?How does one describe "political discrimination," which translates into and necessarily results in racial discrimination or exclusion? This is the dilemma that affects the Indo-Trinidadian community. This question crossed my mind after the scathing Newsday editorial criticising the government for the scholarship scandal. The editorial ended by saying any criticism on the ground of racial discrimination was not justified, as it was a case of political discrimination.�The PNM, like the UNC, favours and rewards its own. The UNC, however, ruled the roost for a mere six years, whilst the PNM has ruled for almost half-a-century. The statistics published in my last two columns demonstrated that less than ten per cent of the appointments to state boards and executive management hired by the boards so appointed were Indo-Trinis.
One of the counter arguments raised by way of explanation for the racial imbalance in the public service is that Indo-Trinis do not apply for these jobs, whilst Afro-Trinis conversely gravitated towards the public service. This argument, however, cannot be used to explain the glaring racial imbalance that exists in positions that are virtually a matter of political patronage, because there is no application, as the appointment is in the gift of the Prime Minister. The appointments to state boards and of ambassadors provide ample evidence of the exclusion of the Indo-Trinidad community from the power structure. This pattern of exclusion of the single largest ethnic group in our society is also reflected in state boards, ambassadorial appointments, staffing at our foreign embassies and the hierarchy of the army, Police Service, Fire Service, Prisons Service and the upper echelons of the public service.�
The Express newspaper analysed the list of scholarship recipients and concluded that less than two per cent of the awardees were Indo-Trinis. This scholarship opportunity was never advertised to the population at large, and was, therefore, available to a select few from the bosom of the PNM. It may be quite true to say that this is a form of political discrimination and that the awardees were selected not because of their race, but rather political affiliation. The fact, however, remains over $46 million of state funds were secretly disbursed and the Indo-Trini population was not given an opportunity to share in this pie. Were the shoe on the other foot, and PM Panday authorised the disbursement of $46 million financial assistance to students, 90 per cent of whom were Indians, would the Afro-Trini community say this was a case of political and not racial discrimination. I doubt it. When changes were made at Petrotrin, the cry from the PNM was "another African man bites the dust" and the company was dubbed "Petrosingh."
No one in the media criticised the intellectuals who were crying racism then, so how is it, when the shoe is on the other foot, Indo-Trinis must sanitise their allegation and speak of political discrimination, when they feel that they are, in fact, victims of racial discrimination. Where does one draw the line between political and racial discrimination? In a society where the political culture is based on race, political discrimination equals racial discrimination, regardless of which of the two tribal parties are in power. Racial discrimination is the natural consequence of political discrimination. This is inescapable and inevitable. We should not bury our heads in the sand and conveniently speak of a rainbow country when our socio-political reality is quite different. The concept of racial equality is reduced to an Afro eating roti and doubles by his neighbour, and whether women will sleep with a man from a different race without any problems or objections.
This simplistic approach might be amusing and entertaining, but devalues an important constitutional right with a different meaning. Equality in this context means equal access to opportunity and the resources of the State. There can be no equality in a society where one major ethnic group does not have equal access to the resources of the state. The inequitable distribution of state resources is at the heart of the concept of inequality. Exclusion of the other tribe from the power structure effectively preserves the Treasury for one group at the expense of the other. The scholarship scandal is but a vivid example of how our politics results in racial discrimination. To expect the victims of this discrimination to see it as merely political, and not necessarily racial, is to misunderstand human instinct and one's inherent sense of prejudice. Isn't it time we start calling a spade a spade?