Ministry of Multiculturalism

Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnarayan Maharaj
Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Satnarayan Maharaj (Photo: Phagwa celebrations 2010)
Look to Canada for help

By Sat Maharaj
Jun 03, 2010 –

For a number of years the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has been advocating that the Ministry of Culture be renamed the Ministry of Multiculturalism with all the attendant policy changes. On May 28, at the SDMS Indian Arrival Day dinner at the Centre of Excellence, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that she heard the Maha Sabha’s call and that the Ministry of Arts and Culture would be renamed the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism. We have always advocated the culture of a country in the spontaneous expressions of the people and that the State has no business in culture except as a facilitator. The State must not decide which of the various cultures of our land should receive enhanced funding and which shouldn’t. Political affiliation and support must not be the measure of state support.

The Maha Sabha’s call to restructure the ministry is a result of the bias and unequal treatment which the PNM administration abused the Ministry of Culture. In fact this abuse was highlighted months before the 2010 general election when it was revealed that almost $50 million was distributed by the Ministry of Culture to its family and friends under the guise of secret scholarships. For too long culture and in particular the funding of culture by the State has been used as a political weapon against all those who did not vote for the PNM. This new ministry offers the promise of great equity in the allocation of its resources.
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Indian Arrival Day Message 2010 by Prime Minister the Hon. Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Fellow citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, it gives me great pleasure to extend greetings to the entire Nation on the 165th Anniversary of the Arrival of our East Indian forefathers to these shores. More than just a day of rememberance, it is a day when we must give thanks to God, and celebrate the human spirit’s triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds, to build a legacy of strength, discipline and tolerance that has helped make us what we all are today as a nation.

Indeed my brothers and sisters, the journey of our East Indian forebears was long and arduous, and didn’t come cheaply. It took patience, vision, belief and a spirit of sacrifice to begin a new life in a strange land, with the hope that one day, their offspring would reap the rewards of that sojourn.

And while the East Indian experience was unique in its own way, as would have been for those who made their life’s journey to these shores from Africa, China, Europe and the farthest reaches of the globe, there were many things that were common to all… but most important among these was a desire to enjoy life’s greatest freedoms without fear, and in an atmosphere of peace, prosperity and harmony.

And this more than anything else has been the legacy that has found its greatest expression in our people, from all walks of life – in our music, our food, our dance, the way we interact with each other…It’s a journey that has taken us all centuries to arrive at, and still the journey continues as we steadily improve the means by which we travel to the destination of our Nationhood.

For this reason the Ministry of Arts and Culture will be redesigned to become the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism in order to give greater voice to the diverse cultural expressions of our common desires for individual and national identity.

There will be a realignment of policies including resource allocation, to allow for a more equitable recognition and fulfilment of the needs of the diverse proponents of our culture.

Our celebration of days such as this must be more than just a formality, but an active reaffirmation of this Governement’s commitment to ensure that every creed and race finds an equal place in this land of ours.

To you all I wish a very happy, peaceful and enjoyable Indian Arrival Day.

May God bless us all.

8 thoughts on “Ministry of Multiculturalism”

  1. “This new ministry offers the promise of great equity in the allocation of its resources”. Is this what multiculturalism is all about – money? Culture is naturally developed when people are allowed to express themselves in a way which reflects their experiences and way of life in any given community. What Sat is telling us is to leave him and his “hinduism” alone, “we will do our thing apart and separate us from our Trinidad experiences, just give us the money that the government gives to everybody else – money” -(my words). Brazil and New Orleans are great cultural experiences where the natural ingredients of melting cultures were allowed to foment and became a culture – naturally and today everybody can celebrate the New Orleans experience or the Brazilian experience. Sat does not want any “melting” of the hindu experience in Trinidad and Tobago, he wants orthodoxy of separate and equal community that happens to be a part of Trinidad and Tobago living. This man has single handedly eradicated the word and history of ‘La Trinity’ from our vocabulary and history, do we now want him to replace our culture?

  2. there is an obvious need to define culture in this culturally rich republic. Name changes that add nothing to the objectives of a ministry are useless. I don’t see a need to change a name that already incorporates the values of the original name. I like meaningful things, thay’s all.

  3. The declaration by the Bissessar-Persad Administration of a policy of multiculturalism is a major shift that must be applauded. This is the best antidote to the practice of alienation, discrimination and favouritsm that was patented by the PNM. An Act of Parliament is now necessary to consolidate the process and to establish the link between the Equality Commission and the new policies, programmes and practices that will underpin the noble policy of multiculturalism. The policy of ethno-nationalism must never be allowed to rear its serpeant head in T&T again and to monopolise the national patrimony uder the rubric that this in PNM coubntry. T&T is a community of communities and the muticulturalism agenda will do justice to all manner of men without fear or favour or ill-will.

  4. Why only these paltry gestures Uncle K? I want to hear a law implemented that would ensure that any that did not vote for this government be placed naked on a sinking ship and set adrift along across the Bocas between the barracuda waters of our country and Venezuela.
    I also want to hear of a complete pardon for all the high official that were involved in the crooked financial deals that sent the HCU into bankruptcy, and our leader should make provision that all the Caroni workers that were fleeced of their dollars by the pro Sat Maharaj bandits, be compensated in an Obama like , sweetheart deal bail out, with huge interest for all their financial sufferings.
    While we are at it , I want to see our AG demand that every Indo Trini prisoner that was was ever convicted since 95 be set free, and replaced by all the tribalist genocidal police.
    As for jobs , who cares about that ? Let dem the people ‘eat cake for the next four years, and taxes would take care of itself.
    Finally in the interest of fairness , I wish to see a complete purging , and or gutting of the entire civil service to put up a team that reflect the interest of the new regime.
    We wish them well, as they thither along with their version jungle politics, Trini style.

  5. I have noted with interest, the creation of the new Ministry of Multi-Culturalism. As a person of mixed race, I can only hope that this new designation will not be used to entrench differences, but rather to facilitate the creation of a Culture of Trinidad and Tobago, as opposed to “Trinidad Culture” e.g wine and jam.
    Perhaps, we can look to people like Mangal Patassar and Dawud Orr, to create a fusion of cultures into something truly Trinidadian. In this I am not leaving out our artists, writers playwrights and performers.
    We all know by now where we came from, what we need to establish is where we are going.

  6. “T&T is a community of communities and the muticulturalism agenda will do justice to all manner of men without fear or favour or ill-will”. This is a very subjective opinion, the PNM and so-called Afro governemnt has been blamed for everything under the sun that Indians who support the UNC believes that was meted to them. As the party in power since Independence naturally the PNM inherited many laws and practices that were not congenial to the lives of Africans and Indians alike. Case in point the uprising of the 1970 revolution that revolted against the practice of hiring light-skinned over dark-skinned. At one time Hindus who married “under bamboo” were not allowed to issue marriage certificates. Those were laws and practices of colonialism that had to take time and leglisation to eradicate from the books of T&T. Mr. Kangal’s view is shared by many of the educated class who enjoy the best that T&T has to offer yet they yearn to change it to suit their own ego. Culture is something that is evolved from the daily lives of people and any attempt to leglislate can and will lead to chaos, hatred and resentment, especially when it is voiced the way the Sat Maharaj, Devant Maharaj and Stephen Kangals define it.

  7. And those of us who see ourselves as multicultural already, we just go on being us.I intend to.

    What I think would be useful would be to set up a small educational park where traditional aspects of our culture(like the Cleaver Woods house), can be demonstrated so children would know and love our heritage. I think we already have the food covered, and the clothes and music, at least I do.I dress in the clothes of all our cultures.
    The ability to build a tapia house, to create a thatched roof, to do wattle and daub,to make sandals from old motor car tires, the steel band, the tassa drum, to make clay pottery, the way we plant small gardens, beans and corn in the same hole(An Amerindian practice that we all adopted)the herbal medicines we know and use- Chinese, Indians and Africans have different ones, and some are crossovers- these are the things that set us apart from people of any one specific culture of origin. We are already multicultural. Trying to “create ” culture through a ministry is a non-sense concept, celebrating it, is really up to the people, but what such a ministry might do is presere and educate about ways that we had, that were valuable, that we would lose forever if our children are not encouraged to appreciate them.

    I was very touched by the Cleaver Woods park and house when I toured it in 1993. We could also establish( we may already have it, I am not sure) a register of historic sites, famous old churches, the temple in the sea, and other things we would need preserved, and be willing to share them with visitors. (We must also educate visitrs in how to view our culture. As a tourist, one should not drop in and photograph religious services in prgress. Some people would need to be told)We have so much to offer besides oil,the bird sanctuary, carnival,pagwa and humming birds at Simla. We need to teach our children that the national bird is NOT a delicacy, although in the past some members fof parliament held feasts featuring it. We need a park where species of our wildlife can be protected, and we need to educate hunters why they must not hunt in the off season.

    As a people, I have often thought that we all treat our country as if we were men, and she was a street prostitute to be taken advantage of. We were a colony of exploitation to two European countries, then at Independence we became a country of exploitation to whoever could get away with something- selling illegal wildlife,price gouging, stealing the national assets for one’s private use, desecration of our beches- the list goes on, anything for a buck.

    In this sense, we need cultural education, not multicultural education. Look at the other ountries that say they are multicultural, including the USA- they have all had their battles between people of different groups. We have never done this, political rubber talk, yes, racial invective and sly remarks designed to put the other groups in a bad light, yes.; but two years ago, when I met a group of Trinis from one company on a European cruise, they were a mixed groupof friends having fun.

    That is how it should be.Among the educated, that is how it is.

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