Pakistan’s lesson for TnT

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
June 14, 2007

Trini PeopleContrary to Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s public identification, “the most intractable problem facing Trinidad and Tobago at this time is (not) race relations” but ethnic relations.

Yes, we all belong to the human race but this human-race matrix is replete with people of different/ varied/ diversified skin colour or hues as a result of adaptation and migration coterminous with human sexual interrelationships/ contacts over the millennia.

According to the international community, including the United Nations, Afrikans have a different skin colour or hue from Europeans, while Indians and Afrikans possess the same skin colour or hue.

In other words, it is universally accepted that people of the Afrikan race are Black, non-White, while people of the East Indian race (Asians) are non-White, people of colour; people of the European race are classified as White.

More specifically, in terms of the population dynamics of TnT, East Indians comprise 42 per cent, Afrikans 38 per cent, Europeans .01 per cent, etc. Therefore, this means that the majority population of TnT in non-white, people of colour.

These official census figures obviously suggest that if a Prime Minister of the Afrikan race (Patrick Manning) were to activate impeachment proceedings to oust a Chief Justice who is of the Indian (Asian) race (Satnarine Sharma) then such action cannot be viewed/construed/manipulated as racial victimization, racial harassment, etc. It must only be viewed/construed/manipulated as ethnic victimization; ethnic harassment simply because the two factions/parties involved are of the same skin colour or hue according to the international community. Every country/nation, including TnT, has to conform to the universally accepted norms of the international community.

As a corollary, the on-going, complementary legal cum violent battles in Pakistan serve as a prima facie explanatory example/schema for TnT.

On 9 March 2007, President General Pervez Musharraf (who seized power in a 1999 military coup) unilaterally suspended/removed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry from office based on “unspecified credible complaints that he had abused his office.”

Since that day, there have been daily violent anti-government riots, judges have resigned, lawyers are in acerbic protest, dozens of people have been killed and the capital city, Karachi, has been “paralyzed’ to say the least.

However, the most poignant/significant point of comparative analysis is that at the center of all of this mayhem, the newspaper headlines read as follows: “Ethnic Bloodshed Erupts” in Pakistan. The headlines do not read: “Racial Bloodshed Erupts” in Pakistan simply because the President and the Supreme Court Chief Justice are both non-white, men of colour.

Ergo, these same headlines (not wishing) must also apply to TnT in the legal stand-off between the Prime Minister and Chief Justice, namely: “Ethnic Bloodshed Erupts” not “Racial Bloodshed Erupts” in TnT.

By way of international comparative elucidation, let us recall that in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, when 250,000 Serbs were killed, the international community labeled this carnage as “ethnic cleansing”; it was not described as “racial cleansing” simply because the warring factions were of the same racial hue.

In the 1994 wanton slaughter/killings in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis, this massacre was described as “ethnic genocide”; it was not described as “racial genocide” simply because the two warring factions were of the same racial hue.

When the then militants of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) killed both British and Irish citizens, the international community condemned those atrocities as “sectarian/communal violence.” They were not condemned as acts of “racial violence” simply because the warring factions were of the same racial hue.

As of this writing (June 2007), when Shi’ites, Kurds and Sunnis kill each other in Iraq, these acts of violence are described by the international community as “sectarian violence” and “sectarian carnage” that are rapidly pushing Iraq into a civil war and “sectarian inferno.” These acts are not described as “racial violence” simple because the three warring factions are of the same racial hue.

And finally, the international community is lamenting on the “factional violence” that is currently waging between Fatah, Hamas and Palestinians in Gaza; the concern is not about “racial violence” because the three warring factions are of the same racial hue.

Now is the time to relegate the “race question” to the ash heap of TnT’s political jargon. Now is the time to interject some modicum of political maturity in TnT’s body politic. We were all enslaved and colonized by the same Europeans. Now is the time for the former enslaved and colonized to psychologically/ subconsciously destroy the European slave-master’s-colonizer’s whip and to stand up as an independent people.

As C.L.R. James once warned: “The racial question is subsidiary to the class question in politics and to think of (neo-colonialism) in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error less grave than to make it fundamental.”

And as Professor Lloyd Braithwaite observed in 1954: ” Every social system possesses some symbolic means by which the unity of the society in affirmed. In those societies which are highly stratified or in which there are several groups with sharply divergent cultures, there tend to be a variety of such means. In the case of Trinidad, we have a highly stratified society in which there is nonetheless a great deal of common cultural allegiance. It is to be expected, therefore, that many of the ‘national’ (problems) will reflect the stresses and tensions within the society.”

It is to be hoped that the current impasse between the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice will remain within its legitimate legal realm and not spill over and ferment dysfunctional/ divisive ethnic discord.

http://www.trinicenter.com/kwame/2007/1406.htm

4 Responses to “Pakistan’s lesson for TnT”


  • There is nothing more sad than a people – includes African, Indian Any Trinidadian or Tobagonian – who remain behind bars, not realizing the doors to the cell are swung wide open. We quip over the inadequacies our ‘colonial’ masters dented into our brains as though they are real. Look out the window. The only reason we are poor socially and structurally is because we allow waste and sarcasm to rule our politics and government.

    I understand your point. Facing facts, there is a fundamental sense of distrust between Africans and Indians in the nation. And when political wrangling such as the current issue happens it’s quickly construed as having a discriminatory undertone. Hopefully it’s not. If it is, then the country must look at the leadership and decide if it wants to remain immature and in need of colonial masters to ‘decide’ our solutions for us again.

    I personally believe the leadership should have allowed the CJ to serve out the remaining months of his office, and retire. There is a natural law at work in all the Earth as well as society that the leadership should always keep in mind when instances such as this arises – You reap what you sow. Be careful of consequences. The Bible says a harsh answer stirs up wrath. The nations and their problems you gave as examples serve as lessons in politics. We are Trinidadians and Tobagonians. If my memory serves me right that means we have a paradise home to remind ourselves we’re not like the rest of the world where murder and mayhem, coups and anarchy, and ethnic strife exists. However, the slope down the hill to these things is very slippery, and the footing is easy to lose. Our country needs its people to pray.

  • There seems to be a basic confusion between ethnicity and race here. Firstly, the notion that there is “one human race” is a misnomer and a serious blunder that many make. Let me begin by explaining the two concepts of race and ethnicity: ‘race’ distinguishes one group of humans from another based on VISIBLE traits such as skin color, facial features, hair colour and texture that can be passed on via ones genes. Thus, within the human specie, there are several races which we are able to tell apart by their phenotype: Africans (from which all other groups descended), Europeans, Chinese, Indians (a mixed raced group that developed distinguishing features in recent history that set them apart) and other mixed races such as the American Indians. Thus, contrary to what the author is depicting, race is not only based on colour but includes other features that make Africans and Indians distinguishable: they do not belong to the same race. Also, many Indians are very light-skinned and are more akin to Aryans/Whites, and others are much darker: Indians who possess more Africoid features, as the tribal peoples and Dalits of India. The Indian race is not a homogenous group but a conglomeration of races that include European, African and Chinese. (See Sex and Race Vol. I-III for more details).

    Ethnicity is a psycho-social concept built on several perceivable commonalities belonging to particular groups such as language, race, genealogy, religion, region and shared history. Thus, although in one sense, Africans and Indians can belong to the same ethnic group or groups, this still does not negate the fact that they belong to two different races.

    According to the international community, including the United Nations, Afrikans have a different skin colour or hue from Europeans, while Indians and Afrikans possess the same skin colour or hue.

    Why does the author seek validation from the United Nations to distinguish between the different hues of people? Indeed, Africans and some Indians do possess the same colour but they have other features that are not common, e.g, the length and texture of hair, shape of nose, etc.

    These official census figures obviously suggest that if a Prime Minister of the Afrikan race (Patrick Manning) were to activate impeachment proceedings to oust a Chief Justice who is of the Indian (Asian) race (Satnarine Sharma) then such action cannot be viewed/construed/manipulated as racial victimization, racial harassment, etc.

    The author states that the PM is African and CJ Sharma is Indian and then states that impeachment proceedings to oust a Chief Justice cannot be seen as racial victimization. It could be viewed this way: it is for those who follow the politics to research and determine if this is so.

    It must only be viewed/construed/manipulated as ethnic victimization; ethnic harassment simply because the two factions/parties involved are of the same skin colour or hue according to the international community. Every country/nation, including TnT, has to conform to the universally accepted norms of the international community.

    No. Even though the two races may belong to the same ethnic group: same nationality, general culture etc., they are still two races and they may even possess different ethic qualities: religion, cultural norms and values etc. And no: WE DO NOT HAVE TO conform to the “universally accepted norms of the international community” because it too can be wrong as evidenced several times over in our history. If the “international community” says that two and two is eleven is it right?

    The examples that the author points out – Pakistan, Rwanda, Iraq, Britain/Ireland – of ethnic conflict is different from the Trinidad and Tobago context. The conflict in those areas were indeed ethnic conflicts as those may have had different religious and political affiliations, different histories and other circumstances that set them apart. However, in those countries pointed out, all belonged to the same race unlike the situation in Trinidad and Tobago (which has not yet translated into violent disputes between the two groups).

    We were all enslaved and colonized by the same Europeans. Now is the time for the former enslaved and colonized to psychologically/ subconsciously destroy the European slave-master’s-colonizer’s whip and to stand up as an independent people.

    I’m not too sure what the author is trying to say here, but Indians were not enslaved like the Africans were; they were brought here as indentured servants. Still, different races and nations were subject to European colonization etc. Coming together to achieve a common goal and understanding physical differences does not make one racist. In fact, understanding racial and colour issues can help to bridge relations.

    As C.L.R. James once warned: “The racial question is subsidiary to the class question in politics and to think of (neo-colonialism) in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error less grave than to make it fundamental.”

    I do not share the above sentiments because race and class are very much related in the socio-economic system. Still, C.L.R. James’ quote does not support the authors argument.

    And as Professor Lloyd Braithwaite observed in 1954: ” Every social system possesses some symbolic means by which the unity of the society in affirmed. In those societies which are highly stratified or in which there are several groups with sharply divergent cultures, there tend to be a variety of such means. In the case of Trinidad, we have a highly stratified society in which there is nonetheless a great deal of common cultural allegiance. It is to be expected, therefore, that many of the ‘national’ (problems) will reflect the stresses and tensions within the society.”

    This quote does not support the author’s argument either.

    It is a common thing that people adopt different terminologies into their vocabularies and not fully understand what they are in fact saying. It would be a good start for people to research definitions and concepts properly.

  • L.Paul should go to yahoo.com and check the search engine for Slavery in British India. She will find, among other things ,that Dr. Nantambu is right. We were both enslaved by the colonial masters.

    Slavery in British India went on to the 1880’s,

  • This is what I said:

    I’m not too sure what the author is trying to say here, but Indians were not enslaved like the Africans were

    If you disagree, then you should bring evidence to show that Indians were enslaved like Africans were. Otherwise, your response is misleading.

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