I read with amusement Ferdie Ferreira’s commentary on Trevor Sudama’s criticism regarding PNM discrimination against Indo-Trinidadians: Ferreira countered Sudama’s allegations of PNM discrimination by documenting some absurd examples of PNM’s record of non-discrimination against Indo-Trinbagonians.
He struck out with the first no-discrimination example against Indo-Trinbagonians with the statement that it was the PNM government that eliminated the deadly hookworm disease in the sugar belt in 1956. All the other examples of non-discrimination dealt with national developments other than the single issue of the sugar workers’ retrenchment package.
It’s my sincere opinion that Indo-Trinbagonians as an ethnic group have done exceedingly well in education, religion, culture and economics since our forefathers arrived as “bonded coolies” in this our beloved country. And so too have the Afro-Trinbagonians after emancipation.
Having said that, I remind the political leaders of our country that there are hundreds of thousands Trinbagonians belonging to both the Indo and Afro tribes who are dispossessed and impoverished and the political leaders cannot fool them all of the time. The Covid virus revealed the impoverished/dispossessed people are concerned more with their bellies than anything else. A hungry man is an angry man, and Mr Politician cannot touch their doubles and fried chicken—it will lead to rebellion. Note carefully, the recent outbreak of protestations by the Afro-Trinbagonians.
I now call upon Ferdie Ferreira to tell the nation why the PNM cabinet ministers (mainly Afro-Trinbagonians) revealed to President Ellis Clarke on the death of Eric Williams in 1981 that they did not want either Kamaluddin Mohammed or Errol Mahabir as Williams’ successor: both Mohammed and Mahabir were founding members of the PNM and the most senior cabinet ministers at the time of Eric Williams’s death. Is it that the PNM party did not want an Indo-Trinbagonian prime minister?
Ferreira must also tell us why then-PM Patrick Manning indicated to President Robinson that he did not want Indo-Trinbagonian Satnarine Sharma to succeed Michael de la Bastide as chief justice of the country. Manning’s choice was an Afro-Trinbagonian who incidentally was competent, fair-minded, independent and fearless. But so too was Sharma. And how come for decades under the PNM rule of this country there was no Hindu Indo-Trinbagonian in the PNM cabinet?
But I am trembling with fear regarding the warning/advice/threat that Ferreira made to Sudama, to the effect of “take care you get what you want and lose what you have”. This warning/advice/threat as it relates to Indo-Trinbagonians tells us the UNC, a fundamentally Indo-led party, can capture the reins of government and, in harsh economic times, the Indo-Trinbagonians can find themselves in the same predicament as our compatriots in Uganda found themselves under then-president Idi Amin, or as in Guyana when Dr Cheddi Jagan captured the reign of government. Hence I am troubled both the UNC and PNM do not have rainbow leadership as did the NAR of 1986. Most of all, whosoever captures the reins of government in this coming general election must make every effort to see that the armed forces of our beloved Trinidad and Tobago reflect the rainbow colour of our people.
Long live Trinidad and Tobago, where we live in harmony and peace, and will continue to strive for an equal place for every creed and race. Justice for all.
Israel B Rajah-Khan, SC