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East Indians in Tobago fear election backlash
People of East Indian descent who live in Tobago are saying that racism on the island is so bad they fear that if the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) wins the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections on January 21, there will be “trouble.”
Speaking to the T&T Guardian, several of those interviewed, who have been living on the island for years, all agreed they had experienced racism in their day-to-day activities.
The issue was raised in the wake of THA assemblyman Hilton Sandy’s controversial statement on the PNM campaign platform that “a ship is anchored in Calcutta waiting to come to Tobago to take over the island” should the TOP emerge victorious.
The residents who spoke to the T&T Guardian on the subject yesterday begged for anonymity.
“I have been here 14 years and, yes, there is racism,” one woman who works at a business outlet said.
“If TOP wins, Tobago will have real problems. It’s going to be a real fight. They are going to terrorise people. Remember Tobago is the heart of obeah,” she warned.
She said the current election campaign was the worst she had seen on the island.
“People are now starting to show their true colours. They don’t want Indians in Tobago.”
She said recently she witnessed a man standing near where a TOP meeting was taking place and making all kinds of racist remarks about East Indians.
“Tobagonians don’t want change. I hear them talking when they come in here,” she said.
She added, though, that there were also many who were hoping a new administration would be voted in on Monday.
The owner of Carnbee Auto Supplies, an East Indian who identified herself as “K James,” agreed there is racism in Tobago, which she said had existed for a long time.
“I have been here 15 years and if any kind of argument takes place, they are quick to call you ‘coolie.’ I have heard people saying, ‘Coolie, go back Trinidad where you come from,’” she said.
“I have not been overly affected by it.”
“We are the minority here...A lot of us are established here doing business. But it’s not as bad as people think.”
James felt Sandy’s statement was not impulsive but premeditated. She did not believe it would turn his supporters away, though.
“Whether the boat coming from China or Syria or wherever, they will still support Sandy,” she said.
Jenny from Jenny’s Roti Shop on the Crown Point Road endorsed the comments of the other two women.
“There is racism. It is manifested in their actions, words and attitudes. No locals buy roti from me. My clients are only tourists.
“The locals say we come here to get rich off them and they are not supporting us.
“But I am not stealing or doing anything illegal. I work very hard,” she said.
She said Tobagonians did not show Caucasians the same racism.
Jenny, a Trinidadian who has lived in Canada, said she opened the roti shop five months ago. She dismissed Sandy’s Calcutta statement as “silly.” “Either he is not educated or he is trying to get people riled up,” she said.
Journalist Ira Mathur, who was born in India and spent her early years in Tobago, said she had a wonderful childhood on the island.
Mathur’s father, Col Mahendra Mathur, an engineer, was contracted by the former PNM administration to oversee the construction of the Claude Noel Highway.
She recalled being called a “coolie,” but said she felt no real racism when she went to live in Tobago in 1973.
Mathur said she developed a love affair with Tobago and always felt she was going home when she went there. She feels all the racist talk is sad.
“All this stuff is just stupid and sad. I think it can poison the minds of the young people. They don’t want to see Indians taking over. But Indians feel Tobago is part of their country,” she said.
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