“From the inception of the party under the leadership of Dr Eric Williams, the PNM […] could not have succeeded without the important role played by citizens of Indian descent who were either members of the PNM or citizens who put country first in their respective roles.
“It was people like Kamaluddin Mohammed, Matthew Ramcharan, Dr Wahid Ali, Dr Lenny Saith…”
The following Letter to the Editor, which responds to Kamal Persad’s depiction of PNM governance as ‘48+ years of Black Power rule in T&T,’ was submitted to Wired868 by former PNM general secretary Ashton Ford:
It was a sad day in the history of Trinidad and Tobago when Kamal Persad’s letter “48+ years of Black Power rule in T&T” was published on the 62nd anniversary (January 24th) of the People’s National Movement (PNM) in the Trinidad Express newspaper.
Sad, because anyone who reflects on the history of the PNM from 1956 to the present will come to the inescapable conclusion that every sector in our beloved country benefitted from the policies and programmes of the PNM.
From the inception of the party under the leadership of Dr Eric Williams, the PNM set about to vigorously transform the country into a developed nation having gained Independence in 1962 and republican status in 1976.
These achievements could not have succeeded without the important role played by citizens of Indian descent, who were either members of the PNM or citizens who put country first in their respective roles.
It was people like Kamaluddin Mohammed, who served as a Cabinet Minister for 30 years, and Matthew Ramcharan, who served as a diplomat in Jamaica, Venezuela and Canada and also as Speaker of the House of Representatives, that made significant contributions during the life of the party.
There were others like Dr Wahid Ali, who presided in the Senate for 15 consecutive years and who also acted as president of the country. Dr Lenny Saith served in the Senate, as a Cabinet member and also as chairman and deputy political leader of this great party.
In the public service under the PNM, the country had two chief justices of Indian descent, namely Sir Isaac Hyatali and Mr Sat Sharma. Sir Isaac was also chairman of the Elections and Boundaries Commission.
Mr Noor Hassanali, who served with distinction as president of the country, retained his position for a second term from 1992 under the PNM, having been elected by the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) in 1987.
The first High Commissioner for T&T to India was Ashford Sinanan, who incidentally was not a member of the PNM, in fact, he was a well-known opponent of the PNM.
There are several political opponents of the PNM who can testify that their children and grandchildren were among hundreds of students who obtained scholarships under a PNM government.
Also in education, several secondary schools were built all over the country, including the areas that are known to be represented by parties opposed to the PNM.
One of the most significant achievements by the PNM was the establishment of the Pt Lisas Industrial Estate, which is located in the heartland of Central Trinidad and which is credited for its major role in the country’s economy.
The Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Committee (SILWC) was established to provide proper housing solutions for sugar workers and cane farmers to raise their standard of living. This programme has been in operation for many years and there has never been any objection from the national community regarding its role and function.
Over the years, the party was represented by Indians under all our political leaders, George Chambers, Patrick Manning and Dr Keith Rowley, whether in Government or in Opposition in keeping with the PNM’s philosophy that:
“We are not an ordinary party in the narrow accepted sense of the word. We are rather a rally, a convention of all, a mobilisation of all the forces in the community, cutting across race, religion, class and colour, with emphasis on united action by all the people in the common cause.” (The People’s Charter)
And so today, under the leadership of Dr Keith Rowley some key portfolios in Cabinet are headed by Indians, namely the Attorney General and the Ministers of Energy, Health, Works and Transport, Local Government, Agriculture and Trade and Industry.
Several State boards are chaired by Indians, some of whom are not members of the PNM. These appointments are in keeping with the pronouncement by Dr Rowley when he spoke at Balisier House on the night of the 2015 general elections, when he declared that he will not be prime minister of the PNM but of “Trinidad and Tobago.”
It is also important to note that he kept his promise with the appointment of the chairman of First Citizens Bank (FCB,) who held the position from the previous Government and also Telecommunication Service of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT). Both are not members of the PNM.
And we must remembe thatr, not for the first time, the current Chairman and General Secretary of the party are Indians.
It is for this reason all right-thinking citizens are angry over the obscene remarks by Persad, especially when he based his presentation on falsehoods.
In closing, I wish to remind the country of what Dr Williams said at the special convention in 1981 to commemorate 25th anniversary of the party when he stated that nowhere else in the world the Indians are as well off as they are in Trinidad and Tobago.