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Policy on MultiCulturalism Part 2
Essay by Shalini Singh of Lakshmi Girls Hindu College, the third place winner in the essay competition on multiculturalism: “I will strive, in everything I do, to work together with my fellowmen of every creed and race, for the greater happiness of all and the honour and glory of my country.” Those powerful words of the Trinidad and Tobago’s national pledge demonstrate the promotion of the concept of equality amongst our people. Trinbagonians are a melting pot of people whose ancestries reside in India, Africa, China, England, France, Spain, Maderia, Lebanon, Syria and the original inhabitants of the island itself, the Amerindians. For more than 150 years, multiculturalism has been a way of life for the inhabitants of this diverse country. One would realise that unity, a sense of belonging and patriotism do promote integration through acceptance of each other, so why would a policy for our people on multiculturalism not promote the integration of our people? A multicultural policy refers to the way in which the diverse cultures and ethnic communities in the population are recognised and strengthened. Cultural integration is evidence of multicultural policy and is observed in places such as Cabramatta in Sydney’s south-west (Australia) and in Canada.
Cultural integration occurs when communities and governments work together to celebrate diversity, improve community services, meet diverse community needs and address community problems.
The Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, told an audience at Indian Arrival Day celebrations at the Divali Nagar, Chaguanas: “I know many of you will take great pride that a woman of East Indian descent is today the PM of T&T, but while I acknowledge the right for such a perspective to exist, may I humbly say I would rather the nation feel the pride that one of the descendants of our collective experience of hardship and sacrifice today represents their realisation and longing for a better life and for freedom.”
The Prime Minister spoke of adopting a policy on multiculturalism and putting in place the policy framework that makes every group feel secure, appreciated and celebrate their contribution to nation building. “We have had too much quarrelling for cultural space. We should instead be inviting each other into the cultural space we occupy.” The values of multiculturalism can be taught in primary schools and can be emphasised throughout the public education system and this will help us understand differences.
A number of state laws, including equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws may also well be influenced by the key principles of multiculturalism. T&T’s multicultural approach has added variety to the daily life of all citizens. They have a wealth of different ethnic foods to sample, cultures to experience and music to enjoy. Trinbagonians are also exposed to different religious practices and experience different core value and beliefs. This exposure to diversity helps us become more tolerant of different kinds of people. Being aware of the values of different groups also helps individuals understand why people are motivated to act as they do. Knowing more about a variety of groups can help people dispel the racist ideas that are still circulating today. Once a person knows people of different ethnic groups, he no longer believes in ethnic stereotypes. People may realise that each separate group is composed of individuals who are essentially just human beings like themselves. The difference is skin, colour, or religion, which does not affect the personalities of members of the group. As more people are exposed to and begin to understand different cultures, they are less likely to become xenophobic, fearful of outsiders. Another positive effect is that since there are many different cultures living with each other, people will benefit because they will learn more about different races and will develop a greater understanding of the cultures around them.
This in turn allows the individual to have more freedom because he now sees other ways of living and can choose how he wants to live. This is a very important aspect of society: the ability to live freely and to choose whatever religion and way of life you want. Furthermore, a multiculturalism policy will assist in formulating a country like Trinidad and Tobago, so diverse and so rich in culture, with vast amounts of ideas, opinions and lifestyles to explore. The greater the diversity of the racial and cultural mix, the greater the need for tolerance and openness in accepting each other. With gloalisation and the ever-increasing movement of people from one country to another, the challenge of appreciating and accommodating cultural differences has become a universal experience. A multicultural policy that is sensitive to the needs of both long-time residents and the newly arrived will probably meet the greatest success. Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives citizens a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to and accepting of diverse cultures. The promotion of “togetherness” and integration of our people whilst fostering the ideologies of one nation, one people, one Trinbagonian family all demonstrate that together we can do it, together we can learn, together we can accept, together we can appreciate and, as our national motto correctly states: “Together we aspire, together we achieve.”
n Satnarayan Maharaj is the
secretary general of the
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
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