Race Talk in the House

ParliamentRace Talk in House: Jack, Rowley square off
The People’s Partnership has achieved better ethnic balance in the appointments of boards, Works Minister Jack Warner stated yesterday. He was speaking in the House of Representatives on the motion filed by Dr Keith Rowley, asking the House to reaffirm its collective commitment to the principles of fairness and meritocracy in public affairs in the light of the “reckless and divisive statements” made by the former Police Service Commission chairman Nizam Mohammed.

No Indian PNM MPs
WITH THE two major political parties in the country still largely split by an ethnic divide, the Government and Opposition sparred in Parliament yesterday over the issue of race, with UNC chairman Jack Warner accusing the PNM of a long history of discrimination against persons of East Indian descent.

Jack: No Govt policy on ethnic balance
Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner says the People’s Partnership Government does not have a policy of ethnic balance.

‘Don’t lecture the Speaker’
“DON’T LECTURE to the Speaker!” was the declaration made by Speaker Wade Mark yesterday as he laid down the law in the House of Representatives after an apparent challenge to his authority in the chair by Diego Martin Central MP Dr Amery Browne.

…Jack defends AG’s ‘New York’ trip

‘Nizam ‘dissed’ for Govt’s black base’
THE DISMISSAL of Police Service Commission chairman Nizam Mohammed was the hot topic at a forum on equality yesterday, with attorney Israel Khan, SC, claiming the People’s Partnership Government called for his removal to protect its Afro-Trinidadian base in the East-West Corridor.

…Panday: ‘Racist lies’ reported by ‘Express’
FORMER prime minister Basdeo Panday has accused the Express newspaper of a “racist lie” regarding a headline on controversial comments made by former Police Service Commission chairman Nizam Mohammed, and questioned whether there were racist reporters at the paper.

15 Responses to “Race Talk in the House”


  • Once more Rowley shows he lack of insight and political savy.To bring a motion of this nature, at this time, is simply a stupid way of setting up yourself for ridicule. The PNM record of partisan politics and favours for Party insiders are once more exposed by Jack Warner.
    The big question here is, “Did Nizam lie?”
    The PNM Port of Spain insiders are still reeling with discontent as they lose their plum appointments and corrupt priviledges, which were out of reach to the average citizen.
    Rowley should be focussed on rebuilding his Party instead of sulking with disappointment at the loss of status and power.

  • Mr. Nizam Mohammed has a perception that there are not enough Orientals in the police service.
    Works Minister Jack Warner has a perception that the People’s Partnership has achieved better ethnic balance in the appointments of boards.

    My own perception is that:

    They are both wrong. Mr. Nizam Mohammed feigns ignorance of the fact that NonOrientals chose to enter into the Police Service in large numbers, and Orientals chose to enter into business in large numbers! There was blatant mischief in Mr. Nizam voicing an opinion about that the police service issue, while at the same time turning a blind eye to ethnic imbalances in other Government of Trinidad and Tobago, (GOTT) services such as the Medical sector, which has a marked deficiency of NonOriental Doctors.

    (Around Apr 6, 2011, Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, said at a post-Cabinet press conference that as at December 2010, there was a shortage of 275 medical staff, 2,517 nurses and 161 pharmacists, making a total shortage of 2,953 personnel in the health sector. She said this Government had brought down these figures “but not enough”. Baptiste-Cornelis said in an effort to address this acute deficit of workers in the health sector, Cabinet in November 2010 had agreed to the hiring of additional personnel).

    This is lip service. The Minister of Health, and The Council of the Medical Board (MBTT), and Medical Professionals Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MPATT), which are both comprised of essentially the same persons, and who are almost all Orientals, has made no real effort to address this acute deficit of workers, NonOrientals, et al. Both the Minister and MBTT/MPATT are in fact working together to maintain the deficit, by continuing a program of harsh and oppressive measures against NonOrientals to keep them out of the Medical Profession. The program starts by denying admissions of NonOrientals into the UWI Faculty of Medical Sciences, although the NonOrientals meet the academic requirements; and the program continues by denying admission of NonOriental doctors into jobs after they qualify at universities outside of Trinidad and Tobago, including Cuban Universities. The Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) accredited the Cuban Universities before accrediting UWI.

    These anti-NonOriental sentiments were clearly expressed last year when the Minister chose to propagate a rumour, a nebulous MBTT/MPATT concoction that Cubans don’t speak English, by presenting it as her argument for ending the Service of the Cuban Medical Brigade to Trinbagonians, (All of the Cubans are NonOrientals), while she turned a deaf ear to the facts that the official language of Doctors educated in India, is Hindi; in Pakistan, it is Urdu; in Philippines, it is Tagalog. It was in this April, when the Minister realised that only Cuba had a surplus of Doctors, that she extended their services.

    MBTT/MPATT has been resisting the entry of the Cuban Medical Brigades into Trinidad and Tobago from the start. So much so that The Medical Board Act 35 of 1960, had to be amended by Act No. 7 of 2009, for The People of Trinidad and Tobago to receive much required health care from the Cubans. The amendment exempted the Cubans from having to write additional exams before they could practice medicine here.

    MBTT/MPATT now extends the exemptions (from writing exams), to Oriental Doctors (Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos), but not to Nigerian Doctors, and not to Trinbagonian Doctors (mainly NonOrientals) who studied the same Medical Sciences at the same Cuban Universities, as the Cuban doctors here. As a result of the above, while Health Minister Therese Baptiste-Cornelis, is professing to address the acute deficit of 275 doctors in the health sector, these Trinbagonian Doctors (mainly NonOrientals) by not being granted equal opportunity, have been kept out of the work-force, in violation of their Constitutional Rights, and the Equal Opportunity Act 69 of 2000.

    My own further perception is in agreement with views expressed by yesterday’s panel, that the root cause of these discriminations, and other NonOriental–Oriental imbalances in GOTT services lies in bad governance.

    *As President Obama learned from last year’s Deepwater Horizon Disaster: Technical problems and resulting accidents do not just happen. They are caused by people, organizations and systems of organizations interacting. The Minerals Management Service (MMS), A government agency (like MBTT) which had the responsibility of regulating an industry, could not at the same time (like MPATT, the alter ego of MBTT) have the responsibility of collecting billions of dollars from the same industry. This mingling of distinct statutory responsibilities—each of which required different skill sets and fostered different institutional cultures—like the mixing of oil and water, led to internal tensions and a confusion of goals that weakened the agency’s effectiveness. Bad governance in USA, not BP, resulted in the Deepwater disaster. Bad governance in T&T, not the Jamatt Al Muslimeen, resulted in the 1990 Insurrection.

    It is disappointing to know that while most of us “have passed that stage”, there are some ethnocentrics who have not, and what is worse is that they hold political power. Unless the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, (GOTT) ceases and desists from these practices of bad governance, and replaces vested interest bodies, like MBTT/MPATT, with independent bodies like the ACTT, inevitably, we will all find ourselves in DEEPWATER.

  • I think the sad part of all of this is the Leader of Opposition accusing the AG of something he never did, further making comments about the AG that appears to be racist. Keith must realise he cannot trust anyone or any information given to him. He must be careful in what he says. Trinis know that the PNM policy has always been to divide and rule. Today the PNM cannot get the privilege of leading T&T until they deal with the race monsters of the past “recalcintrant, cow pens, Petrosingh etc.” I am yet to hear any comments about Afro Trinis.

  • ‘Big shots’ playing up racism
    WITH all the talk, recently, of racial discrimination from public figures, Roman Catholic Archbishop Edward Gilbert yesterday said people generally got along fine without the race issue being played up by the “big shots.”

    PNM party slams ‘imbalance’ claims
    SINCE its inception, the People’s National Movement (PNM) has always reflected “the racial and ethnic composition of the population”, the party’s general secretary Ashton Ford has said.

    …PNM: We have Hindus too
    THE CURRENT 18-member executive of the PNM has two members who are Hindu, the party’s General Secretary Ashton Ford said yesterday as he responded to accusations of discrimination against East Indian Trinidadians levied by Works and Transport Minister Jack Warner.

    AG condemns Rowley on alleged NY trip
    Attorney General Anand Ramlogan’s reputation for equality of treatment for all citizens is well-established. And the “misguided attempt” by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley to slander and taint his good name is deserving of the strongest condemnation, a release from the Office of the Attorney General stated yesterday.

    …AG: Rowley’s race claim mischievous

    Panday calls on President Richards: Explain why Nizam was fired

    Stop Race Talk
    If the race talk continues in this country, there will be trouble, Makandal Daaga, leader of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), has warned.

    50/50 TT
    I know its meant to be a Good Friday, but I confess to harbouring infelicitous feelings toward fired Police Service Commission Chairman Nizam Mohammed for the unholy hornet’s nest he’s stirred. Or should I call Mohammed the man who caused Indian and African head counting to go viral?

  • The rift will continue because those whose Nelson eye only see one side of equation imbalance are prevented from objective examination of the analysis presented in the post before the one preceding mine. Read what they write. Whether it is Khem or Kangal, the cultural predispositions that equality means balance where Africans are the majority and not where Indians are the majority, are centuries old, passed down from generation to generation, and replicated in every society with the same demographics as T&T.

    Indians were outraged over blatant racist attitudes and behavious against them in Australia, at ironically the same time when Indian Spectators at a Cricket match in India were yelling raial slurs at a black Australian Cricketer. It is this one eyed reasoning, this inability to examine the prejudices they bring to the table of opinion and analysis that create the tensions in societies like T&T. The fact is that they as long as there are significant populations of blacks and Indians in any society, Indian leaders and their ethnic sycophants will always scream racism unless those blacks resign themselves to the roles of dalits, and allow these fractured and historically prejudiced mindsets to elevate themselves into the role of Brahmin status. And that is exactly what is behind the issue in T&T at the moment.

    • Keith you miss the point completely. The nation has grown and it is time to correct these historical imbalances. Why is it racism to demand that composition of the officers doing the promoting reflect the nation? Why is one particular ethnic group given preference over others? These are hard difficult questions that must be asked in the interest of a better nation. It would not be right if the people doing the promotions were only Indians so why should be right if the people doing the promotions are only Africans. Let us change these things to reflect a growing nation. This is not 1956 Keith, this is the year 2011 and change has come. Let us all embrace it rather than kicking against it. Because together we aspire together we achieve..

  • I am getting the impression that this Keith williams character knows nothing about T&T. The racial vitroil which he spews is demonstrative of someone who has never lived in T&T. T&T is no Guyana!
    The people of T&T are unified. The politicians and pseudo intellectuals are not. And, by the way Keith, there are no “Rampersauds” in T&T, a reference made by you in a previous blog. In T&T we have “Rampersads, not “Rampersauds”.
    Your Guyanese vitriol is the stuff that poisons the cohesive, amicable lifestyle of the people of T&T.
    My advise to you is to ceast and desist. Your outrageous, racist analysis and your narrow,restrictive approach to people and life are bordering on some sort of neurotic condition,which can only be attributed to a traumatic experience of some kind.
    The people of T&T will continue to live and love, coexist and triumph, without your sick views of race and ethnicity.

  • Could we take the race tlk OUT of the house, into the streets a bit? I have just been checking the dog biting and killing stats for the couty I live in, in the USA. In a population of 4.1 Million, there were three fatal dog attacks in ten years. One was a child attacked by two abandonned dogs.

    Could someone who knows the stats give me a racial breakdown of the race of the people attacked, and killed, by dogs in TnT in the last ten yeras, and the racial breakdown of the owners of these dogs? Leave out the lady who went to feed her son’s pitbulls, I was in Diego when it happened, and I know they were both Chinese.

    My reason for asking is the nasty suspicion I have that some pople’s dogs are trained to attack specific groups of people. I know this from an experience I had on the beach in Barbados called “Millioniare’s Row; it’s on the St. James Coast. A dog from the property of the American movie actor Noel Coward, rushed at me, and would not let me walk on the beach(1969). He passed my friend and fellow trainer Dr. Judith Levay, white professor from NY University, to get to me. Later, my suspicion was confirmed by the owner of the inn where we were staying during our training exercise.

    The watchman had responded to the dogs barking, and called him when I asked why his dog was blocking my path.
    “You not from here?” he asked, and I confirmed.
    Then he said that that was a private beack. There was no sign saying that, but all Black Bajans knew not to walk there.Are we getting to that point? Could someone please answer with the stats? Will out country come to a point where some people cannot travel in certain areas because vicious dogs would attack them? This was a fact of life in aparthied South Africa, and its still so in some parts of that country.

    • How stupid!
      We were taking a walk in Bacolet, Tobago recently when a young Rasta had to restrict his four pitbulls from attacking.
      Are we to assume that his dogs were trained to attack Colored folks? Our group consisted of all the races on T&T.
      Let’s stop this stupidity. T&T is not that type of country.

  • If you do not like a fact, Tman, does that make it stupidity?
    In a situation where each group sits growling in a corner, and glaring at the other, the questions raised by me are valid ones. I would have never thought that there were beaches in Barbados where certain people could not walk.(Barbdos has always been regarded as more “civil” than TnT). And do you recall the fisherman in Tobago who was shot for being on the beach of a resort then owned by the Ansa McAl group of companies?(This ws at Easter of 2002 or thereabouts)They had put gate across a public road, to restrict natives from walking through. I was visiting then too, and had a ringside take on what was going on, because of who I was visiting at the time.
    I was a student at UWI right after independence, when some employees of the snack bar at the Hilton refused to serve us, not outright, but by dillydallying in the hope that we would leave. One of us pointed to the plaque behind the bar and reminded him that the Hilton was OURS.He was thus our employee.
    Enough has been said about the colour bar at certain nightclubs, but I am not a club goer, so I have no personal experience.
    So, this has always been part of TnT, now we are going for electrified fences, and quite possibly, killer dogs targeting those who are not us, whoever US is.
    If we are to stop “this nonsense” we first have to admit that we might have a problem, not so? Pretending that you not sick, will not make you well. “Diagnosis and treatment” is what makes a difference. Why did you jump so quickly to assume that all the dogs would belong to any one group? My Barbados experience was ONE experience. You know something that I do not know about this?
    Do you not find the stats alarming?

  • Rowley: No backing down on race claims
    Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley is standing by his claims that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan expressed concerns about the ethnic balance of staff at the T&T mission in New York.

    Khan: Lopsided local armed forces can be dangerous
    Khan said he was concerned about the local armed forces which were “lopsided”, in favour of “Africans”. He predicted 100 years from now, ethnic violence that happened in Fiji, Rwanda and Uganda could happen here, and it was “dangerous” in a plural society to have one ethnic group controlling the army, irrespective of which group.

    ‘We’re not one in T&T’
    Former head of the Public Service Reginald Dumas says there is need for a national discourse on race relations and other issues affecting the people of T&T. In an interview yesterday, Dumas said a six-member body should be established to get the views of nationals with a view to finding solutions to the problems.

    Our ethnic realities
    Unlike some, who claim that we should not be discussing it, we have no problem with our country openly facing up to the issues of living in a multi-ethnic society. However, we do have a problem when these discussions become inflammatory and pejorative. And our problem is magnified when inflammatory remarks are made by people who should know better, and are made in a political context.

    Tobago priest: All races must live in harmony

  • The people of T&T are handling this race debate much better than the political figures.
    If letters to the editor, calls to talk shows, and listening to the man on the street are used as measures,then one should conclude that the people of T&T are handling this debate in a mature, literate and tolerant manner.
    The races are already living in harmony and people fully understand the historical significance of the composition of the Police force.In addition, people are willing to address imbalances in an orderly and reasonable matter.
    Let us beware of politicians who are very willing to use this race issue to shore up their narrow support base.
    Most foreign police forces monitor the ethnic balace in their forces to reflect the composition of the communities which they serve.As a matter of fact, they periodically publish these statistics and often target certain ethnicities and genders for recruitment, using explicit ads.
    Commissioner Gibbs should be fully aware of this, since the RCMP is an excellent example of a force which has institutionalized this practice of counting heads.
    History and culture have been the main agents responsible for the composition of the T&T police force and Army.As certain ethnicities become more acculturalized in T&T,the expectation is that they will want to participate fully in the society and its institutions. Nothing is wrong with that.

  • A forum on race relations is long overdue, but appointing a few ’eminent persons’ to collect views is not a viable solution. Those eminent persons may well have lived in their own ethnic enclave for so long as to be blinded to the new reality.
    The Under Thirties have children with and are marrying outside their ethnic group, and many older folks have problems with that.

    Now, here is what I humbly suggest(though I admit I do not know all the answers):
    Let a few questions be generated for discussion in focus groups. questions could be submitted from clergy of all faiths, social workers, educators, legislators and jurists, as well as community youth groups.
    Set up a series of focus groups to meet in accessible places, a school building, a church hall, a community center, so that people from all the twin island state can have access. Publish the date and place of the meetings in the media. It would be good if they were all held on the same day, to prevent trouble-makers going from group to group to push their particular agenda, but that may not always be possible because you would need a trained facilitator for every session.
    Let the people talk, but establish some ground-rules first. then roecord their concerns, their agreements and their recommendations.

    One ground rule that I have used successfully in my training work has to do with who speaks when.
    In a round table setting- you need to be able to see who you are talking to and about- each person can be given three minutes initially, with a follow-up of one or two minutes. The order of speaking can be randomly pulled from a hat, or serially around the room. When a person speaks, others who disagree could note it and speak of it in their turn. The facilitator says “thank you” for each comment, and that is all he or she says, other than stating the groundrules at the beginning, and a wrap-up comment at the end.It is quite possible that people will disagree, but the purpose of the forums is not to cast stones, but to look at ways forward, so “remember when” conversations should be kept to a minimum. I use the term “the present accusatory tense” to describe the comments of people who say things that make your blood boil, but if all you can say is “Thank you” until your turn comes, it helps diffuse animus, and keeps the group focussed.

    I have used this in sessions sponsored by a number of agencies, including IPPF, The Christian Children’s Fund of the Caribbean, the Anglican Church, and the Roman Catholic Diocese of the island of St Maarten,N.A. as well as in classrooms of children,adults, and in reconciliation meetings after a bitter teachers’ strike in a US state.

    It works.

    What happens with the recommendations is a horse of a different colour.Each person attending must be prepared to bring something to the table.

    More on this later, if needed.

    It is critical that in these meeting all sorts of people be welcomed and given chance to spek.If soeone is ungrammatical or mispronounces a word, that in no way diminishes the valube of the contribution. No one should laugh at or try to belittle anyone.

    There can be no “observers” only participants.
    Good luck on getting the dialogue started.

  • Rickey Singh: Reflections on talking ‘race’

    Lennox Grant: Race talk fills the gap for action

    Selwyn Ryan: Equity is not equality

    The race conversation
    Far from dying down after being raised so notoriously by Nizam Mohammed in statements before Parliament, the issue of race relations in Trinidad and Tobago continues to be stoked in political quarters.Last week, Opposition Leader Keith Rowley reported to Parliament that he had been informed of concerns expressed by the Attorney General about the ethnic balance of staff at this country’s mission in New York, predictably stoking further crosstalk and accusations in the House.

  • Michael Harris: Dr Rowley’s motion
    “What is the purpose of this motion?” That was the question asked by Minister Jack Warner in his contribution to the debate on the private motion filed by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley in Parliament last week.

    Rowley lacks skill to ‘bring back’ PNM
    Political analyst Derek Ramsamooj says Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley may be lacking the skills to transform the PNM into a viable political entity. “The challenge is not so much whether Dr Rowley can hold the PNM together, it’s whether Dr Rowley will be allowed to transform the PNM to be a viable political institution that can form government above and beyond its historical electoral support base,” he said.

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