portrayed as people about to invade the national treasury and other state facilities because "our time ah come?"After reading most of Dr Cudjoe's collection, I am now of the view that the title Indian Time Ah Come may be Cudjoe's way of admitting that at no time did Indians enjoy equality under a PNM administration and that our time "ah now come for equal treatment un-der the Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago."
The national anthem sings "Here every creed and race have an equal place" but we know for a fact that in reality this has never been so.
Cases in point:
1. The Maha Sabha radio licence. The PNM administration led by Patrick Manning discriminated against the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha when we applied for a radio broadcast licence. Instead it gave a licence over-night to its supporter, Louis Lee Sing, to whose stable my friend Prof Cudjoe belongs.
After years of legal struggle it took the Privy Council in London and its five British judges to command the Manning administration to cease the discrimination and grant the Maha Sabha a radio licence. This is part of the history of T&T.
2. The Christian Trinity Cross had been the highest national award offered to citizens who have performed great service on behalf of the nation.
The Maha Sabha again had to rely on the Privy Council in London to correct this discrimination and ensure our time "ah come."
3. In answer to our charge that recruitment in the public service reflected a racial imbalance that place Indians almost outside the recruiting process, PNM Prime Minister Manning appointed two veteran University of the West Indies lecturers, Selwyn Ryan and John Le Guerra, to conduct an investigation into our claim.
They produced a comprehensive finding, part of which spoke of recruitment in the Police Service. They found: "All things being equal, and given the fact that Indo-Trinidadian candidates are generally better qualified (academically), it should follow that the numbers of Indo-Trinidadians selected for training should be higher.
"It seems that they tend to do less well in the interview than do their Afro-Trinidadian counterparts. For the past several years, the members of the interviewing panel have all been Afro-Trinidadians ... it is to be expected that cultural factors could account for differentials in interview performance in favour of Afro-Trini-dadians."Nothing was ever done to correct this obvious discrimination found by Ryan and Le Guerra.
In his introduction, Cudjoe writes:
"The title essay Indian Time Ah Come traces the rise of East Indian political power from indentureship to the triumph of the People's Partnership (PP) of which Persad-Bissessar is the leader. It debunks the notion that Indians were discriminated against in elective politics from the time it became an option in 1925."
The evidence is overwhelming that the PNM government adopted a deliberate policy to discriminate in favour of its own supporters and against those of the opposition of which the majority were Indians.Later in his introduction, however, Cudjoe concedes that "some of us were speaking out when the Honourable Patrick Manning, former Prime Minister of the country, was doing things to under- mine the democracy of the PNM."
My friend Cudjoe was more concerned about democracy in the PNM "and how to save the PNM" rather than the democracy in T&T and how to save the nation.
Later in his introduction, Cudjoe did ask the question: How could we in good conscious deny representation to one quarter of the population and not realise that at some time in the future it will come back to haunt us, particularly Africans?"
Almost at the end of his introduction, he writes:
"Then, we may be able to say without boasting or any racial animosity, Indian time ah come, which is to say Trinidad and Tobago time has come to a place where, in the words of our national anthem, every creed and race find an equal place."
Cudjoe seems to be saying equality has arrived only because the PP has won power in T&T.I wish to state that for the past few years, each month Dr Cudjoe and myself have sat across a table at the Office of the Prime Minister as a part of the Race Relations Committee. The committee, established by Prime Minister Manning, was a toothless bulldog without any powers or resources.
It was established by Prime Minister Manning to create the illusion that the PNM government somehow cared about race relations in T&T while the PNM discriminated actively against the Indian community and all others who did not share the Manning world view.
n Part 2 next week
n Satnarayan Maharaj is the
secretary general of the
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
n The title may be Cudjoe's way of admitting that at no time did Indians enjoy equality under a PNM administration.
n The PNM government adopted a deliberate policy to discriminate in favour of its own supporters.
n Cudjoe seems to be saying equality has arrived only because the PP has won power in T&T.