Finding African farmers

By Raffique Shah
August 15, 2022

Raffique ShahIt pains me whenever I feel it necessary to confront the race issue in my column. I see it as a waste of valuable column centimetres where those of us who have been selected by the managers and editors of newspapers to highlight and comment on matters of national importance instead find ourselves discussing drivel.

But there comes a time when columnists cannot ignore attempts by influential people in the society resorting to race, playing the race card when everything else fails them, in the hope that controversy might save them from oblivion, a fate politicians fear more than they do the hell-fire that is promised to believers and non-believers alike for the sinful lives they lead, convinced they are so clever, they can fool even the Creator.

It is in this context that I often intervene, pointing out to these charlatans and the fools who follow them that they can fool half of the population most times, but they can’t get past my gate using either the lyrics they have mastered or the innocent faces they use to mislead the masses. In my 76 years on earth I have spent 27 months in prison among criminals, accused and convicted, who most people think are the scum of society. But I have also spent 50-odd years interacting with politicians, business leaders and others deemed the cream of society. Believe me when I say I can’t think who is worse, and I am not convinced the criminals in jail are any worse than those who steal not only from the treasury, but also the soul of the nation.

National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds has the propensity to get carried away by the occasion and audience-response. Emancipation Day, which did not exist (as a public holiday) until the dawn of the new millennium, has stirred up Afro-consciousness among a wide cross-section of Caribbean descendants of slaves. I was most present and active back in the day when its weekend of activities consisted mainly of speeches by pioneers such as Khafra Kambon and Eintou Pearl Springer, good drumming and chanting from Mansa Musa and other masters of the art, and showing off with pride genuine Afro-shambas (huts) built by a team led by the late Dedan Kimathi, on grounds off Mucurapo Road. Dedan is hardly remembered today, activities are held at the Savannah, funded heavily by Government, and many who did not see themselves as “Africans” then parade today in expensive Afro-garbs and accoutrements.

Minister Hinds, addressing the sensitive but legitimate issue of belated recognition of, and reparations for, the descendants of slaves, spoke of the visible absence of Afro-Trinis from applicants for State lands for agriculture. Good point, I thought. But how did Cabinet ministers identify Afro-Trinis from other citizens/applicants unless they applied under their adopted Afro-names? John Smith, for example, could be Indian, dougla, white or black. I recall the story—and soldiers’ stories are always a mixture of half-truths, lies and exaggeration—about the British commanding officer of the T&T Regiment, Colonel Pearce-Gould, who, having noted the overwhelming majority of Afros in the military, met with the recruiting officers, expressed his concerns, and suggested he grab any suitable Chinese applicant. There were already around five per cent Indians in the military, and one could hardly expect more.

On the day the new recruits assembled on the parade square, the frustrated CO asked the recruiting officer, ‘Where are the Chinese?’ ‘They must be here, Sir,’ responded the officer, who scanned the list, then watched the 60-odd fresh faces: not a Chinese in the formation. ‘Call the names,’ the CO ordered. Maybe, he thought, they had applied, were selected for final examinations and had withdrawn.

The Training Wing sergeant bellowed: “Take one pace forward when I call your names. Tan Wing!…” A brown African smartly stepped forward. “Fough!” This time a strapping, black African responded. “Ming!” A dougla. Aching! Indeterminate origin. And thus died Col Pearce-Gould’s bid to recruit Chinese by names. In T&T, people carry the strangest names. Boysie Moore-Jones, president of the sugar workers’ union who came after Basdeo Panday, is Indian, and a devoted Muslim.

So if names of applicants for State lands for agricultural purposes were the guide Minister Hinds and his colleagues used, they were destined to end up thoroughly confused. Further, if their aim was to encourage Afro-Trinis to engage in agriculture, it was a laudable goal, but conducted in a manner that could be deemed racist. You don’t use race as the determining factor in matters such as this. By all means, encourage your people to engage in food production. But ensure all applicants have a genuine interest in farming. It is a most demanding job. In fact, it’s more a “calling” than a job.

There are many young people, African, Indian and others, who are squatting and producing food off which families not just exist, but thrive. Mr Hinds will find his farmers in that lot.

2 thoughts on “Finding African farmers”

  1. “Minister Hinds, addressing the sensitive but legitimate issue of belated recognition of, and reparations for, the descendants of slaves, spoke of the visible absence of Afro-Trinis from applicants for State lands for agriculture”
    Burham asked the same question when the dictator was in charge of Guyana. So he did what Hinds is planning to do, he took large parcels of land and gave it to the Afro brethren. He being a dictator took lands belonging to Indians and gave it to Africans.
    Of course 10 years later the land remained empty.

    Slavery had Africans run from the land. But my hope is that Africans in Trinidad would return to the lands. The well educated Indian children should be given more space in the government services. Many of these services are over populated with Africans who are nothing but paper pushers it is time they move out and start working the land. Those cushy air conditioned jobs should be given to the sons and daughters of indentured labourers. After all we have paid our debt to Trinidad by labouring in the hot Sun. It is only fair that we reap the national patrimony.

  2. “So if names of applicants for State lands for agricultural purposes were the guide Minister Hinds and his colleagues used, they were destined to end up thoroughly confused. Further, if their aim was to encourage Afro-Trinis to engage in agriculture, it was a laudable goal, but conducted in a manner that could be deemed racist. You don’t use race as the determining factor in matters such as this.”

    Directly from the PNM balisier house was a plan to ensure Trinidad remained a nation for the choice sons and daughters of the Africana tribe. They did this deliberately and intentionally so much so that 75% of government employees were of African ancestory. To this day when the PNM say “restructuring” it simply means getting rid of any Indian in high position.
    Housing was built en masse not for Indians but PNM supporters.

    But how did the Service Commission discriminate in favour of Africanas??? They used the names of people as the chief identifiers. If you name was John Smith you were guaranteed an interview. If your name was Baboolal Singh well let’s say you were “out of luck” for housing or anything the government offered.

    That is in the PNM party DNA and the rabid racist Minister Hinds openly speak of this type of discrimination. He was born and delivered from deep within the bowels of balisier house. Hinds is dreaming everyday of an Africana utopia, from swimming pools in Laventille to only his kind in the police and army.

    When the PNM talks of progress they are talking about the massive delivery of services to their constituencies and the PNM famalay. Check how they operate with state funds “At present, the Penal/ Debe Corporation doesn’t have funding to buy fuel, diesel for the vehicles to do maintenance work. This is a region that has been hard hit over the past few days with flooding, but meanwhile in the Port of Spain City Corporation they are considering a $20 million project to put astroturf in a park despite widespread objection from residents,” Ameen said—-Newsday. The short man has the money reaching the balisier brigade and no one else. $20 million plus millions of dollars for PNM constituencies. Meanwhile Opposition areas suffering from massive flooding.

    The PNM is the biggest blight in sweet TnT and the evidence is there, but like all blights in the 60th year of this nation they will evaporate…..into the abyss.

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