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SALAAM: Politicians must stop using Arrival Day and Emancipation to divide us; and here’s how

We reach! When, after fifty years of Independence, Indian Arrival Day is an occasion for sowing discord and disharmony among the two major races on this piece of rock, we really reach!

In these hard times, in this guava season, the PNM Government forked out almost TT$350,000 to groups celebrating Arrival Day. And Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly felt compelled to release the figures because former prime minister and current UNC Political Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar told the whole world that the Ministry refused to give any of the Hindu groups money to organise the celebrations.

Photo: Dancers for Massy Trinidad All Stars perform to “Curry Tabanca” during the 2015 International Conference and Panorama at the Grand Stands, Queen’s Park Savannah.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Is a riot she trying to start? Every year without fail, she and Sat Maharaj use the Arrival Day platform to put some racial foolishness in the public domain.

You think I am being unfair? See for yourself what you make of these words:

If you want your children to have a place to stay and a place to live, get up now; you have to get up, you have to light a fire in your belly and stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’”

Do you know out of whose ‘mouth’ those words came? Sat? Wrong. The other Maharaj Hindu spokesman, Devant? Wrong again.

The speaker is none other than Persad-Bissessar, the same would-be leader who recently was actively tearing up the government-distributed property valuation form in public and calling on the population to break the law. That’s the stuff of which former and would-be national leaders are made.

There are many who would not be surprised; I am not among them. There are many who would disapprove; I am right up there with them.

Photo: Opposition Leader and ex-Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
(Copyright AFP 2014/Frederic Dubray)

I was appalled to discover that, during this week’s Arrival Day celebrations, some of those who tried to pass themselves off as “caring” once more used the occasion to paint the picture of Indians as oppressed, maltreated and having their rights trampled underfoot.

I seriously wonder sometimes whether some of the talk does not cross the line that separates encouragement to lawful civil disobedience from out-and-out sedition.

Africans and Indians, the two major ethnic groups in our country today, both arrived under different circumstances, both offensive to human dignity. So I don’t know that those circumstances were pleasant for either group and I suspect that if only one set could accurately be described as “atrocious,” it would be the earlier rather than the later.

The Africans began their series of forced arrivals in the early 16th century and, coming here as slaves against their will, were treated as chattel, to be bought and sold by their “owners.”  The practice, wholly supported by the various governments and administrations of the day, continued unabated until the 19th century.

History accounts that Indian arrivals commenced in the middle of the 19th century. Those who arrived on the Fatel Rozack circa 1845 came not as slaves but as indentured labourers.

Photo: Workers in the sugarcane field.
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)

Indentured labour, history tells us, was first used by the Virginia Company in the early 17th century as a method of collateralizing the debt finance for transporting people to its newfound colonies in the Americas. And some claim that, in the early 17th century, some Europeans came to the Caribbean under indenture to work on plantations.

We know for certain, though, that the system of bonded labour used by the British to bring Indians to the region following the abolition of slavery is what all now recognise as “Indentureship.”

Post-Emancipation, Africans had a lot to be unhappy about. Some say the arrival of the indentured Indians made them into ‘chain-less slaves,’ without land, without status, without religion, without culture. But even if we were to treat that as true, can we hold against the indentured labourers their accepting the “invitation” to come and fill the gap created by the freeing of the slaves? Can we seriously blame the Indians for the Africans’ problems?

Is it fair to try to make the case that the progress made by the two groups since the 19th century proves that Slavery was worse than Indentureship? One set of persecuted ‘immigrants,’ some argue, has overcome the dreadful and humiliating conditions of plantation life and become a responsible and prosperous group.

The other, they say, has made progress on the political front, holding the reins of power for more than 40 of the 55-plus years of independence but has been completely unable to make any mark on the economic front.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s first prime minister Dr Eric Williams (left) hosts late Beatles pop star John Lennon.
(Copyright Noel P Norton)

If you want your children to have a place to stay and a place to live, get up now.”

Does that sound to you like the words of a spokesperson for an economically successful group? Does it sound to you like the words of someone speaking for a group that has held political power for more than ten years and currently has more than one-third of the seats in the nation’s parliament?

So you know we’re in trouble when those words are put in the public domain. You know that there’s somebody out there trying to exploit a politically polarised society. You know that the spokesperson is well aware that we are divided by race and religion and Indians and Africans are consistently suspicious of each other simply because of the race difference.

He or she knows that, forgetting historical similarities, we almost automatically line up behind the leader who looks like us and we determine our political ties on the basis of hair texture.

If that wasn’t tragic, you’d be laughing your head off.

So are we headed for a massive clash somewhere in Central Trinidad over “a place to stay and a place to live”? Or are we going to find some way to get KPB and the two Maharajes to understand that all ah we is one?

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (centre) and candidate Khadijah Ameen (left) walk-about during the UNC’s unsuccessful by-election campaign in Chaguanas West.
(Courtesy Jyoti Communications)

I have a few simple ideas. First, we have to get the powers-that-be to highlight the constant growth in the dougla population, which for me is the real proof that all the race hatred talk is just that, talk!

And then,  come Emancipation Day, whether or not the guava season is behind us, whatever Khafra Kambon and company may say, we have to make sure that they don’t get one dollar more than TT$350,000.

Finally, we also have to ensure that this year the Emancipation Support Committee bring their feature speaker not from Africa but from India. Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps?

And with Princes Town MP Barry Padarath as coordinator, set up the Emancipation Village in the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba.

Or on the Divali Nagar site in Chaguanas.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago citizens march for racial unity on 12 March 1970.
(Courtesy Embau Moheni/NJAC)

About Salaah Inniss

Salaah Inniss
Salaah Inniss is an ardent writer with an enthusiasm for bringing insightful views on national issues. He graduated from Cipriani College in Environmental Management, and is presently working in the Integrated Facilities Building Service Industry. He is an empathetic supporter of conservation and the protection of the environment.

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70 comments

  1. Hear your name poor singh you singing for your soper god will deal with you all who mash up t&t only money a thief cannot see a thief with a bag is a bible in the bag you know where the royal jail or the next jail is get in contact ok

  2. Funny how some commenting here are more offended with the holiday being referred to as “Arrival day” rather than the actual topic, which is inciting racial hatred. To me, thier comments or lack thereof just gives credit to the article.

  3. Kamliar ent no different from Sat…birds of a feather…..oh the government didn’t give no money for indian arrival day …lies is her daily pray….lie lie and more lies

  4. If yuh want to hear real race talk and sedition, listen to I 95.5 Fm, 102.1 fm, 94.1fm, 91.9 fm ( well this one preaches race hate openly), 96 .1 fm, 104.1 fm and the list goes on. Listen to David Mohammed, John Benwah, Aisha, George Umbala Joseph, and the whole host of their callers from the urban areas of Belmont, Sea Lots, Laventille, Enterprise etc. Sat Maharaj is a Hindu religious leader therefore he speaks for the Hindu community which happens to be mostly Indo Trinis. But he is ONE PERSON….check the above list and you will see which group preaches race hate. On David Mohammed program, it is openly said NOT to patronize Indian businesses, whether it is the lowly doubles or some hardware. Anytime there is a rise in doubles price which is the cheapest street food, because of increased costs, it makes major news, but when KFC raise their prices nobody says boo. So even the media is biased. Historically, discrimination against Indo Trinidadians has been institutionalized. When an African preaches race, it is considered human rights.

    • Reggie your main religion from India preaches hate against black people.How did we get untouchables in T&T?

    • Erin Folami show me what texts you read on Hinduism that preaches race hate. Two black Islamic groups in Trinidad openly preaches race without any consequences. Hinduism is the only religion that does not believe in conversion but respects all religions. We believe God is too big to fit into any one religion. Christians used the crusades to kill millions of people and force them to convert to Christianity. Islam was forced down on nations across Europe, Africa and Asia. If you did not convert to Islam you were killed. Name one incident in history where Hinduism did anything resembling that. In Africa tribes kill each other regularly and there are deadly ethnic wars with millions being killed over the centuries. So does any African religion preach hate about their own black people. Read and educate yourself and don’t be ignorant like all those PNM formatted radio stations.

  5. It is not Arrival its Indian Arrival Day,

  6. Time for all governments whether UNC or PNM to stop funding religious bodies and ethnic/race synonymous holidays. Let the various communities do this. This funding by the State seems rather similar to one off “make work” programs. Time for the citizenry to pull their weight. The State needs to protect us, ensure food security, health, infrastructure, roads, education and others…the above should be community funded

  7. Why are we all so hypocritical about race relations in T&T when we know darn well racism exists?An Indian boy marrying an African girl is disinherited,an Indian girl marrying an African boy is thought to have brought shame to the family,the Douglas that result are at times scorned and despised by their Indian grandparents.The opposite occurs in the African home,all in-laws are welcome regardless of ethnicity.Some people despite having made significant gains, still shout mistreatment and disadvantage because of never ending greed.Enough for those souls is never enough, satisfaction will only come when the well is dry such is their enormous appetite.May the good Lord extend a hand over our troubled land.

  8. That day was Arrival Day,it was Panday who politicized it.

    • Earl Best

      Sorry, sir/ma’am, Putting Indian in the title did not politicise it; it merely made explicit what was until then merely implicit. The politics, I’m afraid, preceded that by far.

  9. It is embedded in their teaching from home and small but it was silent it has hit the fan and it is not going to change keep observing.

  10. Who uses Emancipation politically? I abhor it when people do this… When East Indians do something people make it a general thing and then it becomes an everybody chastisement…. This is not an everybody thing…. East Indian leaders in Trinidad and Tobago turn religious and commemorative occasions into political stages… Now that we have clarified that intentional ambiguity let’s address the other one… Because enslavement and indenture labour is not the same thing and did not have the same impact and level of atrocities one cannot equate them and have them as interchangeable…. I know I will have to make the following statement because when one makes the distinctions that I have it offends the deluded, misinformed or the willfully ignorant…. I have no issue with Indian Arrival day and I agree that this occasion should not be used as it currently is by the East Indian leadership within the country but that’s a conversation for that community to decide and hold their leaders and representatives to the agreed upon standard

  11. Someone from the Toronto Star felt that she was an authority on roti and published a video about the caloric content and advised as to how much roti one should eat. Every full blooded Trinidadian regardless of race gave her a tongue lashing that she would never forget and yet we hear this kind of rhetoric from all persons, Kamla herself, I’m deeply disappointed. She ought to know better than play the race card. Focus on the issues. Tell us what you can do differently if anything at all to boost our economy. We are a mostly educated population yet our politics remain ancient. We can and must do better.

  12. You jump out like a zandolie who UNC have money that why you cannot understand the language the true doh bodder meh I listening some sparrow disturbing me go take rest god blessed you

  13. I thought d UNC used up all d money so what money u talking about

  14. Is the public aware that the funds from the Ministry of Culture were only available to the bodies AFTER Indian Arrival day? Of what use would that then have been, except perhaps to refund money spent – for those who had the money to spend. Was money allocated on time for ‘Soca on the Seas’?

    Secondly, what about KPB’s first quote is racist? Wasn’t Mr Manning’s campaign slogan ‘Enough is enough’? Was that racist as well?

    It is without argument that slavery was worse than Indentureship, the issue is what happened after. When the slaves were emancipated, they left the fields (understandably) and chose to work and live in the urban areas. They were granted land and offered wages to work on the plantations, but refused. The Indians came, and from their small wages, bought land, planted, opened ‘parlours’ which grew to bigger businesses. They beat their children to get an education, which later paid off.

    Are you aware that Hindu marriages were not recognised by the Colonial (and later the PNM) run Government? Therefore the offspring of those marriages were considered illegitimate, causing the property of the parents to go to the State instead of the rightful heirs? Think about the Capildeo lands in Diego Martin. Who owns those properties now?

    Post Independence, Indians (or non-PNM) were not allowed in the Public/Civil Service, hence the ethnic composition of the Public Service (Police, Defence Force, Prisons, Permanent Secretaries etc). This allowed for PNM supporters to gain upward social mobility and Political power due to the better paying jobs and network connections. The Indians, chose the alternative, that being the private sector, and pursuing Law, Engineering, and Medicine. I can go on and on, but this info is academically documented and published. Read La Guerre et al. Further, read Kamaluddin Mohommed’s (PNM founding member) biography on why he wasn’t chosen to be PM at the death of Dr Williams, written by Dr. Hamid Ghany.

    Why is it that when Indians speak up on issues affecting them, they are considered racist or divisive, and when others do, it is considered the exercise of a right? Did you listen to I95.5 between 4-6 on June 01? Tune in to the Tobago hour – but then again, Mr. Inniss, you may not see anything wrong with what is said about Indians, as it may just be seen as a right of expression.

    Mr Inniss, did you condemn the overt racist PNM campaign in Tobago, where they refused the ‘Calcutta ship’?
    How about the exaggerated cost of ‘roti’ spoken of by Dr. Rowley? Why roti of all things? Was it not to create a certain impression? What about the ‘people of the lagoon’ spoken of by MP Hinds? What about the PNM claim of sabotage by the UNC of the BLCA when in fact UDECOTT stated on the Morning Brew programme that the issues of misuse of the toilets was a usual occurrence in other facilities, and that there was no evidence of sabotage? Was that widely published?

    When KPB tore up the illegal Valuation form, did she do it for UNC members only? The fact is that the Government was seeking to commit an illegal act, shouldn’t they be encouraged to act legally?

  15. I have to agree that race relation should be better but u have understand this is what people of east indian descent have to put up with every by this particular regime for funding for anything that is considered as Indian and people should take of your blinkers see who make the most racist statement and it is called be patriotic

  16. According to the Newspapers yesterday, the GORTT gave $2.1million to Muslim organizations for Eid. The above article says that for Arrival Day $350,000 was given.

    According to the 2011 Census adherents to Islam constituted 4.97% of our population whilst East Indians were 37.6% however the disbursement of funds for the respective festivals and or holidays is not representative of that demographic breakdown.

    How is money allocated by the Ministry of Culture?

  17. When have politicians used Emancipation Celebrations to divide the people of Trinidad and Tobago? Name on politician and one occasion when this happened. Most politicians don’t even attend the Emancipation celebrations.

  18. She has always preached race but since becoming political leader of unc backed by sat it has become worse. remember in 2010 she said if she loses there would be blood in the streets. What is happening now?

  19. I firmly believe what is need is a national holiday to celebrate every creed and race that has contributed to our nation. This could be called T&T Day with a parade of all the different nationalities in POS and therefore it would save governments of the day a lot of money and stop the bickering over who get more money or who did not get money. Also there are a lot of groups who apply, with some receiving funding in different parts of the nation, BUT this is not evenly. Let there be one day of celebrations FOR ALL here in T&T. I remember in Australia I always enjoyed celebrating nation public holiday Australia Day, 26th January, which was the day the first settlers at Sydney in 1788 (actually was settled first as a convict colony). Australia Day became the day for all WHO arrived in Australia regardless of where people originated from. Cannot every stop the discrimination in any nation, but here in T&T make a start to celebrate in a united fashion with one day to recognise every race.

  20. They should be arrested and charged for sedition and inciting civil unrest

  21. How else do you think they can ever hope to win an election……but by apealing to race and greed!!

  22. They too myopic…selfish critters!!

  23. Why bring religion into Indian Arrival Day

  24. OHHHHH i forgot to mention that indo population also have pagwa, karthic, ramleela, and the list goes one. Tell me exactly what other exclusively African holiday is there other than emanicpation? Now do you understand how disenfranchised that idea will make the African population. They already stereotyped as the worst of everything in society and rarely shown in a positive light by the media and now taking away emancipation will just make them invisible.

  25. Let’s assume that we take away arrival day and emancipation day, the indo-population still has divali which is linked closely the religion followed exclusively by one ethnic group. However, what other holidays Africans can claim that celebrate them as a people? Some with say there is spiritual baptist day (actually all races are welcome to join that religion) and carnival (actually this festival is for everyone) so the idea of removing those two holidays as a solution would actually end up making one group feel more disenfranchised than others. How do we bridge the racial cataclysm in our countr?

  26. Earl Best

    The politicians may be trying to divide us but something is bringing us together. Let’s wait for the CSO census figures to confirm for us the evidence of our eyes, which is that the dougla population has grown by some 25% over the last five years or so.

    We tote one way and vote another.

  27. we are a Plural society and race divides us. European masters played the Africans against the East Indians ans since then politicians do the same

  28. What is the point of Emancipation and Arrival Days if politicians can’t use it to divide us?
    We does vote along racial lines!