Last update: 19-Dec-2013 7:24 am
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Fanatical ethnic prejudices must be confronted
On the issue of my presence at a PNM function and being requested to say a few words at the occasion, I wish to recount some historical facts about my association with the UNC. I was a founding member of the UNC in 1989 and served as its General Secretary for two years. However, the UNC party of then was a different political animal from the UNC of today which has lost its way and is dominated by ONR/NAR and COP elements. Due to raising issues with respect to corruption, autocracy in the party and the undermining of its institutions and the marginalisation of elected members, I was dismissed as a Minister of Government in 2001 and later expelled from the party.
When I contested the 2001 general elections under the Team Unity banner I was soundly rejected by the UNC supporters and this even after two decades of exemplary representation and faithful and dedicated service to the constituents of Oropouche. I have no problem with this outcome because the UNC faithful owe me nothing and they have a democratic right to vote as they wish. Since then, I have been subjected to hostility by rank and file UNC supporters. I, therefore, am indebted to them for nothing and I feel free to exercise my democratic right to go where I am invited and to speak at any forum on matters of public interest. This is still a free country with a constitution that guarantees freedom of association and speech.
I may mention that in December 2009, Mrs Persad-Bissessar phoned me to seek my support in her bid to become the political leader of the UNC. I informed her that I was not a member of the party but it was my view that she was the most electable of all those vying for the post. I offered, however, to assist as a non-party member in the areas of planning and strategy for electoral purposes and for the challenge of government. This offer was contemptuously ignored. Incidentally, I have been invited by no other political party in this country, to any of their events or offered the opportunity to make some remarks. If I were so invited, I would have had no reservation about attending.
However, it needs to be mentioned that at the heart of the controversy concerning my attendance at a PNM event is the hoary question of ethnic loyalties and party allegiance. I reiterate that I am not a member of the PNM but the perception among the UNC faithful is that, having been in the company of members of that party, my ethnic loyalty has become suspect. But the reality today is that thousands of Indo-Trinidadians support a party led by an Afro-Trinidadian which is quite acceptable to them and so it should be. Many Afro-Trinidadians such as Rupert Griffith, Winston Peters, Clifton De Couteau and Errol McLeod have won parliamentary seats under the UNC banner and their presence is lauded by Indo-Trinidadian UNC supporters and to them it is not conceived as ethnic betrayal.
However, if an Indo-Trinidadian is as so much as seen in the company of PNM people, this is regarded as the height of ethnic treachery and disloyalty. So it is a case of different strokes for different folks and we must confront the fanatical ethnic prejudices which still persist in large sectors of the population.
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