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Workers welcomed Caroni’s closure; Shah debunks Sat’s “racist lie”

The only thing necessary for myths and mischief to be recorded as historical facts is for informed persons to say nothing.

I liberally paraphrase Irish philosopher Edmund Burke’s injunction to responsible persons to speak out or act when tyranny threatens, to respond to one lie Sat Maharaj peddled when he spewed cobra-like venom against deceased ex-prime minister Patrick Manning and branded him a racist.

Photo: Late former Prime Minister Patrick Manning. (Copyright CNC3)
Photo: Late former Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
(Copyright CNC3)

I am not defending the late PM’s honour or record as a politician. I’ve already had my say on what I saw as his positives and his negatives.

In the aftermath of his passing, the outpouring of emotions and tributes from politicians of every hue and party was such that you’d be forgiven for thinking that Manning used to walk on water.

I not in that! He was as human as we all are, foibles et al. Besides, there are others out there who will tell Sat that he should look into the mirror when he goes racist-hunting.

I feel compelled, though, to debunk the Maha Sabha leader’s charge that closure of the State-owned sugar company Caroni Ltd “crippled the lives of thousands of Indians”, as he put it, implying that it was one of Manning’s racist actions.

He is not the only tribalist who has raised the spectre of racism and political victimisation over Caroni’s closure. Others who know the facts but find it politically convenient to plead persecution have contributed to the mischief. So much so that, if they are allowed to rewrite history based on their warped minds, the perceived devastation would be likened to the decimation of the American Indians and other indigenous peoples.

Photo: Maha Sabha general secretary Sat Maharaj. (Courtesy Indo Caribbean World)
Photo: Maha Sabha general secretary Sat Maharaj.
(Courtesy Indo Caribbean World)

But first my bona fides: besides being the son of a sugar worker/cane farmer and having spent my life in the sugar belt, I led the largest cane farmers’ organisation from 1973 until the final closure of the industry in 2007.

I was also a director of the company during two critical periods, sat on one government-appointed tripartite committee—along with Basdeo Panday, who later went on to be prime minister—that was charged with charting a new course for Caroni, and my interest in agriculture and food security is such that I have compiled an enormous amount of information on the sugar industry and food production.

So I state facts and figures, and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

In 2003 when the Manning government decided shut down Caroni and offer voluntary separation (VSEP) to all its employees, the workers—especially the daily-paid who were members of the All Trinidad union (ATSGWU)—welcomed the move as if it were deliverance from a purgatory they had endured for far too long.

There was no resistance, no protest, no march against Manning, no strike. Nothing. All the workers wanted to know was how much they would be paid to exit the mess that the sugar industry had become, losing hundreds of millions of dollars year after year and dependent on government subventions for its wretched survival.

Photo: A sugar cane worker enjoys a snack on the job. (Courtesy Riomate)
Photo: A sugar cane worker enjoys a snack on the job.
(Courtesy Riomate)

The then president of All Trinidad, Rudy Indarsingh, and his executive, tried to rally the workers to resist the closure. They were roundly cussed and even threatened. Panday, too, tried to dissuade them, but they ignored him.

The government first offered separation “packages” based on clauses in industrial agreements All Trinidad and the two staff associations had with the company. Such formulae are usually calculated on the basis of wages/salaries and years of service: the longer one’s service and the higher one’s salary, the greater the severance package.

By February 2003, when Caroni invited its 9,000 employees to sign up for separation, the government had enhanced the offer by approximately 30 percent, and by August every-man-jack and woman had signed up and received a total of TT$737 million.

To make the parting package even sweeter, the government amended income tax legislation and raised the ceiling for tax exemption on such payments from TT$100,000 to TT$300,000.

The workers grabbed the money and fled the failing company. To its credit, All Trinidad would later negotiate for residential lots for all daily-paid workers and two-acre agricultural plots for those interested in food production. The fully-serviced building lots were valued at $300,000-plus each while the two-acre plots are leased and supposedly non-transferable.

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

The approximately TT$3.5 billion—cash and land—given to Caroni workers was the biggest severance package ever in T&T. Not a tear was shed and no sugar community collapsed. Indeed, most of the skilled, physically-active workers found alternative employment or invested in businesses. The few who reportedly turned to alcohol were alcoholics while they were on the job—ask their colleagues or neighbours.

An interesting sequel: union president Indarsingh was awarded the Chaconia medal (silver) by Manning in 2005, which he proudly accepted.

Maybe Rudy and Sat would want to explain what the unionist did to earn that one piece of silver from a racist!

 

Editor’s Note: Next week, Raffique Shah will explain why Caroni was doomed to fail.

AboutRaffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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61 comments

  1. great article thank u for this…

  2. Interesting ….await those warp minded armchair hypocrites to say Raf is PNM and then deny the facts he presented. Right on Raff.

  3. How many workers were interviewed?

  4. Still after 2003, these workers waiting for residential lots, agri lots, interest payments from the AGRI DEV.BANK (sweeterner deal or was it a scam) etc. Debunk all you want, you can’t TALK for all the workers.

  5. This answers the foolishness by Sat and the UNC naysayers…

    An interesting sequel: union president Indarsingh was awarded the Chaconia medal (silver) by Manning in 2005, which he proudly accepted.

    Maybe Rudy and Sat would want to explain what the unionist did to earn that one piece of silver from a racist!

  6. We are still waiting for our 40 acres and a mule is my first thought, my second thought is how an industry, conceived, controlled and manipulated by Europeans Powers for the benefit of European could ever succeed beyond it European sell by date. The sugar industry was created to fuel the taste of Europeans and profits for those exploiting Slave and indenture labor and just like the Banana Industry once “Massa Day” was done WE became disposable. The Sad Thing is that there are people here who are unable to identify the real enemy. Finally Brazil transformed it Industry into Bio-diesel, highlighting the need to change the mind set which still prevail today, as we continue to follow those who have exploited us, while Companies continue to use the countries work force as a sources of cheap labor.

  7. let the truth be told by someone involved and refute the lies , by those who know better, but choose to blatantly tell lies to distort history

  8. Excellent article, simple and straightforward.

  9. I am so glad to hear from someone who was intimately involved and close enough to the sugar industry that his views cannot be refuted. The UNC has always been about grandstanding, lies, PR propaganda and misdirections. Their followers swear by their leaders because they want to be led, regardless if the truth punches them in the face. Mr Manning rescued the cane farmers as a caring PM, giving them their worth, even exempting most from tax on their VSEP package. But the same farmers sit idly by and allow ingrates like Sat and Kamla to nasty Mr Manning’s name in death just because they are loyal to race and party. They should be ashamed of themselves, living comfortably in retirement because of the love of one man who placed their value over votes, while allowing the ppl who did nothing for them for the 5yrs they were in power to destroy his name. But who cares, as long as ‘your ppl’ say so, is so right?

  10. This like “Salt on Frog”……The hard head ones will dismiss this as propaganda…..they won’t even question Rudy for accepting the award from the man they claim is racist….Ignorance is bliss

  11. The simple fact is growing ethnic intolerance is now a global phenomena!

    • This is a world that had slave labour all over the planet just a few generations ago. We might be regressing. MIGHT. Not even sure that would be word to describe it either to be honest.

    • I think it’s as simple an issue as human nature. Even you and I Lasana, in spite of ourselves if the countries or even neighborhoods in which we’ve become accustomed to suddenly began changing demographically we would privately or even publicly express our discomfort with it.

      Today as never before entire peoples are moving around the globe like pieces on a checker board and doing so at a much faster rate than others have time to become accustomed.

    • You have a point Vernal. But then we can say it is not that the world is more racist. It is that they are finding it increasingly difficult to keep the “wrong uns” at arm’s length.
      And if you think hard about that, it might mean that we are actually closer to dealing with racism than ever before in our history.
      The “problem” ent going away. They will have to learn to live with it.

    • Yes we will all have to learn to live with it, but the struggle getting there is going to be extremely unpleasant.
      Remember Fuad Khan and the dog meat at Chinese restaurants?

    • Don’t get me started on Fuad please…

    • It ain’t just Fuad, we all harbor these sentiments about ethnicities and cultures we’re unfamiliar with.

    • What sentiments? Fear and murderous thoughts?
      I agree we probably all have preferences and thinks that fit our notions of taste and aesthetics and what not.
      But that isn’t nearly the same as wishing ill on any particular group of people or even wanting to assert the superiority of your own people.
      Exposure to other cultures helps. But it is easier if you have an open mind and not clouded with poisonous thoughts to begin with.

    • We have all been exposed to casual racism at some stage in our lives by someone in our inner circle. Intelligence is finding things out for yourself and being ready to question conventional “wisdom”.

  12. Lasana, see the complexity that are race relations?
    Stealing and corruption isn’t a Indian of African thing in Trinidad, it’s a Trinidadian cultural thing, but we’ve become so divided that many can no longer recognize that we ALL in fact represent one culture.
    You think Glen could live comfortably in India?

  13. I was doing some online research on GATE yesterday Rhoda, Sadie, Asha and Vernal and chanced across this gem of colour commentary.
    I wasn’t even offended at all. Just speechless:

    “This is what happens when niggas dont understand the simple basics of planning.

    The UNC introduced the Dollar for Dollar programme. This mean that students would have had to foot half the fockin bill. Off course this would have kept them and their parents interested in ensuring that there would be fockin success. This strategy as well would have ensured that there would have been reasonable fees at these private institutions, as the students and or their parents would have an interest as to what is charged and how much.

    But lo and fockin behold! Up come the fockin duncee PNM niggas who just want to better anything the fockin UNC do and without thinking create an environment for dem and dey family and supporters to fockin teef.

    I dont know what this great effort is all about including the UTT (another PNM teefin zone), but try as hard as the fockin PNM want, niggas are not inclined to educating themselves.

    Teefing from coolie people is an easier profession.”

  14. Could always count on Glen.

  15. This didn’t take long Sadie Tidd:
    “Glen Rambharack: Raffique Shah is a wannabe black man who hate is own race of people, he make the word inbred come alive”

  16. If Sat has no racial grievance to rally the faithful against what would make him relevant?
    If he hopes to remain relevant he must either transform himself into a champion of racial harmony or create illusions of racial grievances against Trinidad’s Indian population.

  17. High production costs made this industry difficult to survive. The deceased PM Patrick Manning accepted a proposal from the cane farm association and the farmers walked away duly compensated. What is Sat’s problem? He probably likes being controversial.

  18. You know, the more I follow the Republican National Convention the more I agree that Sat Maharaj truly is Donald Trump dipped in curry.

    • Hahaha. Does that mean Trinidad and Tobago is more advanced than the US?
      Because I dare say that Sat is on the decline whereas The Donald is on the ascendancy. 😉

    • Or rather Trump is Sat dipped in Cheetos. Essentially Sat trumps Donald.
      Caroni is the last card the UNC has…and it is a 10 of trumps…they might get game points but nothing else.

    • Lasana race relations in various countries are like the various languages and cultures around the world, just as no one language or culture is more or less complex than the others so too is no one country’s race relations any better, worse or more or less complex than another……..they only seem that way from a distance!

    • Eh heh? In Trinidad, racism might mean getting trolled out of your mind and some dirty looks or odd comments.
      In the United States, you could be shot dead while yuh girl livestreams with your baby in the back of the car.
      I pick Trinidad when it comes to race relations eh hoss! Lol

    • True, but that’s just one aspect of race relations in the States and the chances of that varys greatly depending on state, city and town. In Trinidad you might not have to worry about being murdered in or around your vehicle by rogue cops for being black, but you do have to worry about being killed anywhere at all for just being in Trinidad.

    • I would feel insulted to be killed because you don’t think I deserve to be here because I’m black.
      But to be killed for being Trini? That is a different story. It will be an honour!
      I will give my killer directions to Ruffina’s doubles and tell him bout a bess Chinese restaurant in Arouca with my dying breath! Hahaha.

    • If you were killed for any reason you wouldn’t feel anything and to your loved ones the loss would be no easier to bear.

    • I don’t think that is true Vernal. Dying by natural causes and being killed by lawmen–State trained, armed and sanctioned assassins–can’t be anything near to the same thing in my books.

    • To me murder is murder, whether by gunmen who will never be found or rogue officers who won’t face prosecution doesn’t matter to me, both are equally unacceptable, but I fear we’ve strayed.

    • Lol. Probably strayed. But I’d say getting killed in a war zone and getting killed during peace time by law enforcement officers is a different kettle of fish.
      But we really strayed damn far from Caroni here. Lol.

    • Yeah, all yuh Tung people does leave home fuh Central and stop fuh directions in Cedros! LOL

    • Lol. Arima yuh talking to eh! East side!