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Equal Opportunity Commissioner: Talk of ‘Calcutta ship’ planned PNM strategy
Equal Opportunity Commissioner Dr Indira Rampersad believes that the racist “Calcutta ship” statements made during Tobago’s election campaign was a well planned PNM strategy which played on the fears of Tobagonians. Speaking during a television panel discussion yesterday, Rampersad said it seemed Tobagonians were still focused on political parties and personalities rather than issues.
Rampersad, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Language in Literature, a diploma in International Relations, a certificate in translation from Spanish to English, a Master of Philosophy in Latin American Literature, a Master of Philosophy in International Relations and a Ph.D in Political Science, said the racist strategy bore fruit for the PNM.
She said: “People are still focused on political parties and personalities as opposed to issues. It may not be just political parties and personalities. “It may be another issue, an issue of ethnicity and race. These issues play out in T&T all the time and some people discount it as an issue.” She explained that race and ethnicity segregation was certainly not a positive issue that would develop T&T.
“It is not going to develop the country in any way but it is an issue. What is interesting is that the people of Tobago will vote overwhelmingly on that issue which some perceive as negative for the development of a country,” Rampersad added. She disagreed that the statement was said in error.
She said: “Whether that statement was actually said in error, I would say no. I would say that it was a carefully thought out strategy because it evoked a response and I think that was also planned. “If it evoked a response it would create and play on the minds of the Tobagonian and I think we see the plans by the PNM to secure victory and we can say it certainly worked.”
The senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies did not respond to queries yesterday about whether her comment was appropriate given that she is a member of the EOC. Head of the commission Professor John La Guerre also could not be reached for comment as calls to his home phone went unanswered.
What is the Equal Opportunity Commission?
The Equal Opportunity Commission was established in 2000. commissioners were appointed by the President after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in April 2008. The commission is comprised of five commissioners, including a chairman and a vice chairman. The commission works towards:
• The elimination of discrimination.
• Promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
• Receive, investigate and as far as possible, conciliate allegations of discrimination.
• Develop, conduct and foster research and education programmes and other programmes for the purpose of eliminating discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different races, ethnicities, religions, geographical origins, marital status, gender or physical disabilities.
• Prepare and publish appropriate guidelines for the avoidance of discrimination.