For some time now, apologists for the PNM have been vehement in their attacks on me for stating that the PNM, over the years, has institutionalised discrimination against Indo-Trinidadians. Their attempts to burnish the image of the PNM and its founder with self-serving half-truths and spurious distortions cannot stand scrutiny.
Of late, there was the puerile rebuttal of Fitzgerald Hinds, the unvarnished diatribe of Selwyn Cudjoe and now the insidious personal attack of Ferdie Ferreira. It seems that I have touched a raw nerve in the PNM body politic.
But I wonder if it was the same erstwhile, rampant Ferdie Ferreira who was involved with waterfront and other workers in a PNM march before the Elections of 1961 along the Eastern Main Road from San Juan in which the marchers rained stones and bottles on perceived DLP homes along the route and threatened and harassed their occupants—which included the family of former PNM Minister Augustus Ramrekharsingh in St. Joseph.
As to institutionalised discrimination against Indo-Trinidadians, space does not permit a comprehensive illustration whether in employment and promotion practices in the public service, especially in the upper reaches of management and administration, state enterprises, statutory authorities, the judiciary, provision of basic infrastructural services, access to public housing, allocations for Indo-dominated local government bodies, cultural grants and recognition, award of licenses, agricultural infrastructure and support etc.
Political discrimination against Hindus, the largest majority among Indo-Trinidadians, has been well documented.
I have been accused of ignoring the contents of Albert Gomes’ autobiography “Through a Maze of Colour.”
However, in it Gomes makes reference to what I consider to be the root of discrimination against Indo-Caribbean people.
On page 232 he writes, “Nevertheless, the politics of the negro, in both Trinidad and British Guiana, continue to be dominated by fear and suspicion of the Indian, much of it gratuitously fed for political propagandist purposes.”
And on page 237 he continues: “The 1956 Elections which had returned Dr Eric Williams’ People’s National Movement had featured anti-Indian propaganda as a major factor of electoral success. Indeed, the vote had rallied to an essentially racist appeal based largely on the alleged threat of Indian domination.”
Poor Dr Brinsley Samaroo’s comments are religiously invoked to support the view that Dr Williams did not harbour racist anti- Indian sentiment. I have already dealt with the competing credibilities on this issue between Dr Samaroo and Dr Winston Mahabir.
However, I am not sure exactly what Dr Samaroo wrote or said but I have not heard him explicitly say that the PNM did not discriminate against Indo-Trinidadians.
I may also mention that Dr Samaroo, as part of the NAR Government, opposed the Motion in Parliament tabled by me to have May 30th declared as a public holiday to be known as Indian Arrival Day.
Now, it is true that I was violently and almost fatally attacked in September 1971 by men from Badase Sagan Maraj’s sugar union when I supported another union which sought alternative representation for sugar workers.
However, by that time, Badase had become a firm ally of the PNM and Dr Williams. At the behest of Dr Williams, he opposed the Black Power Movement of 1970 and participated in the 1971 General Elections defying the Opposition’s No Vote campaign. Ferdie would better be able to determine if this was a betrayal of sugar workers and Opposition supporters and their political loyalties since he appears to be an expert on the subject of betrayal.
While I am accused of betraying Basdeo Panday, Ferdie forgets to mention that in 2007 Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj was rehabilitated by Panday, given the Tabaquite seat and promised leadership.
Thus, betrayal seems to have selective consequences.
The premature end of Basdeo Panday’s Prime Ministerial tenure came to an end, not as a result of my alleged betrayal, but because of his own ego or naivete when, with the 2001 election results tied at 18-18 and with the UNC gaining 25,000 more votes than the PNM, he went to have discussions with Patrick Manning and asked Robinson to decide who will be Prime Minister.
Was it Ferdie Ferreira as a founding member of the PNM, who broke with the party and its leader Dr Williams and together with Karl Hudson-Phillips formed the ONR with the focused intent, through scurrilous and relentless attacks, to bring down his former party and leader?
I wonder if his action qualified as betrayal of Dr Williams.
Since Panday was a special guest at Ferdie’s book launch, I am curious to know whether, through the educational efforts of Ferdie, Panday experienced a conversion and no longer believed that the PNM was engaged in systemic discrimination against Indo-Trinidadians.
The relevance of Vishnu Bisram’s opinion of failed Indian leadership in the Caribbean escapes me.
Is it to be inferred that only Indian leaders are guilty of the sins of corruption, self-serving agendas, comfortable lifestyles, autocracy and neglect of supporters and not African leaders?
And are all Indian leaders to be so branded including Cheddi Jagan in Bisram’s own native Guyana?
Space does not permit me to deal with Ferdie Ferreira’s so called “unquestionable facts” which is to be the subject of a subsequent letter.
However, I must make mention of Ferdie’s final salvo—“Trevor, take care you get what you want and lose what you have.”
Is this a threat of expropriation or exile from the PNM dominion of T&T?