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MASTER’S VOICE: Ramcharitar’s rant about Canboulay riot does injustice to history

“It’s curious he made no mention of The Diaries of Abbe Armand Masse, the French Catholic priest who on 30 April 1881 wrote that the marchers often ‘amuse themselves in a more or less noisy fashion but peace is not compromised’ but that year ‘by a sort of bravado, the Chief of Police…at a dinner…made a wager to stop these bands’.

“How does that fit into his arguments I wonder?”

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Corey Gilkes of La Romaine and is a response to a Raymond Ramcharitar column in the Trinidad Guardian entitled “Canboulay, 3 Canal and the Alt-Carnival” in which he referred to the Carnival event as the “Canboulay obscenity”:

Photo: The NCC hosts a re-enactment of the Canboulay riot. (Copyright Ministry of Community Development)
Photo: The NCC hosts a re-enactment of the Canboulay riot.
(Copyright Ministry of Community Development)

Now that Carnival done and allyuh head settled (somewhat), could Raymond Ramcharitar explain how in his February 22nd column he saw it fit to subtly equate the organisers of the Canboulay event on Piccadilly Greens with the alt-right white supremacist hate group of the United States?

Now as someone who often nitpicks over historical accuracy, I appreciate that there’re some issues over the “re-enactment” of Canboulay. Me eh too sure it had clowns and bats during the original riots in Port of Spain, San Fernando and Princes Town—although there would have been midnight robbers of a different kind. But say wha, artistic license.

However, maybe it’s just the huge chip on my shoulder, but he’s done this before. Once, equating Africentrists with the Ku Klux Klan. So I’d like clarification given the roots of the alt-right in groups that have openly murdered people of colour.

I’m also curious about his definition of resistance since he classifies the original riots as pure criminality—committed by other islanders too, who came to Trinidad “because of its general lawlessness and corruption.”

Xenophobia aside, this is interesting. PNM and UNC weren’t around then, so who were those corrupt people? And it’s curious he made no mention of The Diaries of Abbe Armand Masse, the French Catholic priest who on 30 April 1881 wrote that the marchers often “amuse themselves in a more or less noisy fashion but peace is not compromised” but that year “by a sort of bravado, the Chief of Police…at a dinner…made a wager to stop these bands.”

How does that fit into his arguments I wonder?

Photo: Trinidad Guardian columnist Raymond Ramcharitar.
Photo: Trinidad Guardian columnist Raymond Ramcharitar.

And Ramcharitar, didn’t James Scott in his book “Weapons of the Weak” argue that peasant resistance to oppressive regimes—which are militarily stronger—are mostly through passive go-slows, sabotage, disobedience, absenteeism and theft, rarely open revolt?

And what were the living conditions that forced ‘small’ islanders out of their homes to come to Trinidad? Not the same slum conditions that existed here in the barrack yards that colonial officials created to force labourers to work close to the estates? The same slum conditions that existed right up to the riots investigated by the 1938 Moyne Commission?

You know the answers; they’re there in your doctoral dissertation “THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF TRINIDAD: UNDERGROUND CULTURE IN TRINIDAD 1870-1970.”

Between pages 9-12 you recount the criminally exploitative behaviour of British capitalists against their own people. So how’d you think they’d be when one includes “race?”

West Indian barrack yards were London’s sweatshops. Further, you pontificate about “riots, steelpan and violence as primary or significant components of Trinidadian history” but on page 191 of Hidden History assert “overt values held by the masses…were entirely determined by their reactions to a hostile physical environment, authoritarian control over the citizen by police and authorities (and) a contemptuous social structure…”

Photo: A depiction of slaves serving their masters in Trinidad. (Courtesy Netssa.com)
Photo: A depiction of slaves serving their masters in Trinidad.
(Courtesy Netssa.com)

It’s interesting how “colonialism is long gone” yet you point out that the descendants of that old elite remain in Trinidad, having as much influence as their forbears did—often with the same racist views of the labouring class.

Now it’s true, by 1962 they were joined by new Afri/Indic elites; true they all manipulated the working classes when it suited them. But that’s the point: the underclass understood that then and today—which is why MX Prime’s song this year resonated among them; it expresses how they feel about a system that was never meant for them at all.

Keep that in mind the next time you pen another xenophobic rant. Better yet, read over your dissertation as I did.

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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16 comments

  1. Raymond Ramcharitar has been pushing the agenda that all of Trinidad and Tobago’s problems started with the influx of Leeward and Windward Island immigrants in the 1940s and 1950s, while conveniently and deliberately omitting the fact that they all came here to work at the American military bases in Chaguaramas and Wallerfield.

    The fact that he is published in the same newspaper that hosts a weekly column by Sat Maharaj is telling.

  2. thanks for the update. what perturbs me is columnists of spewing hates and lies, knowing fully well some readers will believe what they write. That is why HISTORY NEED to be back in the school curriculum. Why are we hiding the truth from our children, Then again whose truth with so many lies out there.

  3. Not for nothing eh, but this morning I logged on tp facebook and many Trinis were posting about Ben Carson’s revisionist history of slavery in America … and that cool, but the fact is Ben Carson’s clock only has a limited amount of hours before time or someone shows the world how empty and irrelevant he actually is. Ramcharitar BEEN doing that same shit in Trinidad for God knows how long showing no signs of slowing down and nobody eh shut him down yet.

  4. Right. Who is the editor of the guardian?

  5. I fed up yes …. I relly fed up.
    I am not even interested in what precipitated this hate in all things AfroTrini or the need to disparage the legacy thereof, but it would be cool if the flicking newspapers would stop normalizing and legitimizing this trend by giving these divisive hatemongers a platform from which to share their prejudices.

  6. I’d like to know why he keeps reviewing Afro-centric work when the result is always the same. His review of Carnival Medea was the only unfavorable one of four or five printed ones, not to mention the informal reviews

  7. Earl Best

    Ouch!

    But look out. Ramcharitar does not take kindly to views that are not completely consonant with his own, worse, that gainsay his.

    And, without getting too personal, it may not be without relevance to enquire who is RR’s current boss and in what capacity he serves that person/organisation.