“We used to call it the People’s Negro Movement and sometimes the People’s N—r Movement because we saw nothing national about it. We saw the PNM as the enemy and [Dr Eric] Williams as the chief enemy. And Williams made it quite clear he saw us Indians as the enemy too.
“When the PNM won the 1956 election and announced their expenditure policies, we were not surprised that Williams had thrown the lion’s share of expenditure at his black urban supporters (a minority group, remember) and all but ignored the Indians living mostly in the rural areas.”
The following Letter to the Editor, which was submitted to Wired868 by Ramdath Jagessar, is a rebuttal to former People’s National Movement (PNM) general secretary Ashton Ford’s blog about the racial inclusiveness of the PNM.
I suppose I will have to answer that dumbo PNM official Ashton Ford’s comments about the great national policies of his great leader Dr Eric Williams, which he claims benefitted every sector of the population and which succeeded with the help of PNM Indians who put country first.
It’s all b/s and pretty rotten b/s at that. Eric Williams was no national leader but only the leader of the black group that were always a minority group compared to the Indian majority group who mostly did not support him or the PNM. Williams’ PNM policies were never true national policies but overtly racist policies aimed to benefit mostly the black ethnic group and to exclude the large Indian community.
Every sector of the population certainly did not benefit equally in proportion to their size by the PNM policies. The Indians who supported the PNM were always a despised minority of the Indian community, never more than 15% of the Indians, which meant the remaining 85% of Indians did not support the PNM. Those PNM Indians were despised by the non-PNM Indians because they took their benefits and never said a word about the racist anti-Indian policies of the PNM over the last half century and more.
Allow me to give a personal rant from the other side about the PNM, Eric Williams, and those disgusting traitorous sell-out PNM Indians.
I spent the late fifties and the sixties as a young man in the PDP/DLP Indian stronghold of Siparia, in a tiny village on the Mora Dam Road in Penal to be exact. When Eric Williams and his PNM came about in 1956, we saw clearly that he was heading the black group in competition with the Indians for political power. His agenda was Massa Day Done, with the subtitle “Negro to take over.” They called themselves negroes in those days.
We used to call it the People’s Negro Movement and sometimes the People’s N—r Movement because we saw nothing national about it. We saw the PNM as the enemy and Williams as the chief enemy. And Williams made it quite clear he saw us Indians as the enemy too.
When the PNM won the 1956 election and announced their expenditure policies, we were not surprised that Williams had thrown the lion’s share of expenditure at his black urban supporters (a minority group, remember) and all but ignored the Indians living mostly in the rural areas.
It was a pattern that would continue for decades. The PNM hired mostly black people in permanent jobs in the state sector, and some areas like the police, army, telephone service, WASA, and many more were overwhelmingly black in a country where blacks were less than 40% of the population. Government built housing was over 90% allocated to blacks, telephone services, electricity, sewerage systems, community development, cultural development, sporting facilities, library services, you name it, they went mostly to blacks and black areas and avoided Indian population areas.
There was plenty mouth talk about agriculture and rural development which would have benefitted Indians, but little or nothing in reality. This was hardly a secret. It was done openly. The complaints of the Indian political party were ignored and the PNM Indians were deaf, dumb and blind to it all.
So much for Mr Ford’s national policies that benefitted all sectors of the population.
As for Eric Williams, we hated him in Penal. I hated him. My father hated him. Nobody in my little village had anything good to say about the short, deaf (sonofa)bitch. I never considered him my chief minister or my prime minister, but always saw him as the black people’s leader. I never saw the flag as my flag and never stood up for the anthem.
In all my years in Penal I never saw a picture of Eric Williams in an Indian home, which is a big comment on the man as a national leader. Nobody I knew would want to go to see Eric Williams if he was visiting the area or dream of shaking his hand. Indians would sit around in the rumshop drinking and sometimes saying they wished somebody would shoot Eric Williams.
There was the well-known joke about the Indian boy who saved Eric Williams after his official car was in a bad accident. Williams asked the boy what he wanted for saving the prime minister and the boy said he wanted a state funeral.
“Why a state funeral?”
“Because my father will kill me when he hear I save Eric Williams’ life!”
As for Eric Williams’ national policies, we saw nothing of it in my village. The roads were bad, more potholes than road, DLP roads as we called them. We had no electricity, even though Mora Dam supplied cooling water to TTEC’s electricity-generating station half a mile away. There was a water pumping station on Mora Dam Road but we had no pipe-borne water in our homes and had to go to a standpipe and bring water on pitch-oil tins on our heads or on boxcarts.
There was a working oil well on Mora Dam Road, with pipes taking away the oil to Shell in Penal but, except for my family, nobody saw anything of the oil royalties. My neighbours grew rice and other food crops but could not get a stall in the Penal Market to sell their food—those were reserved for vendors who were not farmers to make the profits. We had no garbage pick-up, no sports facilities, no jobs. The kids walked five miles barefoot on the hot pitch roads to school in Siparia or two miles to Penal.
There wasn’t a lot of hope in Mora Dam Road, Penal but my neighbours didn’t do a lot of complaining. What good would it do? The same kind of thing was happening to Indian villages and towns all over south and central Trinidad.
Anybody who got the chance to leave Mora Dam Road and Trinidad altogether was glad to take it and leave Eric Williams and his PNM nation behind. Four of the eight children from my house have migrated to North America, and at least one from every other home there as far as I know. We have voted with our feet on Eric Williams and his PNM and his PNM Indians who have made my old homeland a dump without a future for Indians.
So how many Indians have departed the Trinidad PNM paradise of Eric Williams? I believe it’s at least 250,000 Trini Indians and their descendants who have voted with their feet on the PNM great national policies and now live mostly in Canada and the United States, with 500,000 remaining in Trinidad. That’s one third gone and two thirds of the Indos stay.
Why have so many left the richest island in the southern Caribbean with the highest GDP? Great national policies must be the answer. I hear quite a few black people have also left Trinidad, as many as 150,000 in the black Trini diaspora, maybe also because of great PNM policies for all sectors.
Which brings me back to Eric Williams and his undeserved reputation as a great national leader. I say he was no national leader at all.
A national leader is the leader of the nation, the whole nation, whose job is to bring the national together to work for the national good in harmony. That was not Eric Williams, that was never Eric Williams. Ask why my circle quietly rejoiced when Eric Williams died and you have the answer.
He tried to govern for his black people and some window-dressing (like the PNM Indians) and some like Ford believe he succeeded in uplifting much of his base. But he did so at the expense of the rest of the nation and in particular the Indian part of the nation that didn’t support him politically. He divided the country instead of uniting it, and that is why to this day Trinidad has no national unity on any important area.
Let’s face it, you can’t bring a nation to unity and hard work and sacrifice for the national good when half the nation is standing around steupsing and looking only for their own interest.
Now for the role of the PNM Indians in Trinidad over the last half century or so. What can I say but that we hated and despised them as conscience-less stooges as much as we hated and despised Eric Williams and his black supporters. Those PNM Indians joined the PNM for what they could get for themselves as long as they kept quiet about what was being done to the Indians as a group.
Kamal Mohammed and Errol Mahabir and the Muslim and Presbyterian gang saw how Eric Williams introduced crooked voting machines and gerrymandered the boundaries to cheat (and) win the 1961 elections and said nothing.
They saw how Williams opened the doors and flooded the country with tens of thousands of illegal small islanders and gave them voting cards to cheat (and) win the election and said nothing. They saw how Williams was destroying agriculture, the lifeblood of the Indians, and they said nothing. They saw Williams erecting thousands of NHA houses and giving nearly all to the blacks and said nothing. When Williams died and the President made an openly racist choice of George Chambers as prime minister over Kamal and Errol, neither of those stooges said a word.
The crimes of the PNM Indians go on and on to absurdity. Try this one on for size: Once, I went to see Sham Mohammed with some friends interested in setting up an Indian radio station, which the PNM had denied repeatedly. Sham, who was then the minister in charge of telecommunications (the body to authorize new radio stations), said to us, “As long as my government is in power, we will never get an Indian radio station!”
You see, Sham, himself a Cabinet-minister-cum-PNM-Indian, had been trying to set up an Indian radio station and couldn’t get it! Go ahead and laugh. That is a PNM Indian for you. Deaf, dumb and blind to the horrible nation-destroying policies of his party!
I don’t know what country Mr Ashton Ford thinks they were putting first but it was certainly not the nation of Trinidad.
I must confess a great weariness when I think of that man Eric Williams, his PNM now back in power with Williams’ stupid policies intact, the PNM Indians still loyal to the balisier. I am glad to leave that all behind in the dustbin of my memories and even more glad that they are not my only countrymen and women anymore.
I have a new country now and a new Canadian passport, and my family is safe and far away from Mr Ashton Ford, the PNM blacks, the PNM Indians and the legacy of that nasty, nasty man, Eric Williams.
I feel great pity and sadness for the non-PNM Indians who remain in Trinidad, but I can’t do anything for them.
Eric Williams and his demented gang have fixed the wagon of those Indians and done a good demolition job on the wagon of his faithful PNM cohorts too, as some of them are finding out when they look at the position of Trinidad after so many decades of PNM rule.
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read former PNM general secretary Ashton Ford’s blog about the racial inclusiveness of the PNM.