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Tobago hoteliers to politicians: Stop fuelling racial tension
Opposition leader Dr Keith Rowley is steering clear of the Tobago race debate. But while Rowley opted to keep mum, Tobago hoteliers accused politicians of causing racial tension on the island in the run-up to last week’s Tobago House of Assembly election. The hoteliers have called on politicians to stop practising racist politics in Tobago, saying it would ruin the island’s socio-economic stability.
The hoteliers’ comments came after the general secretary of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha Satnarayan Maharaj called over the weekend for East Indians to boycott Tobago, saying the island was a drain on the economy. Maharaj recommended that the Government stop subsidising the cost of the fast-ferry service and the airbridge.
Contacted on Monday, Rowley said he would not comment on anything Maharaj had to say. He also heaped scorn on Minister of Tobago Development Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, who said she had been receiving numerous reports from hoteliers that Indian people were leaving Tobago.
Meanwhile, the manager of Tobago’s Plantation Beach Villas, Sean Clarke, yesterday said racism was never part of Tobago’s society, although he admitted there was “geographical segregation.” “There were always concerns that obnoxious Trinidadians would come to Tobago and litter our beaches, or that Trinidadians would look down on Tobagonians, but that was said of Trinidadians of all colours, not just Indians,” Clarke said.
He chastised Maharaj for fuelling racial strife among Indians and Africans. “I hope that the race problem dies as quickly as the election did,” he said. He added: “The politicians have done more damage. If we stop talking about it, everybody will forget about it. “It is unfortunate that it is being used by the politicians and I think the TOP was as guilty as (Hilton) Sandy when he made his comment.
“If it was left there, it would have died, but the TOP used it in their campaign and we heard it every 15 minutes.” He also said Indians had dominated business and trade in Tobago for more than 40 years, adding: “It is not true to say that Indians are now coming into Tobago for entrepreneurship.” Clarke said Arabs and people from the Middle East were also setting up numerous grill shops and gyro stalls across Tobago, while Indians were more into the food business, taxi driving, construction and hotels.
Meanwhile, Karmeal Ali, director of the Tobago-based Masjid al Tawbah, also denied there was racism in the island. Ali, who manages the Blue Horizon Hotel, said it was unfortunate that Maharaj would try to divide the races. Ali said he had lived and worked in Tobago for 21 years but had never experienced racism.
Ali also said THA Chief Secretary Orville London always showed equity in the distribution of resources, as he had provided equal funding for Eid, Divali and Emancipation. The manager of Caribbean Estates Lands and Villas, Natalie Mahabir, said she, too, had never experienced racism. “There hasn’t been much ethnic diversity in Tobago but we are seeing development of it at a fast pace. Indians are the entrepreneurs of Tobago, and this is a big plus,” he said.
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