Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear Editor: Tobago remains colonised by Trinidad; and Sandals could have been the game changer

Dear Editor: Tobago remains colonised by Trinidad; and Sandals could have been the game changer

“Unless and until Tobagonians, at a deep psychological level, understand that they have been colonised by Trinidad for over one hundred years and continue to be so colonised; until they understand, at a deep intellectual level, that the country, Trinidad and Tobago, is a legal and political construct and any legal and political construct can be deconstructed.

“And until they act on these understandings and move to indicate to Trinidad that they are prepared to enter into a negotiated federal arrangement with Trinidad, failing which they will go it alone, Tobagonians will simply continue to fret and cuss about their colonised condition while their Trinidadian colonisers continue to tell them whether they should have anything at all—including Sandals and including island self-government…”

The following Letter to the Editor on the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago was submitted to Wired868 by JH Charles of Concordia, Tobago:

Photo: A butler serves guests at the Sandals Resort.

Sandals would have been a game changer for Tobago in the most fundamental meaning of the term.

Several decades ago, Dr Eric Williams’ made the critical observation that Tobago had gone from colonisation by Great Britain to colonisation by Trinidad.

Today, we are saddled with Lloyd Best’s Napoleoncitos, and sundry self-appointed caped crusaders, who have successfully railed against the Sandals project. And once again, Martin Daly SC—in the Wired868 column of 10 February 2019—is pontificating on Tobago and the Sandals initiative.

Unless and until Tobagonians, at a deep psychological level, understand that they have been colonised by Trinidad for over one hundred years and continue to be so colonised; until they understand, at a deep intellectual level, that the country, Trinidad and Tobago, is a legal and political construct and any legal and political construct can be deconstructed.

And until they act on these understandings and move to indicate to Trinidad that they are prepared to enter into a negotiated federal arrangement with Trinidad, failing which they will go it alone, Tobagonians will simply continue to fret and cuss about their colonised condition while their Trinidadian colonisers continue to tell them whether they should have anything at all—including Sandals and including island self-government.

And for those who will hasten to say that Tobago cannot go it alone, Tobago is larger in land and population size than St Kitts Nevis, larger in land size than Antigua, close in land size to Grenada and St Vincent and would have been a lot closer in population size had it not been for the continuous emigration of Tobagonians to Trinidad over the past century in search of better opportunities.

Photo: Tobago Heritage Dance Performers strut their stuff at the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet during the 2015 Legends Football tournament.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

And I invite Tobagonians to imagine where their ‘country’ would have been today if its eminent sons had had the enabling environment to return to Tobago rather than Trinidad after studying and working abroad; and to make the kind of contribution to Tobago that they made to Trinidad—and I mean, to Trinidad—from: Victor Bruce, William Demas, Dodderidge Alleyne, Richard Toby, Eustace Bernard, ANR Robinson, Basil Pitt, Reginald Dumas, to later on, Knowlson Gift, Russel Martineau, Keith Rowley, Ivor Archie, Gilbert Peterson and John Prince, just to name a very few.

I invite them to imagine Tobago beyond colonised ordinary.

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32 comments

  1. I can’t even manage to open this just because anyone who could make the claim that Trinidad is colonizing Tobago while (in the same breath) saying Sandals would have been the way forward has absolutely no idea what colonization actually is. I feel as if there are ways to paint the argument that perhaps Trinidad behaves similar to its imperialist colonizers in its method of governance. Cool, I could take dat. But how, with even just a fiber of logic, could one justify Sandals as an attempt to decolonise!? It’s literally the exact opposite.

    • You would have a much better idea of his efforts to justify it by reading the column though.

    • Reading it actually impresses me less than the quoted text. The writer does well enough to articulate his concerns about where repatriated efforts are concentrated, but extends little to no effort to actually support his thesis. He has provided rich intellectualism but little in the way of content to support any claims of colonization by Trinidad or how Sandals would have been a step away from this. The entire thing falls flat for me and feels like more of a think piece intended to express the writer’s discontent than anything else

    • Élysse Marcellin I read it last night and my only conclusion is this is some inane rant. Very incoherent and lacking in substance or solutions. A real tabanca toting feelings. Wasted 4 good minutes last night. 😒

    • Élysse I think because he mentioned the fact that Eric Williams said it long ago, the perceived colonisation of Tobago by Trinidad was understood by all.
      If that was why he didn’t delve further into that topic, then that might be an error on his part. We would allow him to explain further if ever he wants to give it a go.

  2. Lasana Liburd I respect that you try to publish things from both sides. I actually do not agree with the stance but I read your content because I trust that you are curating content that provokes thinking in some way. This letter was terribly written and contradicts itself. It’s very confusing. I am unsure of the Sandals argument and I additionally can’t see how you can refer to colonialism and then support Sandals – which is not colonialism but has many parallels. It’s exploitation and not development. I expect that the content you post here to be curated and worth my time. I think you missed the mark on this one and by a lot.

  3. Sandals generally pillages the economy of its host islands. The company demands extraordinary tax breaks and incentives from local governments under the guise of improving the local economy. Then it creates a self-sustaining resort separate and apart from the local environment in almost every way that discourages guests from leaving the resorts. For any positions of note, they bring in their own staff who are not local to the host island and up until recently were not even purchasing local food for their resorts. The few locals they do hire are hired for menial jobs and it is said not paid very well. Not to mention, how the construction of these monstrous resorts contributes to further damaging the environments of host islands. So tell me again how Sandals was going to be the deal that freed Tobago from Trinidad and boosted its economy to new heights? I mean come on, the woes that Sandals resorts visit on host islands is well-documented; is a little research too much to ask?

  4. I was actually waiting to read the rest of the article. This letter totally lacks substance. Trite arguments about the size of Tobago land mass as compared to other Caribbean islands is enough to make him want to declare Tobago’s independence . You would swear Trinidad just milking Tobago. That’s what colonizers do. Where’s the proof to substantiate this? And parading a list of prominent Tobagonians serves what purpose? Shouldn’t he be proud of the contribution these men made to Trinidad and Tobago the nation? Did he expect them to live in Tobago and do what exactly? This whole letter just comes across as somebody bitching about being a victim but they didn’t bother to articulate what’s their problem or solution. And no… Asking Tobagonians to declare their independence from Trinidad is not a solution eh

  5. with ah tobago pm.give me ah break

  6. The Sandals deal was concocted at a dinner table in Trinidad and driven by central government. The THA and the people of Tobago had no say in the matter. How exactly would this have changed the game of Tobago being ‘colonized’ by Trinidad? Since the writer failed to define colonization in this context or give any evidence besides simply saying so, it’s impossible to tell.

  7. So where is the Tobago economy now? What Sandals would have done is give the locals access to foreign exchange, employment and do not require a handout from whoever is in power and want their vote. Then with with employment there is an increase in the standard of living, meaning one can afford to educate your children better, acquire loans if you want to start a busines, etc. This can trickle down to other hotel owners because Sandals as a BRAND will attract more tourists.

    The only negative thing was the procurement procedure and the location which might have destroyed some local flora and fauna which would have been used as ecotourism. Tobago could do with a shot in the arm to help it forward. What would be your solution?

    • Yes, the procurement procedure. The same issue as the Beetham wastewater treatment plant, a deal done outside channels and $1b down the sewers. Without proper procurement, how do we know that any of the benefits you proposed will be derived? How do we know that we couldn’t do better? The solution is to do it properly, evaluate options and make the best INFORMED choice.

  8. Sandals is another instance of America flexing its corporate multinational muscles. Not even a proper top-five nation like Britain can handle the likes of Google, Amazon and Sandals, so a divided Trinidad and Tobago would have no chance. Our government would end up a slave to cynical American leisure industry interests. Actually rather than split, a federated Caribbean with a consolidated population of tens of millions would be a more solid option.

  9. I think that successive governments have made very poor decisions regarding Tobago. I think Tobagonians also have long experiences of arrogance and poor conduct from Trinidadians, so I mostly see validity in their scepticism of Trinidad. At the same time, to say that Tobago remains colonised by Trinidad is a stretch and especially disingenuous when we look at what colonialism is.

    Colonialism involves a certain economic relationship where resources from the subordinate country are taken and controlled by the ruling mother country. This is not the relationship Trinidad has with Tobago. Colonialism, as we know it here in the Caribbean, involved narratives of racial supremacy and a system of repression aimed at the subordinate country. There is no such system of repression aimed at Tobago, apart from the general arrogance and poor decision making by the political elite that affects ordinary people everywhere.

    So while I agree that relations between Trinidad and Tobago is an important point to be discussed, I strongly disagree with how the writer frames the issues. Worse yet, is the insertion of the Sandals issue. I fail to see how bringing a foreign hotel into Tobago, to make citizens bellboys, servants, and at best mere providers of good and services, will be a gamechanger. Sandals in all the other Caribbean countries has not resulted in a transformation of the economic system, or empowerment for ordinary peoples. Sandals is just a way for Caribbean countries to be subserviently integrated into the global tourism industry. In the Tobago case, what was even more disturbing was that the citizenry of T&T were the ones who would have to foot the bill.

    • Tyehimba Salandy well said sir. I am a Tobagonian! I am fed up of the limp victim talk. I am so happy that you spoke up and I agreed with everything you said. This talk about trinidad colonists is garbage. So many people on FB and other platforms seek readership via these senseless and elaborate appeals into a community working hard to find the voice and person of a leader. Thank you again

    • Tyehimba Salandy concise, well-written, free from political trash talk, and extremely informative. T&T badly needs citizens like you to move into leadership positions. Please post more & consider getting into politics.

  10. Last night on saw another detractor to Sandals speaking it should be noted she wasn’t in fact most i have heard at not from TObago. Sandals is dead lets move on.

    • Trinidadians also need to understand, at a deep psychological level. So let’s begin working on it.
      Say after me, “Tobago is not a part of Trinidad”. Let’s say it again, “Tobago is not a part of Trinidad”.
      Come on say it to me like you mean it, “Tobago is not a part of Trinidad”.